We are big fans of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Butterflies in Bloom exhibt. To celebrate it’s opening this weekend (weather permitting of course!) the Chicago Botanic Garden is sharing with us how you can create a Butterfly & Pollinator Friendly garden right in your own backyard. last summer we relocated some hostas and built our own butterfly garden and it is my favorite thing in our yard. My kids get so excited when they see butterflies fluttering around. They are none to excited about the bees but I am because bees are so important!
Many bird, butterfly and bees friendly plants can be grown and do really well in our area and kids love to help build a butterfly garden. A successful butterfly garden should support the entire life cycle of the insect by providing the essential elements for each stage of life. Your garden will need host plants for laying eggs, shelter plants for caterpillars and a variety of nectar plants providing bloom. A large rock or two, especially a flatter one that may hold water, is perfect stopping place for a butterfly to sun themselves.
Suggested Plants for a Butterfly Garden
Purple Coneflower as seen in the image above, attracts butterflies and other beneficial insects. It’s a popular native Midwestern plant, easily grown and drought tolerant. It’s a late summer bloomer that prefers full sun and well drained soil.
Pale purple coneflower
will attract bees and butterflies and is resist to deer. The pale purple coneflower blooms slightly earlier starting in June. It needs full sun or partial share and moderate soil.
Prairie blazing star The upright prairie blazing star will attract butterflies and bees with purple flower heads blooming in late summer. As with the others it needs full sun to partial shade.
Beebalm or wild bergamot This native plant is a butterfly and hummingbird attractant, but not so beloved by deer. Grow in full sun in moderately fertile, moist soils, with space between this plant and others to decrease the incidence of powdery mildew.
Common Milkweed A host plant for the iconic monarch butterfly, the sun-loving common milkweed blooms from late June until August. Flowers produce a warty pod that disperses seeds via silky white tufts carried by the wind. The thick stems are covered with large oval leaves filled with a milky sap that is part of the monarch butterfly’s survival strategy. When monarch caterpillars feed on the leaves, they become toxic and are avoided by birds. Butterflies love common milkweed, but deer avoid it. The plant can become aggressive in a small planting. A less aggressive substitute would be Prairie Milkweed.
Butterfly Weed Another monarch-friendly addition to your butterfly garden, butterfly weed grows up to 3 feet tall and produces globes of bright orange flowers from May through October. Seedpods have ornamental appeal.
Swamp Milkweed Swamp milkweed can tolerate moist soil conditions and is a good option for wetter sites. Pink and white flowers bloom in July and Augusts on stems 3 to 5 feet tall.
Joe-Pye weeds (Eutrochium spp.) These easy-to-grow perennial titans range up to nearly 8 feet tall and produce large compound flowers that bloom mid-summer to early fall.
Find more information and plant ideas on the Chicago Botanic Garden Butterfly Gardening Page.
For inspiration be sure to walk through the Butterflies and Blooms exhibt. The outdoor exhibt houses up to 500 live butterflies in a 2,800 square-foot-mesh enclosure on the learning campus.
Things to keep in mind before you go:
- Tickets are required, $6 for adults, $4 for children 3-12 (2 and younger are free).
- Strollers are not allowed in the exhibt.
- There are lots of rocks that are very enticing to toddlers, climbing, standing or siting on them is not allowed (you don’t want to squish a butterfly!)
- While enclosed is not weather proof and will be closed on occasion due to rain or inclement weather.
Butterflies & Blooms is made possible through the generous support of The Grainger Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois. Butterflies and Blooms opens this Saturday, May 23 and will be open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. through September 7.
Disclosure: My family received membership in exchange for updating readers on the family friendly happenings at the garden on a regular basis. All thoughts and opinions are my own and no other compensation was received.