Planting for Spring and Butterflies

Planting For Spring And Butterflies

With the coming of warmer weather sightings of butterflies are more prevalent as they seek out nectar from flowers and suitable plants on which to lay their eggs. Although they feed from a variety of flowers, most butterflies are fairly specific when it comes to host plants on which their eggs will hatch and caterpillars feed.

Paten Park Native Nursery has a large variety of species – from large trees to herbs and vines – which are butterfly host plants. This article will describe just a few of the lower growing specimens which, if planted now, could see flowering this spring and summer.

Polyura sempronius butterfly – Photograph courtesy of Neil Murphy.

The coffee bush (Breynia oblongifolia) is a compact shrub growing to 3m with pink to red fruit. It hosts the large grass yellow, a moderate sized yellow butterfly with black edges on the upper side of the forewings. Another shrub of this size is the forest hopbush (Dodonaea triqueta) with its tiny green flowers from winter through spring, which hosts the fiery jewel butterfly. The native indigo (Indigofera australis) is an open shrub growing to 1.5m in sunny positions. In spring it sends out spikes of lilac, pea-shaped flowers. It hosts the small long-tailed pea-blue and common grass-blue butterflies.

Billy buttons (Chrysocephalum apiculatum) makes a lovely herbaceous border to a sunny garden. It grows to 40 cm high and has white leaves and golden, papery flower heads most of the year. It is host to the Australian painted lady, a common, orange, migratory butterfly. In shady, well-drained spots a mass planting of love flower (Pseudoranthemum variabile) with its delicate white, pink or mauve flowers and dark green leaves would be a good alternative. It is host to a variety of eggfly butterflies, the Australian leafwing and blue argus.

“Billy Buttons!” – Photograph courtesy of Louis O’Keefe.

The fairy fan flower (Scaevola aemula) with its prolific and striking blue/purple flowers in spring through summer is fast growing and host to the meadow argus. It is a versatile plant that grows well in pots or as a ground cover in well drained, sunny positions. The arrow-leafed violet (Viola betonicifolia) forms clumps of 20cm long elongated leaves and has pale purple to violet flowers in spring and summer. It is an ideal in rockeries. This beautiful little plant is host to the endangered Australian fritillary butterfly.

If you just want to have a beautiful flowering garden or your main interest is in butterflies, planting these and other compatible native plants will ensure a profusion of both. Come and explore the many suitable plants at the Nursery which is open from 9am to 4 pm Tuesday to Saturday and 9 am to 1pm on Sunday.

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