Florida Butterfly Gardening

Florida Butterfly Gardening

Discover how my yard became a haven for Florida’s state butterfly.
Passionflower has been one of my favorite plants for a long time now. I grew passionflowers as houseplants when I lived in Iowa, and before that when I lived in Minnesota. It seemed only natural once I came to Florida that I’d finally let them grow to their full potential and grow them outside. 

I started with a collection of about a dozen or so. When I moved into my house here in Florida, my passionflowers were about the only plants I had in my yard. It didn’t take long for me to see Zebra Longwing butterflies (Heliconius charithonia) to appear. 

The butterflies came -- even though there were no flowers in my Florida yard -- because passionflowers are host plants for their caterpillars. This means that passionflowers are the only plants Zebra Longwing butterflies will lay their eggs on. Over the next few months, I saw more and more butterflies. Now I’ve enjoyed a consistent kaleidoscope of Zebra Longwings every day for the past couple of years. 

If you want to enjoy butterflies like I do, use these tips.

Focus on Host Plants
If there are specific butterflies you want to attract, do a little research and see what host plants they prefer. Some, like Monarchs and Zebra Longwings, are pretty specific (making it easier to attract them). Other butterfly species have a wider range of host plants. Remember: The more host plants you have, the more habitat you’re providing.

Plant Some Flowers
Host plants are the surefire way to get butterflies to come and lay eggs. But planting some nectar-rich flowers will help the adult butterflies stick around. Some I've had good luck with here in Florida include pentas, firebush, firespike, plumbago, blanket flower, and salvia.

Provide Water
If you’re in a hot-summer climate, or it gets particularly dry where you live, put out a birdbath or shallow pan filled with sand and water. This gives the butterflies a safe place to land and easily take a drink. 

Written by Justin Hancock