How To Make a Butterfly Habitat

butterfly on flower

Create a Butterfly-Friendly Garden in Australia

Reports of insect declines are emerging from around the world, and private, residential gardens in Australia could serve as vital refuges for many species in the face of increasing habitat loss.

Butterflies are not only beautiful creatures but also play an important role in our ecosystems as pollinators and indicators of environmental health. Many butterfly populations are declining due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and climate change. As an Australian gardener, you have the power to create a haven for these beautiful insects by making your backyard butterfly-friendly.

Here’s How To build a butterfly habitat

  1. Choose a sunny location with some shelter from strong winds.
  2. Plant a variety of native nectar plants, such as grevilleas, bottlebrushes, kangaroo paws, and native daisies, to provide food for adult butterflies.
  3. Include native host plants, like Desmodium spp., Glycine spp., and everlastings, for butterfly larvae to feed on.
  4. Provide basking spots using flat rocks or pavers in sunny areas.
  5. Offer water sources, such as shallow dishes with pebbles or mud puddles.
  6. Avoid using pesticides and herbicides, as they can harm butterflies and their caterpillars.
  7. Maintain a diverse garden structure with a mix of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants, and leave some areas of lawn unmown.

The plants Which attracts the most butterflies

One of the most important aspects of creating a butterfly-friendly garden is selecting the right plants. Butterflies require two types of plants: nectar plants for adult butterflies to feed on and host plants for caterpillars to eat.

Nectar Plants for butterfly gardening

Nectar Plants

Nectar plants provide a food source for adult butterflies. Some excellent native nectar plants for Australian gardens include:

  1. Grevilleas
  2. Bottlebrushes (Callistemon spp.)
  3. Kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos spp.)
  4. Paperbarks (Melaleuca spp.)
  5. Banksias
  6. Native daisies (Brachyscome spp.)
  7. Hakeas

When selecting nectar plants, choose species with different flowering times to ensure a continuous food supply throughout the year.

Australian Native Plants Flowering Months

Flowering Months of Australian Native Plants Beneficial to Butterflies

Plant Name Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Bottlebrushes (Callistemon spp.)
Kangaroo Paws (Anigozanthos spp.)
Native Daisies (Brachyscome spp.)

Grevillea Species and Cultivars for Year-Round Flowering

Incorporating a mix of these long-flowering grevilleas, you can create a vibrant, nectar-rich garden that supports insects and birds year-round while enjoying the beautiful blooms and foliage of these versatile native plants.

Grevillea ‘Ned Kelly’

  • Flower type: Spider flowers
  • Flower color: Orange to red
  • Flowering period: Spring to Autumn
  • Size: 1.5m high x 2m wide
  • Uses: Hedging, screening, feature plant, bird-attracting

Grevillea ‘Lana Maree’

  • Flower type: Toothbrush flowers
  • Flower color: Dark pink
  • Flowering period: Winter to Summer
  • Size: 1.5m high x 1.5m wide
  • Uses: Container plant, feature plant, bird-attracting

Grevillea ‘Charlie’s Angel’

  • Flower type: Spider flowers
  • Flower color: Red
  • Flowering period: Autumn to Spring
  • Size: 1m high x 1m wide
  • Uses: Groundcover, rockery plant, bird-attracting

Grevillea ‘Panrock Princess’

  • Flower type: Brush flowers
  • Flower color: Bright pink
  • Flowering period: Spring to Autumn
  • Size: 50cm high x 1m wide
  • Uses: Groundcover, container plant, suitable for dry climates

Grevillea ‘Royal Mantle’

  • Flower type: Long toothbrush flowers
  • Flower color: Red
  • Flowering period: Winter to Summer
  • Size: Prostrate, 20cm high x 2m wide
  • Uses: Groundcover, cascading plant, bird-attracting

Grevillea ‘Orange Marmalade’

  • Flower type: Spider flowers
  • Flower color: Deep orange
  • Flowering period: Autumn to Spring
  • Size: 1.5m high x 1.5m wide
  • Uses: Hedging, feature plant, bird-attracting

