So you want to create your own butterfly garden and you're not quite sure where to start. Here's a quick outline of how to begin.
Your first assignment is to find out what butterflies are common to your area. One way to do this is simply to observe your surroundings for several days, noting what kinds of butterflies you see and identifying them by looking in an identification guide. From there you should investigate the types of host plants and nectar plants that will attract and sustain those species of caterpillars and butterflies, respectively. You can find lots of information about the regions and plants different caterpillars and butterflies prefer on Web sites like thebutterflysite.com or in a guidebook such as Claire Hagen Dole's "The Butterfly Gardener's Guide." Try to select native plants and remember to pick some plants for each growing season.
Your second task is to decide where you want to plant your garden, keeping in mind that it needs to be a sunny spot. You should also pay attention to whether the desired area is subject to gusty winds or hard rain. If it is, put up some sort of barrier, like a fence or a grouping of shrubs, so future residents can seek a respite from the elements.
Once you know what you're going to plant and where, the real fun begins. As with all gardening, the soil is important, so you may want to consider amending your soil (or incorporating some new soil into your own to improve it) if necessary. In addition, make sure you are planting in an area with proper drainage, so huge puddles don't form when it rains, which would endanger the plants, as well as the butterflies and caterpillars. You can buy your plants at a local nursery, get cuttings from a friend or neighbor or look for wild specimens growing in abandoned lots. As you plant, keep in mind the guidelines from the previous page -- mainly that groupings of flowers are most attractive to butterflies and that it's best to plant in layers grouped by height.
Once you have your garden planted, it's just a matter of upkeep. Keep reading to ensure your butterfly garden stands the test of time.