If I were to ask you what a butterfly garden looked like, what would you visualize? If you are like most people, you would describe a garden in full bloom during June, July and August. But, there are many butterfly flowers for the fall as well. And, if you want to provide ideal butterfly habitat, fall flowers are important for butterflies because they need energy for their long migration to their winter grounds.
Many different species of butterflies migrate in the fall so that they can spend their winter in a warmer climate. Perhaps the most famous of these is the monarch butterfly, which travels thousands of miles to winter in Mexico or California.
There are a wide variety of fall flowers that attract butterflies. Many of the annuals will bloom until the first hard frost, which in Plattsburgh occurs around the 20th of September. Some butterfly attracting annuals include cosmos, zinnias, french marigolds, and sunflowers. Many fall blooming perennials will continue to bloom through light frosts. These include asters, particularly the New England aster, goldenrod, and Joe-Pye weed.
Besides making sure that your butterfly garden has fall blooming flowers, care should also be taken during your fall cleaning chores. If your garden has good butterfly habitat throughout the spring and summer — a variety of flowers and some shallow puddles - you most likely have larvae or chrysalises in some of the places your can’t see.
Unless you have fungal diseases you are trying to clean up, resist the urge to clean up the garden. This could disrupt or even kill the next generation of butterflies that will grace your garden next year. You can do the clean up in the spring, once the larvae have come out of hibernation.
Another thing you might want to do in addition to planting fall butterfly flowers is leaving some apples on the ground in your garden. Rotting apples provide minerals and amino acids that some butterflies can use.
Remember, also, that it’s a good idea to keep your butterfly garden chemical free, as butterflies are particularly sensitive to chemicals.
Anne Lenox Barlow is a professional horticulturist who enjoys gardening with her family in Plattsburgh. She also chronicles her gardening experiences at her blog www.northcountrygarden.wordpress.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.