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

  • Flower type: Toothbrush flowers
  • Flower color: Pinky-red
  • Flowering period: Winter to Summer
  • Size: 1.5m high x 1.5m wide
  • Uses: Hedging, screening, feature plant, bird-attracting

Grevillea ‘Superb’

  • Flower type: Toothbrush to brush-type flowers
  • Flower color: Peachy-orange
  • Flowering period: Autumn to Spring
  • Size: 1.5m high x 1.5m wide
  • Uses: Hedging, feature plant, bird-attracting

When selecting grevilleas for your garden, consider their mature size, flower type, and color to ensure they fit your landscape design and attract your desired wildlife. These cultivars offer a range of sizes, from groundcovers to medium-sized shrubs, and showcase various flower types and colors to suit different preferences.

Host Plants

Host plants are essential for the survival of butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Some common Australian butterfly species and their host plants include:

  1. Common grass-blue (Zizina labradus) – native legumes, such as Desmodium spp. and Glycine spp.
  2. Australian painted lady (Vanessa kershawi) – everlastings (Chrysocephalum spp.) and other native daisies
  3. Meadow argus (Junonia villida) – plantains (Plantago spp.) and native violets (Viola spp.)
  4. Orchard swallowtail (Papilio aegeus) – citrus trees and Cullen spp.
  5. Dainty swallowtail (Papilio anactus) – Citrus spp. and Microcitrus spp.
  6. Chequered swallowtail (Papilio demoleus) – Citrus spp. and Cullen spp.

By including a variety of host plants in your garden, you will encourage butterflies to lay eggs and support the development of their larvae.

Provide Shelter and Basking Spots

Butterflies need shelter from strong winds and predators, as well as warm, sunny spots to bask and regulate their body temperature. To provide shelter and basking spots in your garden:

  1. Plant tall shrubs or trees to create windbreaks and shaded areas.
  2. Include flat rocks or pavers in sunny locations for butterflies to bask on.
  3. Leave some bare patches of soil or sand, as some butterfly species, such as the Australian painted lady, like to sun themselves on the ground.

Offer Water and Mud Puddles

Butterflies require water to stay hydrated and minerals for reproduction. Create shallow water sources or mud puddles in your garden by:

  1. Placing a shallow dish filled with pebbles and water in a sunny spot.
  2. Creating a mud puddle by digging a shallow depression in the ground and keeping it moist.
  3. Adding a pinch of salt or mineral-rich soil to the water or mud puddle to provide essential nutrients.

Avoid Pesticides and Herbicides

Pesticides and herbicides can be harmful to butterflies and their caterpillars. To minimize the use of these chemicals in your garden:

  1. Practice companion planting to deter pests naturally.
  2. Use organic pest control methods, such as handpicking pests or using neem oil or insecticidal soaps.
  3. Tolerate some plant damage from caterpillars, as they are an essential part of the butterfly life cycle.

Maintain a Diverse Garden Structure

A diverse garden structure with different layers of vegetation will attract a wider range of butterfly species. To achieve this:

  1. Include a mix of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
  2. Leave some areas of your lawn unmown to provide habitat for caterpillars and other insects.
  3. Create a mosaic of sunny and shaded areas to cater to different butterfly preferences.

Monitor and Enjoy Your Butterfly Garden

As you implement these insect-friendly strategies, take the time to observe and enjoy the butterflies that visit your garden. Keep a record of the species you encounter and share your findings with local citizen science projects or butterfly conservation organizations. In creating a butterfly-friendly garden, you are not only providing a beautiful and relaxing space for yourself but also contributing to the conservation of these important pollinators.

Creating a butterfly-friendly garden in Australia is a worthwhile endeavor that benefits both the environment and your enjoyment of your outdoor space. By selecting the right plants, providing shelter, water, and basking spots, avoiding pesticides, and maintaining a diverse garden structure, you can attract a wide range of butterfly species to your backyard. As more gardeners adopt these wildlife-friendly practices, we can collectively create a network of habitats that support the survival and recovery of butterfly populations across the country.