Thursday, January 30, 2014

Butterfly Gardening in South Florida

I have to preface the below post was written last week and yes I eventually ended up with the flu so I didn't get to finish it until now...see where bragging gets you, sick, lol.

After a long weekend with our friends up in Melbourne Beach we have resorted to being quarantined here at the house due to the flu...boooo.  Thank goodness for social media to find out who in the group is next in line to get this highly contagious cold...blach!  Luckily for moi, I seem to have been spared (so far) though I do not want to be the one to blame as the carrier of the cold, so I am here with you blogging, yea for me hee hee.  
Melbourne Beach, Fl.
Here in South Florida (So'Flo) we are finally enjoying the cold weather for a decent period of time.  Soon to be adding a third week of 40-70 degree weather to our locale, yippee!  Though I know our lovely winter weather will soon turn into Spring where temperatures stay relatively in the 70's for a few months.  They will then jump up to the 80's and before you know it we are in the Summer months of 90+ degrees.  Now that it's chilly and you're sitting inside with a tasty hot beverage in hand why not start planning a beautiful butterfly garden!  

Butterfly gardens are so easy to do, cost efficient, can be adapted to an existing landscape and/or can be a container garden.  I will always remember the day I came home from work a few years back to find our new neighbor standing along our adjoining side yards looking up.  We said our hello's, then with a huge smile on her face says, "I was just standing here watching all the butterflies flying around in your yard.  I am so amazed at how many different butterflies there are!  I am inspired, how did you do that?"  I laughed as I replied, "all I did was plant the plants they like and they showed up."  Yes, that is how easy a butterfly garden can be, all you need are plants and a plan.

There are some very tried-&-true plants which will always bring butterflies to their flowers, like the firebush (hamelia patens), jatropha integerrima (peregrina), wild coffee (psychotria nervosa)/Bahama coffee (psychotria ligustrifolia), native milkweed (asclepias incarnata) and desert cassia (senna polyphylla).  Though the most important factor to remember for a successful butterfly garden is to have nectar plants for their food as well as host plants for them to lay their eggs on and to eat once they hatch into caterpillars.  
From top left to right: desert cassia tree, swamp milkweed with
monarch butterflies, spicy jatropha tree & firebush with zebra
longwing butterflies.
So like any well designed plan the first thing you need is a location for your new butterfly garden.  You could either have a designated butterfly garden where all the plants are in the same area.  Or you could add a few plants here and there throughout your landscape. Or if you are an apartment/condo dweller then a container garden is the way to go.  Or all of the above.  My first butterfly garden I did what most people do, have a designated area in the landscape filled with a handful of small butterfly plants.  What I found out was I ended up with alot of caterpillars all at one time, who ate all the plants all at one time, cocooned all at once then hatched into hungry butterflies looking for food.  Basically the plants didn't have enough time to grow back their flowers for the arrival of new butterflies.  So I would scramble to buy more plants and the insanity started all over again.   I lamented to my Mom who already had quite a few years of butterfly gardening under her belt and she suggested an alternative....have small vignettes of plants throughout the yard with a larger variety of plants, the butterflies know there are other food sources and will seek them out.  This way all their eggs aren't laid on one food source.  So when the time came to redesign our landscape I did my research on larger butterfly plants, trees and shrubs to add in with the smaller plants.  Viola, a perfect balance of food sources for a variety of butterflies!
The top left giant swallowtail caterpillar is on our wild lime and the butterfly to the right 
of it is on a purple porterweed we used to have. The black swallowtail caterpillar 
in the lower left is on our dill & the black swallowtail butterfly picture is 
from Stephanie Sanchez's website.
So what I did here is give you a list of So'Flo butterfly plants that I believe do very well here.  Yes, most of them are native but how else will you attract native wildlife, right?  I categorized the butterfly plants into groups which will help you decide on the right plant for the right location.  You should also make sure the plants you choose will grow in your area by finding your location on the hardiness zone chart.
For the monarch butterflies, milkweeds are their "must-have" plant, you can find what kind of milkweeds do best in your area here...

