• Butterfly Gardening: Living leaves in your garden

    by  • April 12, 2012 • Garden, Sierra Foothills, Spring, Wildlife

    Butterfly gardeners begin this way….they see a colorful butterfly in their garden and start paying attention.  They want to see more so they wait and observe during the spring and summer. How can they see more kinds, they wonder.  That’s how I began, I’m sure.

    Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

    Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)

    Once you begin observing, you notice more and more about these beautiful creatures. Everyone knows they drink nectar from flowers, but what kind of plants will attract them.  Is it possible to plant the right kind of plants that would fill your garden with these ‘living leaves?’

    Wild flowers, cultivated flowers (perennials and annuals) and even some shrubs are a fantastic start.  Lilac bushes, blueberry bushes, grasses, abelia, butterfly weed, chrysanthemums, daises, purple coneflower, buddleias, black-eyed Susan, , goldenrods and verbena are all flowers and shrubs that will attract butterflies for your observation to your garden.

    Buckeye on lavender

    Buckeye on lavender

    Butterflies in our Sierra Foothills include, Swallowtails, Buckeyes, Skippers and California Sisters and many more. If you’ve seen a butterfly in Central California that you’d like to identify, try Art Shaprio’s Butterfly Site., associated with UCDavis. Calphotos is another place where you can browse through many California butterflies.

    Butterfly or 'Skipper' in the genus Erynnis

    Butterfly or 'Skipper' in the genus Erynnis

    Try these when designing a butterfly garden bed:


    Buddleia davidii (Butterfly Bush)

    Eupatorium purpureum (Joe-pye weed)

    Buddleia davidii  Butterfly Bush

    Buddleia davidii Butterfly Bush


    Pennisetum setaceum (Purple Fountain Grass)

    Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed

    Kniphofia spp. – Red Hot Poker

    Aster dumosus 'Prof. Kippenberg'

    Aster dumosus 'Prof. Kippenberg'

    Aster novae-angiae (New England aster)

    Monarda (Bee Balm )

    Asiatic Lily Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed Susan)

    Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)

    Liatris spicata (Blazing star)


    Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’

    Coreopsis verticillata (Tickseed)

    Gaillardia (Blanket flower)

    Solidago canadensis (Goldenrod)

    Agastache x ‘Ava’ (Hummingbird Mint)

    Sedum Stonecrop ‘Autumn Joy’

    Scabiosa (Pin Cushion Flower)

    Glandularia canadensis (Rose Verbena)

    California foothill natives that attract butterflies
    Arctostaphylos, Manzanita

    Lonicera interrupta Chaparral Honeysuckle

    Lonicera interrupta Chaparral Honeysuckle

    Lonicera interrupta, Chaparral Honeysuckle

    Lupinus albifrons Silver Bush Lupine

    Lupinus albifrons Silver Bush Lupine

    Lupinus albifrons, Silver Bush Lupine

    Madia elegans, Elegant Tarweed

    Muhlenbergia, rigens Deer Grass

    Rudbeckia hirta, Black-eyed Susan

    Wyethia elata, Hall’s Mule’s ears


    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.