January: If you plant it, they will come!

Planning a butterfly garden

Winter is a great time for garden planning. Butterfly gardens combine nectar plants and host plants.

Nectar plants

Flowering nectar plants feed butterflies and many other pollinators.

Your garden will be liveliest if you plant a variety of nectar plants that flower in abundance at different times of the year.

We especially like Asters, Bee-Balms, Black-eyed Susans, Coneflowers, Goldenrods, Lantanas, Phlox, Salvias and Zinnias.

Host plants

Host plants are essential to caterpillar growth. While butterflies can sip nectar from almost any flower, each kind of caterpillar requires a specific kind of host plant.

Parsley, dill and fennel host beautiful Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars. They’re easy to find and grow, so make a good place to start.

Milkweed hosts Monarch caterpillars. A warning: like many natives, milkweed spreads rapidly. It needs a good-sized space.

Passion vine, also known as Maypop, hosts spiky Fritillary caterpillars. The gorgeous flowers attract bees and other pollinators. It also spreads rapidly.

Senna hosts green Sulphur caterpillars

Spicebush hosts Spicebush Swallowtail caterpillars. Like most Swallowtail caterpillars, they start out black with a white band and then turn bright green and yellow.

Many nectar plants can be found at local garden centers. Other than parsley, dill and fennel, host plants can be a bit more difficult to locate. UNC Charlotte and Wing Haven hold great plant sales in the spring and fall. Shamrock students will also be selling plants from our garden in the spring. We’ll announce those sales on this website. Stay tuned.

A Year in Shamrock’s Gardens, the 2020 calendar produced by the Shamrock Gardens PTA, celebrates 10 years of our school’s butterfly gardens. Thanks to Lexie Longstreet for the generous donation that allowed us to give a calendar to every family and staff member at the school.