Host Plants for South Florida Butterfly Gardens 
Herbs, Vegetables & Fruits

Flowering Plants, Ground Cover & Shrubs
Canna lily
Cudweed- Gamochaeta pensilvanica
False Nettle – Boehmeria cylindrica
Indigoberry- Randia aculeata  Sphinx moth
Frog Fruit – Lippia nodiflora
Hibiscus – Hibiscus denudatus
Legume family
Orange sesbania – Sesbania punicea
Partridge Pea – Chamaecrista fasciculata
Pearly-everlastings – Gnaphalium
Shrimp plant (green)– Blechum brownei
Spanish needles- Bidens alba
Snapdragon – Antirrhinum major
Sunshine mimosa- Mimosa strigillosa
Swamp milkweed- asclepias incarnata
Western peppergrass- Lepidium montanum
White clover- Trifolium repens
Wild Coffee- Psychotria nervosa
Wild lime- Zanthoxylum fagara

Bahama Cassia- cassia chapmanii
Biscayne prickly ash- Zanthoxylum coriaceum
Black Cherry- Prunus serotina
Black Ironwood- Krugiodendron ferreum
Coontie- Zamia integrifolia
Desert Cassia- Senna polyphylla
Hackberries – Celtis
Locust berry- Byrsonima lucida
Oaks – Quercus
Pawpaw – Asimina triloba
Red bay – Persea borbonia
Sassafras – Sassafras albidum
Sweet Bay – Laurus nobilis

Corkystem passion flower vine- Passiflora suberosa
Passion-vines – Passiflora
Pipevines – Aristolochia
From left to top right: an orange-barred sulphur butterfly emerging from it's
chrysalis, a polydamas catterpillar on our Dutchman's pipe vine, a gulf
fritillary butterfly just out of its chrysalis & a spanworm on 'snow-on-the-mountain'
bush which will turn into a small white-tipped black moth.
Nectar Plants for South Florida Butterfly Gardens
Flowering Plants, Ground Cover & Shrubs
Alliums (onion family)
Beach verbena- Glandularia maritima
Beautyberry - Callicarpa americana
Bee balm / Bergamot - Monarda didyma
Black eyed Susan- Rudbeckia hirta
Blanket Flower- Gaillardia pulchella
Blazing Star or Slender Gayfeather- Liatris gracilis
Blue Porterweed – Stachycarpheta jamaicensis & S. utricifolia
Bloodberry- Cordia globosa
Butterfly Bush – Buddleia davidii
Butterfly Sage – Cordia globosa
Butterfly weed – Ascelpias tuberosa
Buttonbush- Cephalanthus occidentalis
Common Snowberry- Chiococca alba
Cone flower- Echinacea purpurea
Coral honeysuckle – lonicera sempervirens
Cosmos – Cosmos bipinnatus/ Cosmos sulphureus
Elderberry- Sambucus canadensis
False heather – Cuphea hyssopifolia
False indigo- Amorpha fruticosa
Firebush – Hamelia patens
Firespike – Odontonema stricta
Golden dewdrop – duranta repens
Heliotrope - Heliotropium arborsecens
Hibiscus – Hibiscus denudatus
Jamaican caper- Capparis cynophallophora
Jatropha - Jatropha integerrima
Joe Pye weed- Eupatorium fistulosum
Lantana (native) – Lantana involucrata
Lion’s Ear - Leonotus leonurus
Mallow – Malva spp.
Mexican sunflower – Tithonia rotundifolia
Panama rose- Rondeletia leucophylla
Pentas – Pentas lanceolata
Purple coneflower – Echinacea purpurea
Plumbago - Plumbago auriculata
Oregano – Origanum vulgare
Spanish needles- Bidens alba
Swamp milkweed- asclepias incarnata
Tickseed - Coreopsis grandiflora
Wild Coffee- Psychotria nervosa
Wild Lantana- Lantana involucrata
Wild lime- Zanthoxylum fagara
Yarrow - Achillea millefolium

Desert Cassia- Senna polyphylla
Golden shower tree- Senna pendula
Red cassia tree - Cassia roxburghii
Sweet acacia- Acacia farnesiana

Blue pea vine- Clitoria ternatea
Mexican flame vine - Senecio confuses
From left to top right: a question mark butterfly, a monarch butterfly
& the topside of the question mark butterfly.
Now that you have a list of host plants the caterpillars like to eat and the plant list of the nectar plants the butterflies like to get their meals will your butterfly garden look?
If you already have a butterfly garden, we would love to know what you did and how it looks.  If you are just starting, here are a few you like the rambling wild flower prairie look or a cottage style?  This is how most flowering plants grow in the wild thereby creating a natural element in your garden.
Wild flower prairie style or cottage form with an organized chaos look.
Most flowering plants will self seed allowing more plants to grow.
Pictures from the book Butterfly Gardening for the South by Geyata Ajilvsgi.

Or do you prefer a more formal and elegant feel?

Or why not add a few tropical elements of flair into it for a South Florida style?
These pictures are from my last visit to Jesse Durko's Nursery.
Or come up with your own unique plant layout like I decided to do.  If you really want to be inspired, take a visit to Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, FL"butterfly capital of the world".  It is a bit pricey but they usually have coupons online which help.  Though which ever direction you decide to take, I am sure glad you are planting a beautiful butterfly garden!  Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might think of or if you need any help.  Good luck my friends and have fun!

Happy Gardening and Best Wishes,

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