Plant your butterfly garden in a sunny location (5-6 hours each day), but sheltered from the winds. Butterflies need the sun to warm themselves, but they won’t want to feed in an area where they are constantly fighting the wind to stay on the plants. Afternoon sun will not only bring in lots of butterflies, but will provide glorious light for viewing and photographing them. It’s a plus if you can watch from your kitchen or living room window. Your location should be calm and relatively undisturbed – meaning only occasional visits by humans. the more natural the area the greater the number and diversity of butterflies attracted.
Provide cover and shelter such as broad-leaved trees, shrubs, and log piles. You also want to have several landing pads or sunbathing perches in open and sunny areas throughout the garden. Butterflies rely to a large degree on thermal heating and sunbathe in these open spots. These are most often a variety of large varied sizes of stones that can be used for decorative purposes as well.
Determine what type of soil you have. Is it sandy, clay, wetland, well-drained, or very dry? This is very important to know when you select the plants. It’s a good idea to have the soil tested. This will provide you with valuable insight into the chemical makeup and condition (texture) of your soil. The soil testing lab will gladly provide you with suggestions for improving soil fertility and drainage, if needed. This can also make a difference in what types of plants will be able to thrive in your garden.
What types of trees are in the area? This is important since most moth larvae eat tree leaves; leaves are also the food plant for some of the swallowtails and the mourning cloak. Some trees also produce flowers attractive to adult butterflies. There are specific trees called butterfly trees that can draw hundreds and hundreds of butterflies to it. These include birch trees and red oaks.