Florida is a butterfly paradise – these fluttering beauties are attracted to a variety of flowers. Using these flowers not only attracts butterflies, bees, moths and other winged critters but will add year-round color to the landscape. We want to provide a source of food for our tiny friends as they help the environment remain healthy.
Suppose you're looking to have a successful butterfly garden in Florida. In that case, you must think about having both nectar and host plants, along with providing a water source and shelter for butterflies and baby caterpillars.
Some of the more common flowers that they are attracted to are Bottlebrush, Milkweed, Lantana, and Firebush. You could also consider adding Pentas, Thryallis, Bulbine, and Cat’s Whiskers.
When considering Host plants keep in mind the baby Caterpillars will be eating these plants so you will want to plant several of the same types to have plenty of food on hand.
Choosing the host plants depends on the type of Butterflies you want to attract. For example, Monarchs will be attracted to Milkweed of which there are several varieties to choose from. Black Swallowtails will eat fennel, parsley, and dill. The Passion Vine is the host plant for the Gulf Fritillary.
Here is a great resource for finding the nectar plants and host plants for the butterflies you want to attract. https://www.fnps.org/plants/butterflies
To learn more about how to provide a water source for butterflies, visit the Butterfly Lady. http://butterfly-lady.com/butterfly-puddling/
To learn how to provide shelter for our delicate friends visit Birds and Blooms. Where Do Butterflies Go When It Rains?
Here are our top 5 “must-haves”
for your butterfly garden.
A Bottlebrush plant is seen almost everywhere in Florida! If you're looking to lure in butterflies and hummingbirds - this is the flower for you. The striking red flower spikes bloom through fall and add color and beauty to the entire garden. Most often seen as a tree however there is a newer cultivar known as “Little John” which is a dwarf variety that will fit well in small gardens.
Tip: These are grown best in direct sunlight with a variety of well-drained soil and can be grown upright, or in a weeping variety. The upright Bottlebrush form grows up to 20 feet tall. The dwarf variety will reach about 3 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. The best thing about them is that they are salt and drought-tolerant.
This multipurpose plant works best as a source of nectar for various insects, butterflies, and bees. It is also the only plant that the monarch butterfly caterpillars eat. There are over 20 varieties of Native Milkweed. Still, it may not be easy to locate, check with nurseries that specialize in native plants.
Tropical Milkweed is more readily available but try to avoid milkweed that has been treated with pesticides.
The butterfly weed blooms in small groups of yellow and orange starting from spring through fall.
Tip: Milkweed is also a salt and drought-tolerant plant that grows best in both, full sun and partial shade with well-drained soil.
There's no denying that Lantana is a popular breed to grow in the gardens of Florida. The bees and butterflies love this flower and are seen hovering over it at all times. Depending on which cultivar is used, the groups of flower color ranges between purple, orange, yellow, white, red, and some are a unique mix of all the colors.
Tip: It is a heat, drought, and salt-tolerant plant that grows easily and is very low maintenance. It works well as a small shrub, a potted plant, or a groundcover.
The local Firebush adds a year-round bright red, orange and yellow color to your garden and blooms from spring until a frost followed by bunches of small dark berries. Butterflies and hummingbirds love the nectar from these and birds and small mammals often feast on the berries. However, people living in North Florida will need to treat them as perennials where they will die back in the winter and regrow in springtime.
Tip: Even though they can grow in the shade, Firebushes produce the most flowers in sunlight and well-drained soil. Once established, it can withstand drought and is salt tolerant. This one needs a little space as it can grow up to 10 feet tall but can be kept trimmed to around 5 feet.
Our favorite Penta is a Grafitti. Growing 12 - 15 inches tall and wide. They stay in a nice mounded shape and with a little trimming throughout the summer will maintain their shape.
They like full sun and well-draining soil. Great for pots as well. Deadheading will aid in producing even more flowers.
There is a Penta variety known as a Butterfly Penta that will reach heights up to 3 feet tall. They have a very cottage garden-type feel. When growing these it’s best to offer them some support such as a fence or stakes. They also like full sun and well-draining soil.
The Bottom Line
When you're selecting plants to grow in your Florida garden, keep in mind that it is best to consider specific plants' cultural preferences such as soil conditions, sunlight, and moisture in comparison to the area where you'll be growing them in your garden. In addition, a smart move would be to grow plants with similar needs together to prevent problems.
Need help? Call the experts at Barta Landscape Makeovers for design ideas, plant selection and installation for your unique butterfly garden. 321.749.2150