Extension notes is written by K-State Extension of Harvey County extension agents Scott Eckert, Susan Jackson and Ryan Flaming. They focus on horticulture and agriculture.
"My Oh My, a Butterfly" is the topic of an educational class for youngsters at the Harvey County Home and Garden Show this Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Armory in Newton. Kids can learn how to attract butterflies to the garden. This class reminds me of a great site I saw at my house for the first time.
One evening I came home to work and was surprised by the number of butterflies and even hummingbirds I saw around an aster I had planted the year before! A beautiful plant attracting beautiful creatures adds so much to a landscape. Planning a butterfly garden is fun and exciting and can be very rewarding. Determine which species of butterflies you want to attract to your garden, then, decide where you will plant your garden. Butterflies like sunny areas, and your site should have full sun for at least half the day. Flat rocks for sunning and some shady spots for resting in the heat of the day will help butterflies regulate their temperature. Butterflies also prefer sites that are protected from the wind, both for feeding and for laying eggs. Plant some shrubs if your site doesn't have a natural windbreak.
In general, there are two categories of plants that butterflies require: nectar sources for food for the adults, and larval host plants for the butterflies to lay their eggs on as well as a food source for the caterpillars. Since butterflies feed on nectar, good sources of nectar will attract them to your garden. Include flowers that bloom at different times so that your garden provides nectar from spring through autumn. Clump plants by color. As butterflies search for food, they will see large splashes of color more easily than individual plants. Butterflies are particularly attracted to red, orange, yellow, and purple flowers. Good nectar sources include butterfly bush, viburnums, zinnias, verbena, asters, butterfly weed, purple coneflower, and phlox. Don't be disappointed if butterflies ignore some highly recommended plants. Watch the butterflies, record their preferences, and plant more of the popular plants next year.
Butterflies require very specific plants as host plants, and females will lay their eggs only on these plants. For example, you will only get monarch larvae if your garden contains milkweed. Please remember that the purpose of these plants is to serve as a food source for the caterpillars; therefore, leaves that have been eaten are a good sign.
As you maintain your garden, do not use any pesticides or insecticides on or near your garden. Pesticides and insecticides kill butterflies too! Avoiding insecticides also allows the populations of natural predators to increase which help to reduce unwanted pests. Enjoy your garden. Attracting butterflies can be very rewarding and relaxing!
For the adults who attend the Harvey County Home and Garden Show and want to learn more about butterflies be sure to check out "Attracting Bees and Butterflies" at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday, presented by Kay Neff of Neff Family Farm.
A few more highlights of the show are presentation on landscaping for wildlife, hummingbirds, fragrant shrubs, a class on using the Master Gardener Cookbook, "Garden To Table" will highlight recipes from the book and have samples to try called "Soup It Up" at noon on Saturday.
There will be many more classes and great vendors and door prizes as well, not to mention the gourd birdhouse painting for kids at 2 p.m. each day.
— Scott Eckert is a Kansas State Research and Extension agent for Harvey County. Horticulture is his specialty.