Archive for butterfly garden

The Mariposa Garden

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 30, 2010 by PickMeYard

My three-year-old refers to butterflies as “mariposas”.  “Mariposa” means “butterfly” in spanish.  Yesterday she noticed that our gulf fritillary chyrsalides turned into butterflies in our kitchen butterfly habitat and she gleefully yelled, “Mariposa’s awake!”  We let the butterflies dry their wings and then we let them go into our newly planted “mariposa garden”. 

Mariposa's Awake!



Gulf Fritillary Butterfly


Our butterfly garden is finally finished.  It didn’t happen in one afternoon.  We spread it out over a couple of weeks.  First the sod had to be taken up and then the weed mat was put down.  We used landscaping staples around the edges to keep it in place. We used scissors to cut X’s in the weed mat where we planted our collection of butterfly host and nectar plants.  After we planted everything, we put down the mulch.  Gulf Coast Palm and Tree Landscape Nursery was a huge help to us.   

"Before" Butterfly Garden


"After" Butterfly Garden


We’ve planted lots of host and nectar plants for many types of butterflies that are found in Southwest Florida.  The “after” picture looks a little sparse, but these plants will grow big quickly.  The tree is a macadamia nut tree that the bees love.  It gives us more macadamia nuts than we can eat.  We are able to store them for the entire year.  

Powderpuff Tree in the Butterfly Garden


Most butterfly plants prefer full sun.  However, the zebra longwing, prefers shade.  The zebra longwing is the Florida state butterfly. We planted several passionfruit vines, which is their host plant.  We put some of the passionfruit vines in  full sun and a couple in the shade.  The gulf fritillary also uses the passionfruit vine as their host plant, but they like it in full sun.  A host plant is a type of plant that a butterfly will search out to deposit their eggs.  Each butterfly species will have their own host plant.  A nectar plant will be the plant that attracts, feeds and provides energy to the butterfly.  Our butterfly garden borders our tennis court.  We planted many, many vines on the court’s fencing to protect the butterflies from rain and wind.  Hopefully the vines will provide some shade for the tennis court too.  


We’ve planted a dutchman’s pipevine, several different types of passionvines, scarlet milkweeds , tropical salviasnecklace pods, a white and pink powderpuff tree, dune sunflowers, lots of firecrackers, firespikes, a Bahama cassia tree, a wild lime tree, several lion’s tails, a sweet almond bush, native wild petunias, a golden dewdrop tree, a sky vine, a Mexican flamevine, several Florida flamevines, coonties, blue-eyed grassmimosasgreen-eyed susans, tall red pentas (dwarfs don’t have nectar), tickseeds, and two coral honeysuckles.  Whew…that’s a list.  The butterfly garden won’t look sparse for long.  We purchased all our butterfly plants from a local nursery called “Riverland Nursery“.  They are extremely knowledgeable about butterfly plants for our area and specialize in providing them.  They also hold free classes on the weekends for just about everything garden related.  

A Tiny Monarch Caterpillar on Our Scarlet Milkweed


I believe this baby caterpillar is a direct result of the monarch butterflies we released into the garden last week.  It’s important to never use herbicides or insecticides on a butterfly garden.  This caterpillar will eat the leaves of the scarlet milkweed which is its host plant.  Scarlet milkweeds get red aphids on them.  Their purpose is to control the milkweed population.  I just squish them because I don’t want them around.  Another solution would be to bring some ladybugs into your garden.  Make sure you get baby ladybugs because adult ladybug’s will just fly away.  They tickle when you release them.  When the monarch caterpillars eat all the leaves off the scarlet milkweed it can be trimmed way back.  It will sprout new leaves right away and get bushy just in time for the caterpillars to devour it again.  The young caterpillars need the young, tender leaves to eat. 

Grayson & Loring Releasing Thousands of Ladybugs into the Garden Last Summer

We are looking forward to watching our butterfly garden turn into a mature, full landscape.  We plan on labeling our plants with our aluminum tags tomorrow.  We’re going to add a few stepping-stones, a few Adirondack chairs and a picnic table to complete our project.  Our plan is to spend the summer having a daily tea party and a picnic in our “mariposa garden” while we wait for our flying visitors. 

Come grow with us!

If you plant it…they will come.

Posted in Butterflies with tags , , , , , on March 1, 2010 by PickMeYard

Both areas of dirt is where the butterfly garden will be planted!

This is a project that got out of control…quickly.  Grayson and I planned for a butterfly garden around our bee boxes.  It started as a small garden to attract the flying critters we love and turned into a monster project. We have been collecting lots of butterfly, bee and hummingbird plants and decided we need a lot more space.  

A local nursery named Gulf Coast Palm & Tree came in and helped us big time.  They are truly the nicest people in the world. They took up all the sod and they’re coming back to put down the weed mat and  plant 450 feet of gulf muhly grass, sandcord grass and simpson stopper trees along our fence line. While they’re working on that, Grayson and I will put the butterfly plants into the ground.  I’ll post a picture of the transformation.  (We’re in zone 9b.) 

We picked up some monarch caterpillars over the weekend at a burrowing owl festival.  We made a habitat for them out of a plastic soda bottle and an empty butter container. We filled the butter container with water and poked a hole in the middle of the cap to insert a scarlet milkweed cutting.  We cut the plastic bottle along the bottom edge and used some tape to attach the two containers together. I covered the top with some cheesecloth and a rubber band. 

One of the caterpillars turned into a chrysalis almost immediately after moving into his new home.  We watched in amazement…caterpillar t.v.

 Come grow with us!