This spring, bring butterflies to your garden

April 2, 2008


Plants growing in the HMNS greenhouses

Back in December, when you were busy shopping, decorating your home and baking cookies, we were busy in the greenhouses of the Cockrell Butterfly Center, planting seeds for the 2008 Spring Plant Sale.

These seedlings started their life in the cozy environment of the greenhouse mist-tent, resting upon a warm heating pad set at 78 degrees. Some of the seeds planted were Cassia alata a sun-loving host plant for Sulphur butterflies, Asclepias curassavica a full-sun host plant for the Monarch butterflies, and Aristolochia fimbriata, a shade loving, groundcover host plant for the Pipevine and Goldrim butterflies. These are just a few of the surprises you will find at our 2008 Spring Plant Sale on April 12th.

This is a great time for you to begin preparing your soil and enhancing its quality in preparation for spring butterfly host-plants. It doesn’t matter if you leave the Museum with one plant or twenty: the butterflies will come to your garden if you put in plants that attract them. Even if you already have an existing garden, you can always incorporate a few butterfly enhancing specimens to provide nurturing food for them and their offspring. You can review a list of the plants you might consider for your garden here.

Consider planting host plants (food for caterpillars) and nectar plants (food source for adult butterflies) in your landscape. Once a female butterfly mates, she sets off to find her host plant to lay her eggs upon. Each species is attracted to specific host plants; you will find these listed and organized in the Butterfly Gardening brochure.


Out of the eggs will come tiny little caterpillars that are sometimes difficult to see with the naked eye. The caterpillar or larvae then proceed to feast upon the leaves of the host plant for about 19-21 days on average.

Finally, the caterpillar, triggered by hormones, attaches itself to a surface and pupates. A beautiful butterfly then develops within the pupae. The butterfly should emerge in about 9-12 days, depending upon the species.

So there you have it, the life-cycle of these wonderful and beautiful insects. If you’d like to witness it in your own backyard, think about joining us for the Spring Plant Sale on April 12th from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on the roof of the Museum garage. We can’t wait to share our love of Butterfly Gardening with you and your family.

Please remember if you ever have any butterfly or butterfly gardening questions just leave us a comment below, or you can e-mail us at:

Authored By Ory Roberts

Ory is the Greenhouse Manager/Rearing Coordinator for the Cockrell Butterfly Center. Didn’t know there was a greenhouse at the Museum? She raises 20,000 Heliconius longwing butterflies there, as well as thousands of host and nectar plants for butterfly gardening. Check out her posts for more information on gardening with nature.

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