How to Create a Butterfly Garden

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  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Well, one of the most pleasant sights of summer are butterflies taking flight around your home. And if that’s the kind of wildlife you’d like to see more of, there are butterfly-friendly landscapes that you can create to make them feel even more welcome.

    How to Create a Butterfly GardenTOM: That’s right. Butterflies actually have some favorite plants that deliver them the nectar that they need to stick around your yard. Here to tell us how to create our very own butterfly garden is landscaping contractor, Roger Cook, from TV’s This Old House.

    Welcome, Roger.

    ROGER: Thanks for having me.

    TOM: Now, is it possible to create a butterfly garden pretty much anywhere in the country?

    ROGER: It is. And what you have to do is figure out what type of butterfly you have in your region and then there’ll be specific plants that that butterfly comes to, that it really likes.

    TOM: So if we see butterflies no matter where we live, there are things that we can do to get them to hang out a little bit longer.

    ROGER: Right. But before you think about the plants, you should think about the caterpillars that are going to become the butterflies. Every butterfly has a tree that it specifically will lay its eggs on.

    TOM: OK.

    ROGER: And that’s because when those eggs hatch, that tiny, little caterpillar that comes out has to start feeding right away. And it has a preferred leaf it wants to feed on. If it’s not on the right tree, they won’t grow up to be butterflies.

    LESLIE: So now that you know exactly what type of butterfly you have in your area, you head on over to the garden center armed with your research and you sort of pick out a variety of flowers and plants that will both host the caterpillar and then feed the butterfly?

    ROGER: That’s right. And you want to get plants that are going to flower throughout the season so you keep the butterflies in your garden. So you have a sequence of plants. And when you buy the plant, don’t buy one; buy like three or five because that really attracts the butterflies and will hold them in the garden.

    TOM: Now, besides the plants, what about water? Don’t they need moisture to hang around, as well?

    ROGER: Well, they don’t need a big water feature. What they need is a little area that’s moist, that has mud. And they’ll land there and then they’ll take and get minerals from the mud, which helps their diet.

    TOM: Alright. So we’re not talking about a big pond; big, aggressive waterfall; a big aerator spraying water all over the place. That’ll just chase them away. We’re just talking about something with maybe just a little tiny bit of movement to keep the mosquitoes down but allow the butterflies to be happy, correct?

    ROGER: It doesn’t even have to have standing water; it just has to be wet mud. That’s all you need. So pouring a little bucket every day on an area will be enough to suffice.

    TOM: True. You could water your own butterfly garden that way, couldn’t you?

    ROGER: You could, yeah.

    TOM: Now, what are some of the most common plants that butterflies would like – you’d say it would apply to a good part of the country?

    ROGER: Well, we see them on lilacs, which is a fairly common one. There’s one called “butterfly bush,” aptly named because the butterflies love it. And even a plant called “milkweed,” which you see a lot growing in meadows but you can actually plant in your garden.

    TOM: So the whole process starts with a bit of brain work, followed up by a little bit of grunt work: putting those right plants in the right place. But after that, it’s a very relaxing feature to have around the house.

    ROGER: Well, it’s a great way to adapt the gardens that you already have and just make them a little bit bigger. Get some more flowering plants and just make sure you do it in a sunny area, because that’s what the butterflies like.

    TOM: Great advice. Roger Cook from TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

    ROGER: Thanks. I love butterflies and I’m glad to share the information.

    LESLIE: Alright. You can catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For your local listings, you can visit

    TOM: And This Old House and Ask This Old House are brought to you by GMC. GMC, built tough.

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