Butterfly garden design is a hidden talent of most people.

In South Florida we are truly lucky because we can butterfly garden all year long.
The following butterfly garden design is just to get you started, refer to the article, “Caterpillar Foods,” to match butterflies with their larval food plants.  A variety of larval food plants is the key to culturing large numbers of butterflies.   Insecticides should not be used in or near these gardens.

Scatter tall trees around the yard but leave open sunny areas.  Redbay, hackberry, Florida elm, shortleaf and strangler fig, wild tamarind, and sweetbay are tall enough to allow medium size trees and shrubs to be planted close by without crowding.
Shrubs that are great nectar sources include: Native firebush, (not the compact exotic found in most stores), bloodberry, Florida key’s thoroughwort, pineland privet, native plumbago or leadwort, and smooth strongbark.  Also, try planting a few corky passionvine near these shrubs and allow them to grow as they please.

Wild lime and blackbead are larval hosts with thorns and should be limbed up as they grow so that people can walk underneath them or kept short with regular pruning.   Group the shrubs in ways that create open areas so that sunlight can reach the wildflowers planted near them.  Make sure that sunlight can reach these wildflowers for at least four hours a day. 

Other larval foods which include the three foot tall Chapman’s cassia, false nettle, Mexican milkweed, which is not native, yet supports monarchs, bushy aster, dwarf fakahatchee grass, and salt marsh mallow can be planted next to the taller shrubs.  Low wildflowers can be used to create abundant color and nectar.  My favorites include: red salvia, seaside goldenrod, pineland petunia, twinflower, beach verbena, and sunshine mimosa.  Larval food plants like cudweed, peppergrass and fogfruit may come up on their own.  You can also plant non native fennel, parsley and arugula to share with eastern swallowtails and great southern whites. 

Arrange your garden in sections that allow you to move about easily and create quiet sitting areas to observe wildlife.  Don’t forget a bird bath near the protection of large shrubs.   The Florida edition of “Butterflies through binoculars,” Oxford university press, is a great book to learn more about butterflies in Florida.

Larva will only eat their host plant, not your prized rose bush.  The small to medium amount of damage to host plants is worth the variety and numbers of butterflies that you will soon have living and breeding in your yard.  You will no longer have to wait for a butterfly to pass by and briefly visit.  It will stay and make your yard its permanent home while breeding and increasing its population.

Please see the article “Butterfly Larval Foods” for a list of other larval food plants.