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Butterfly gardening

Monarch butterfly on a liatris flower
Photo: Jardin botanique de Montréal (Karine Vendette)  
Danaus plexippus

All it takes is a little planning and attention to a few basic rules to turn your garden into an attractive natural haven for beautiful butterflies. That way, you can admire them at your leisure and learn more about them.

Full sun

The first prerequisite for attracting butterflies to your beds is a very sunny site, preferably south-facing. Butterflies avoid shady, cooler spots, which sap their strength. This is because they are cold-blooded creatures: they need the sun's warmth to store the energy they require for flight. Butterflies love to bask in the morning sun on a low wall, a gravel path or a rock garden. The warm stones allow them to quickly heat up their wing muscles and start feeding on flowers, ideally ones in the sun.

Sheltered from wind

You may have noticed that butterflies rarely fly when it's windy; likewise, they'll have trouble feeding on the flowers you've planted for them if your garden is too exposed to prevailing winds. It's best to protect your beds with a hedge, a fence covered in climbing plants or a group of suitably attractive shrubs.

An open, quiet site

Butterflies prefer quiet sites where they won't be disturbed while they're feeding, so it's best to plant your beds away from busy areas like streets and play equipment. Choose an open site, and one that's visible from the windows in your home so that you can watch them whenever you like.

Water and mineral salts

Water contains the mineral salts that butterflies need, so you will often see numerous members of the same species congregated around a mud puddle. A patch of moist sand or wet mud set between your flowers is a great observation spot.

A healthy garden

Pesticides can be harmful to butterfly populations, which are very sensitive to them. It's better to use "greener" control methods.

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