Blooming containers coax butterflies to feast

BUTTERFLY.jpgProven WinnersThese plants will grow well in containers, and butterflies will love them.

Like self-propelled flowers drifting on the breeze, butterflies enliven a garden with colorful motion. While a large garden filled with a diversity of flowering plants will certainly invite butterflies to come explore, you can still entice these jewel-like creatures to the smallest of spaces by growing the right selection of flowers in containers.

Container gardens filled with nectar-rich blooms can transform any balcony, patio, porch, deck or small yard into a culinary haven for butterflies. But not just any nectar flower will do. The nectar must be easily accessible.

A butterfly feeds by sipping nectar through its uncoiled, tubelike tongue, known as a proboscis. Some butterfly species have long tongues, while others have short ones. The length of the tongue will ultimately determine the type of flower a butterfly visits. As such, you'll attract more butterfly species by growing a smorgasbord of nectar-rich flowers of different floral shapes.alyssum.JPG blossoms -- such as cosmos, chrysanthemum, rudbeckia and zinnia -- as well as penstemon, salvia and other blooms with bell-shaped or tubular flowers.

Keep in mind that the amount of nectar a flower produces can vary within the plant species. Sometimes more fanciful double-flowered varieties are bred to impress the eye and not so much the appetite. For best success, go with simple, single-flowered versions instead. Likewise, go with species plants whenever possible, rather than cultivars.


Just about any nectar-rich flowering plant, shrub, vine or small tree will grow in a container as long as the container has holes in the bottom to provide adequate drainage. Options include plastic, wood, metal, stone, glazed pottery or clay, as well as lightweight planters made of polyethylene, fiberglass resin or other materials.

Pots as small as 10 inches in diameter are fine for single-plant displays, but 18 inches or larger is best when growing shrubs, trees or multiple plants. Larger containers are also less subject to temperature changes, and because they hold more soil, plant roots stay moist longer.

Whatever container you use, be sure it drains well. If a pot lacks adequate drainage, add holes to the bottom. Elevating containers on pottery feet, bricks, stones or even an upside-down pot also helps improve drainage.


Emerald Bay PhotographySweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

The same design elements that create visually appealing plant displays for people are also essential for attracting butterflies. The key is to balance unity with variety -- having some of the same colors and plant types in a container while still varying the heights, hues and bloom times. This will create multilayered and multi-season container gardens that appeal to many types of butterflies.

Plants arranged at varying heights also draw a diverse crowd of butterflies because they offer nectar flowers at different levels. One way to do this is by staggering your containers of butterfly plants by using bricks or concrete blocks as well as plant stands, pedestals, wood stools, chairs or even pots turned upside down.

This can also be achieved by mixing plants with trailing, bushy and upright growth habits -- either by grouping pots, each containing a single species, or by planting several species in one container.


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Oh, for some reason i assumed it was paved

Well in this case, try a corner of grasses and depending on your lighting conditions, a butterfly garden won't take too much room. Here's some designs, which accomodate a lot of scenarios. Mix containers with the existing landscape and keep the twins busy and keep the bark too!

Sat 3/27 Native Plants, Insect/Bird Habitat talk

CA Native Plant Society, Santa Clara Valley Chapter
Gardening with Native Plants
Saturday, March 27, 9:00am to 12:00pm
Learn about the unique rewards and challenges of growing water-wise California native plants in the garden. Join Stephanie Morris for a slide presentation covering appropriate California native plants for hot dry gardens, shady areas, oak tree understory, and grassland/meadow.
The lecture will also discuss specific plants for bird, butterfly, and hummingbird habitat gardens. Handouts including plant lists and general planting guidelines will be provided

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