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Butterflies in the Garden

Plant It and They Will Come

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In My Garden
Winter Garden Preparation

Winter Preparation for Butterfly Gardens


I live in Westland, Michigan and what I do with my garden, which is my whole yard except for paths, to get ready for winter is nothing. Different species of butterflies and moths overwinter differently. Some overwinter as an egg, some as a larva, and some in a chrysalis, pupa, or cocoon. These wonderful little forms of Lepidoptera could be anywhere in the garden. They could be on plants, in leaf litter, or in the ground. I wait to break down my plants, which I drop to the ground to use as mulch, until sometime in May.


I have many trees which I use to grow in pots. Because of the size of my yard, which is only 60 by 120 feet, I don't have room to plant my trees in the yard and let them get full size. I grow these because I want to have as many host plants as possible in my yard, so that I will have as many different species as possible. Of butterflies, I have had over 30 different species.


The trees that I use to have in pots and the butterflies that lay their eggs on them are:


Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) and Choke Cherry (Prunus virginiana) – Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus), Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops), Coral Hairstreak (Satyrium titus), and Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).


Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) – Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus).


Hop Tree (Ptelea trifoliata) and Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) – Giant Swallowtail.


Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) – Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis), Edwards’ Hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii), Banded Hairstreak (Satyrium calanus).


Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) – Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).


Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) – Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis), American Snout (Libytheana carinenta), Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), and Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis).


Sandbar Willow (Salix interior), Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), Black Willow (Salix nigra), Corkscrew Willow (Salix matsudana) – Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), Viceroy (Limenitis archippus), and Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).


What I use to do with my potted trees is to move them behind my garage. I placed them right next to each other and put mulch in between the pots, around the pots, and over the pots. The next spring when the leaves start growing, I would move them back to the garden. Putting potted plants next to a building helps to protect them from wind. So, by me putting the plants behind and next to the garage and by covering them with mulch, it protects them from the wind and kept them warmer. That protects the roots. Whenever my trees started looking distressed, I would remove them from the pot and cut off about 1/3 of the roots and then repot them.


I now have planted all my trees, except for the Prickly Ash, which is still potted. The only willow I have now is a Prairie Willow, which does not grow very tall. To keep them a reasonable height, when they get too tall, I stump cut them to 18 to 24 inches.