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Would you like to attract butterflies to your garden? Then plant some nectar plants! Butterflies are most active on warm days – the same days you like to be out in the garden. Attracting them provides a double bonus: watching cheerful butterflies and being surrounded by beautiful flowers.
Using nectar plants as butterfly magnets
Nectar plants serve as magnets for butterflies. Nectar is the sweet, syrupy liquid produced by the nectary glands in nectar flowers. Butterflies simply can’t resist it. And while a butterfly flutters happily from flower to flower, it also pollinates the flowers in your garden. The quantity of nectar in a flower varies from one plant species to another and even among varieties or cultivars of a single species.
Nectar plants throughout the garden season
Many species of flowering perennials are nectar plants so choosing the right plants can attract butterflies all season long. One of the good spring-flowering perennials is Bugleweed (Ajuga reptans). In the summer, your garden could include plants like Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), Purpletop Vervain (Verbena bonariensis) or Giant Hyssop (Agastache) varieties. Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novi-belgii) or Stonecrop (Sedum spectabile) attract butterflies during the summer and autumn. The possibilities are endless. What’s more, the ones listed here will easily survive the winter so you can enjoy them year after year.
The irresistibility of nectar plants
In some flowers, you can actually see the nectar, either in the centre of the flower or on its outer surface. It may look like water, but touching it reveals its stickiness. In addition to its sugars, nectar also contains proteins and vitamins that most female butterflies need to produce their eggs. Many nectar plants that attract butterflies will also attract bumblebees and other bees. Butterflies, however, have one advantage over the bees: butterflies have a long proboscis that allows them to reach the nectar in tubular flowers that bees and bumblebees can’t reach that well with their shorter tongues.
Tips for adding nectar plants to your garden
- When you visit a garden centre on a sunny day, look for the plants being visited by butterflies and various kinds of bees. These will definitely be nectar plants!
- Plant your nectar plants in a warm sunny place in your garden. Butterflies are cold-blooded and love the heat.
- Plant several different species of nectar plants in your garden. This way, you will attract various butterfly species. Each butterfly species prefers certain kinds of flowers. Have fun creating beautiful combinations of many different nectar plants.