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Butterfly gardens at home

By Times Staff
Published March 18, 2004

Butterfly guide photo gallery
Here are some of the common species found in the Tampa Bay area.
Related links
All about butterflies
Answers to some frequently asked questions about butterflies
Taken under their wings
If you're thinking of starting a garden to attract the fluttering insects, be warned: Butterflies have magical quality that cast a spell.

Attracting butterflies to your back yard isn't difficult once you know the basics:

-- Butterflies are attracted to nectar sources, flowers that provide them with food. Native plants that butterflies like include butterfly weed, firebush, shiny-leafed blueberry, flatwoods pawpaw and carpetweed. Nonnatives that work well in a butterfly garden include pentas, butterfly bush, heliotrope, Mexican sunflower, zinnias and moss verbena.

-- Caterpillars, which metamorphose into butterflies, require specific kinds of plants to feed upon. These are called host, or larval food, plants. Expect these plants to be eaten (that's why they're there), but they'll grow back. A few examples: Citrus trees host giant swallowtail caterpillars; passion vines planted in a sunny spot host gulf fritillary caterpillars; milkweeds host monarch and queen caterpillars.

-- Don't use pesticides if you want to attract and retain butterflies, which, after all, are insects.

-- Plant your garden in an area that gets at least six hours of sun, but also plant in shade to attract shade-loving butterflies. Fragile creatures need protection from wind, so situate your garden near trees, shrubs or a building. And butterflies need a water source.

-- For more information, contact a nursery or an extension service, check the library or consult one of these resources on the Web:, the University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service North American Butterfly Association, Your Florida Backyard, Pinellas County Extension

Sources: Florida Butterfly Gardening, by Marc and Maria Minno (University Press of Florida $34.95);,; Florida Federation of Garden Clubs; Florida Cooperative Extension Service.

[Last modified March 17, 2004, 13:41:11]

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