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Photo  of Tropical Milkweed from my garden last August 2014

Asclepias curassavica - Tropical Milkweed, Mexican Milkweed, Bloodflower -- Easy to find in nurseries, Tropical Milkweed works well in the garden. Unlike our native milkweeds which tend to wither during the heat of the summer, Tropical Milkweed thrives in the heat and blooms from spring to first frost. It dies to the ground with a freeze, but for the last two years, this plant has self-seeded all over my garden.  Very attractive nectar source to a wide variety of species -- Attracts hairstreaks, skippers and swallowtails.

Note: although they are beautiful, we do not currently have a butterfly garden at the Garland Community Garden. And I'm not entirely certain that I would vote to put one in down there as some species of butterflies like to use vegetables as host plants.  For example, the Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) uses Okra for a host plant.  Even so, butterfly gardens are important because we have destroyed so much of their natural habitat with our unimaginative, fertilizer soaked lawns and foundation shrubs.

Last year we did have a plethora of tropical milkweed growing down at the garden and I have it in my yard at home as well.  Indeed this plant does attract many butterflies.  We shall see how many plants we get this year from their self-seeding process.  If it is the same as my yard, we can expect at least 50 of these plants down at the garden this year.  I have to pull up and replant elsewhere those that crop up in my garden from the previous year.  In fact--that's where the tropical milkweed down at the garden came from.

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In your butterfly garden you will need two types of plants:  butterfly nectar plants and butterfly host plants. Butterfly nectar plants are the type of plants the adult butterflies feed on.  Butterfly host plants are the type of plants that butterfly caterpillars eat.  Since the caterpillars cannot travel far, the female butterfly lays her eggs only on the types of plants that the caterpillar can use for food.

1) First learn what butterflies are located in your area.

The following list of butterflies are found in Texas.  Each link to a butterfly will provide a photo of that butterfly as well as what county in Texas it is found.  Here is the link to a great list of butterflies located in the Dallas area.

 

2) Then choose the plants for your butterfly garden.

In your butterfly garden you will need two types of plants:  butterfly nectar plants and butterfly host plants. Butterfly nectar plants are the type of plants the adult butterflies feed on.  Butterfly host plants are the type of plants that butterfly caterpillars eat.  Since the caterpillars cannot travel far, the female butterfly lays her eggs only on the types of plants that the caterpillar can use for food. Choose your plants accordingly to include some from each of the two following categories and also according to which types of each category of plants grow well in your area and are also suitable for the types of butterflies that are found in your area.

Butterfly Nectar Plants

These plants are the type of plants that adult butterflies like.  Not all of the plants in your butterfly garden must be flowers.  For example, the flower of an okra plant not only attracts bees, it also attracts.  As mentioned above, the tropical milkweed is an excellent choice for a butterfly nectar plant in our area.  For more, check out this link

Butterfly Host Plants

These plants are the type of plants that butterfly caterpillars feed on.  Be forewarned:  You probably do not want these plants in a featured spot in your garden as they can look rather raggedly from the ongoing caterpillar munching.  Still, keep them as near as possible to the butterfly nectar plants.  If you don't provide host plants, you will not have as many butterflies (which is fine with me as a little butterflies go a long way). Here is a list of butterfly host plants for our area.

 

3) Plan and then plant your butterfly garden.

(Note:  in my case, I would want it located as far as possible from my okra patch.)  First, of course, you want to plan the garden in relation to the whole of your garden.  After that you would need to consider the plants according to their varying heights, soil needs, mature size, time of year when they bloom, total space of your bed, life cycles of the butterflies you hope to attract, etc.  As you can see, a lot of planning goes into the creation of a butterfly garden. Designing a perfect butterfly garden.

 

4) Enjoy your butterfly garden and the butterflies.

The other side of the fun of a butterfly garden is, of course, watching the butterflies and teaching your children and grandchildren about them.  Go here for more information on how to do this:  Butterfly Behavior in the Garden.

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The best real time expercience with butterfles and butterfly gardens in our area is the Butterfly House located at the Discovery Gardens in Dallas.

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