What many people don’t know: Most butterflies (80 percent) are nocturnal, so you rarely notice when the animals are in your garden. However, that shouldn’t stop you from contributing to wildlife conservation by planting more native flowers. The fact is that many exotic plants are not on the diet of the picky butterflies – or are used to lay eggs for their offspring. This makes it all the more important to support the butterflies and their caterpillars in finding food and reproducing from spring to autumn. Below we will tell you which types of plants this works best with and how you can create species-appropriate overwintering areas in the garden.

As mentioned, native wildflowers in particular provide sufficient food for butterflies (and their caterpillars). But there are also a few exotic plants that serve as a food source for the butterflies: “The only important thing is that the flowers are not filled so that the delicate insects have easy access to the nectar. Exotic nectar sources include blue cushions, nasturtiums, phlox and zinnia,” says the Nature Conservation Association Germany e. V. (Nabu for short) should be considered. In addition, you plant a colorful selection of plants in the garden that provide enough nectar for butterflies all year round – from spring to autumn.

The question arises as to which native plants meet these requirements? And here too, Nabu has a tip: “In spring, squill, cowslip and daisy provide liquid nutrition, in autumn purple sedum or New Belgian aster.” And since most butterflies are nocturnal, you can choose plants that only spread their scent when it gets dark: For example, honeysuckle, evening primrose, nightlight carnation or nodding catchfly. In addition, even unwanted wild growth can contribute to species protection if you tolerate it in the garden – such as nettles or thistles, which are particularly tasty for butterfly caterpillars.

Other plants that attract butterflies include verbena, knapweed, peonies, goldenrod and of course lavender. Also on the menu of many wrinkles are herbs and shrubs that bear nectar-containing flowers (if you allow them), such as:

Buddleia not only looks beautiful, but also attracts numerous butterflies with its strong aromas. Nevertheless, it is not recommended to deliberately put the plant in the garden. But why actually, when it serves as a food source for the butterflies? In fact, there is an ecological reason for this, as the shrub is invasive and crowds out native species. If you already have a so-called “butterfly lilac”, you don’t have to pull it out of the ground straight away – however, Nabu recommends removing the flowers before seeds form in them, which will help the plant spread further. It is also recommended to cut back the shrub less often than others, as cutting back would promote flower formation even more.

Some species of butterflies pupate in the winter and survive the cold season – usually hanging under a leaf or on a branch. It is all the more important that you do not remove fallen leaves completely, but rather leave some of them (a little piled up). Caterpillars and eggs also find protection from the cold here. In contrast to the brimstone butterfly, which can survive outdoors down to minus 20 degrees, other butterflies – such as the peacock butterfly and the little tortoiseshell – retreat to warmer climes such as a garden arbor. There they remain in a kind of cold paralysis. If you would like to offer the animals even more opportunities to overwinter, you can install a butterfly house made of weatherproof solid wood in the garden.

One more tip at the end: The use of chemical pesticides not only harms (undesirable) plants and pests, but also has a negative effect on many species of butterflies. Therefore, you should avoid using pesticides, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides in the garden.

Source: NABU

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