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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - May 09, 2012

From: Mosheim, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Butterfly garden for TN
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

Hello! I recently moved into a new house near Mosheim, Tennessee (37818) and I am wanting to start a butterfly garden. I am requesting information how to get this started. What soil, plants, and flowers would work best and attract the biggest variety of butterflies (even bees). I am also planning on installing a garden pond for a source of water. I would also like to see praying mantis' come around too. If you could help me, it would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

ANSWER:

A garden for butterflies and other pollinator does not just provide habitat for very important species that are struggling to survive; it will become a very special place for humans and other wildlife as well, especially once you provide the most essential element for life: water.

As you begin the planning process you will find our How To article on Butterfly gardening very helpful.  It explains all the necessary elements of a natural habitat for butterflies and has an extensive bibliography.  You will also find a number of articles on gardening for butterflies and other wildlife on the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's website.  They also publish a very helpful guide "The Wildlife Gardener's Guide" that would be worth purchasing.  You can also visit the National Wildlife Federation website for information about their Backyard Habitat program.

Although it is not possible to search our Native Plant database specifically for butterfly plants, there are a number of places to find lists of recommended plants.  If you do an internet search entering the words "plants for a butterfly garden for Tennessee", there are quite a few articles specific to your area that pop up.  A visit to your local agricultural extension office will likely yield an information sheet with regional specific plant information and there is a Middle Tennessee Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association whose website is a wealth of information. 

When gardening for butterflies, one must provide food for caterpillars as well as adults.  Here are some recommended plants for your region.

Host Plants for Caterpillars

Baptisia australis (Blue wild indigo)

Chelone glabra (White turtlehead)

Eurybia divaricata (White wood aster)

Passiflora incarnata (Purple passionflower)

Solidago rugosa (Wrinkleleaf goldenrod)

Nectar Plants for Adults

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)

Clethra alnifolia (Coastal sweet pepperbush)

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Eupatorium purpureum (Purple joepyeweed)

Rudbeckia laciniata (Cutleaf coneflower)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Blue wild indigo
Baptisia australis

White turtlehead
Chelone glabra

White wood aster
Eurybia divaricata



Wrinkleleaf goldenrod
Solidago rugosa

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Coastal pepperbush
Clethra alnifolia

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Purple joepyeweed
Eutrochium purpureum

Green-headed coneflower
Rudbeckia laciniata

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