How to Create a Butterflyway
I am so excited to be a volunteer Butterfly Ranger with the David Suzuki Foundation! I’m creating a butterflyway in my own yard, and helping 5 other local people to do the same.
Wild pollinators such as butterflies and bees are crucial to human survival. Climate change and widespread pesticide use are compromising their habitat and food sources. The Butterflyway Project aims to help people step up efforts to help pollinators find food and shelter.David Suzuki Foundation – The Butterflyway Project
So how do you create a butterflyway? There are lots of ways you can make your yard pollinator friendly!
Plant pollinator-friendly native plants
Plants that are native to your area have a higher chance of establishing well because they are used to the climate and conditions. They are also better for pollinators like the native butterfly and bee species in your area. Also, they don’t need to be fertilized and watered like plants you get at big box stores – they will establish and proliferate!
Choose different flowering plants that will flower from spring to fall. You want to offer pollinators a feast all season long, not just for a short bloom time.
When you plant, create a “bull’s eye” of flowers to make it easy for pollinators to spot. Make a clump of the same flowers about 4 feet in diameter.
Plant sunflowers! They are great for attracting pollinators, and you can harvest seeds at the end of the season to save for the next year.
David Suzuki’s Queen of Green has some great tips to create pollinator-friendly gardens.
In Edmonton, I found these resources really helpful to learn about what plants and seeds to get:
- City of Edmonton – Natural Yards: Native Perennials
- Native Pollinator Friendly Plants for the Aspen Parkland Region of Alberta
- Edmonton Native Plant Society
- Edmonton & Area Land Trust – Plant This, Not That
In Edmonton, I ordered seeds from Blazing Star Wildflower Seed Company and Wild About Flowers. I bought plants through the Edmonton Native Plant Society plant sales, and from Edmonton grower Arnica Wildflowers. I also found some native perennial plants at Salisbury Greenhouse in Sherwood Park, and Creekside Home and Garden in Spruce Grove.
Pollinator Partnership Canada has these excellent ecoregional planting guides for each province in Canada.
In the U.S., you can enter your zip code to find planting guides for your region from Pollinator Partnership. The Pollinator Partnership also has these awesome garden recipe cards to help you figure out what plants to use in your region to ensure there are blooms throughout the growing season.
Plant pollinator-friendly non-native plants
If you aren’t able to source native plants in your area, it’s okay to get other pollinator-friendly plants that might be more accessible in regular garden centers and greenhouses! Some pollinator-friendly plants recommended by gardening expert and horticultural consultant Lyndon Penner include:
- stinging nettle
- daisies or daisy family plants
- globe thistle (feeds painted lady butterflies)
- fall aster
- crown of rays goldenrod
- tall phlox (such as David phlox)
- vervain or verbena
- mock orange
Have a Messy Yard
When the leaves fall in autumn, don’t rake them – leave them!
Butterflies begin in leaves, as larvae. Those brown, dead leaves are the planet’s butterfly nursery. They’re home to butterfly larvae, microbes and worms. And leaf litter is where many species of butterflies and moths overwinter as pupae.David Suzuki Foundation’s Queen of Green, Why you should leave the leaves
In the spring, hold off on cleaning up your yard until nighttime temperatures are consistently over 10 degrees Celsius. Otherwise, you may be disturbing butterfly and moth pupae before they’re ready to go.
In general – don’t worry about making your yard look perfect! Lyndon Penner said this during one of the Butterflyway webinars I attended:
Harvest Seeds and Share Your Plants
When I got my first milkweed plant several years ago (milkweed is the only food for Monarch butterflies) I was thrilled to discover that it produced a multitude of seeds that could be harvested in the late summer/fall. I wrote a post about growing milkweed and how to harvest seeds. I have since been able to share milkweed seeds with my daughter’s Brownies troop, and countless other friends and neighbours!
Many perennials benefit from being split every few years – so you can share the love with your friends and neighbours AND help your plant stay healthy by sharing pieces of it!
I did an interview about the Butterflyway Project with Happy News YEG that you can check out as well!