Cory Valk wants to transform an area of his Lehigh Acres property into a butterfly garden. The 40-foot wide by 18-foot deep space faces east and is bordered by an aluminum fence, paver walkways, two palm trees, and a second wooden fence.
Because his is a popular request, The News-Press Media Group and Riverland Nursery chose Valk as the latest winner of the Landscape Makeover Contest.
Mayer Berg of Riverland Nursery offers these tips for Valk and others interested in attracting butterflies:
Move the existing small Bismarkia since it will fill much of the area as it matures.
Remove a few stems of the saw palmetto, which is a butterfly host plant for the palmetto skipper butterfly, to visually open up the area for viewing the plants beyond it.
Remove the sparse hedge plants in front of the metal fence to replace with a variety of plants that attract butterflies. Larger butterfly attractant plants can be used as a screen in front of both fences, and in areas to the rear sides of the garden. These can include Bahama Cassia, Privet Cassia, golden dewdrop, jatropha, blue porterweed, firebush, yellow elder, and fiddlewood.
Smaller trees can be placed on the periphery of the garden such as a sweet bay magnolia, dwarf poinciana, jatropha, desert Cassia, Mexican Caesalpinia, or sweet Acacia. Citrus such as calamondin, lime, orange or lemon trees are excellent butterfly attractants and the larval host for the giant swallowtail butterfly.
Use existing pathways, which will invite visitors to explore the garden. Slightly burying three or four boulders and adding soil behind them to build a small retaining wall will break up the flat expanse. This also will create the opportunity to use trailing plants over the boulders such as dune sunflower, blanket flower, trailing verbena, and Carolina jessamine, which are great butterfly attractants.
Smaller plants can be placed around the pathways such as coontie, ruby red Pentas, Lantana, Salvia, and lots of Mexican milkweed, which are very effective butterfly attractants.
Several vines are excellent larval host and nectar plants. Valk might want to consider an arbor as an entrance to welcome visitors, which will also provide the opportunity to plant two great vines to attract butterflies. The Mexican flame vine is a beautiful winter bloomer and great nectar plant attracting lots of butterflies. Other options include the corky stem passion vine and the Dutchman’s pipe which are wonderful larval hosts.