In the Garden, Herbs and Monarda in raised beds to entice butterflies to habitate

Not every wildlife habitat is large.  In fact having a bit of what a little guy needs is nothing more than a few feet of well placed plants, water, and cover.


Converting today’s vege garden to a butterfly’s haven will experiment with 3 kinds of planting. A raised bed in a dry part of the yard.  Annual bed where there is additional moisture via soaker on the occasions it needs extra water. This year will be establishing new plants so soaks will be more frequent.

There are many species across the front range and I want to focus on the generalists. To that end I can plant a number of different more generic host plants that might be found in any garden center.  These include, curled parsley and dill.  I have a number of dill starters that are left overs from last year in the earth box on the patio. I will move some to the raised beds.  The native versions of parsley can be found ~ Lomatium and Cymopteris

To my end, I do not have access to purchase the native varieties so the common will be the choice.


Garden 1 : Swallowtail

  • Butterfly food: Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa )
  • Host Plants:  Dill and curled parsley to feed black swallowtails, fennel

Garden 2:  Painted Ladies

  • Alfalfa
  • Peas
  • mallow (move from garden)

Landscaping with Natives:  Host Plants for Colorado Butterflies,

  1. sulpher buckwheat
  2. Cleome Serratta
  3. Lemon verbena
  4. Arabis


Where they Winter:

Most Colorado butterflies spend the winter as pupae, in sheltered corners often several yards from the plants on which the caterpillar stage earlier fed. A few manage to tough it out as adult butterflies–notably the mourning cloak that may even be seen flying around during warm days in winter.


There are signs of butterflies if you look close.

April 27 2019 – Painted Lady drinking from grape hyacinth in Mid spring.

I didn’t know the painted lady was a foodie  – can you say over 100 plants have hosted her caterpillars?  They have up to 3 broods during their late spring to early fall. They like thistle; mallow and legumes as well.

Painted Lady April 29 on hyacinth


May 19 2019 – Dug up Pupa, location unknown.

If a new butterfly does not have enough vertical and horizontal space for its wings to expand and dry, its wings will not form correctly and the butterfly will not be able to fly. If the butterfly falls to the ground when it emerges, it will not be able to expand its wings, and it will die.  If your pupae are from a moth species that pupates underground, they do not need to hang.  Butterfly School


May 26 2019 –  A caterpillar dropped from weeds I was pulling

I was in the raised annual bed.  But not thinking, I didn’t  try to determine what it was chewing on or where it should be placed. I must be more cognizant of these encounters and bring the caterpillars inside, giving them variety of the plants I pulled.  Later, I went back to look for the caterpillar, but no luck.  These are the opportunities that once missed can be the death of what would have otherwise been a good pollinator to raise.


Other Interesting Varieties

Blue Butterflies in Colorado like the Lupine go for sulphur-flower buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum ), but not the Lupine plant itself. Though there is the GORGEOUS Melissa Blue — whose caterpillar stage eat Lupine! As well as alfalfa and American Licorice (Glycyrrhiza).   One person who spotted a Melissa reported the field had alfalfa, yarrow, wild buckwheat (erigonum?) and mustard.

 Habitat At Scale
What would be needed to create an easement between an existing water body and the rest of an acreage. As example a reservoir created by sand pits, those by natural ephemeral streams, and the irrigation ditches of old that still supply water to some people. Where is the best place to try to restore natural environments.  Especially if you’re just a small person in a small place.
But I could imagine there are still larger tracks and different species for  each.  A natural place for pollinators to dance along side paths for people to walk. It would be interesting to see if you can grow the native prairie, how much prep is needed..  And then along side imagine a commercial native grower who uses the space to provide a tour of restoration? From bare ground,  to tending seedlings, to prairie.

Also See:

Adding Butterfly host plants

Black Swallowtail

An amateur gardener who loves to watch the garden grow.