Native plants provide butterflies with nectar and foliage they need as caterpillars and adults.
Adult butterflies may accidentally mistake a non-native plant for a good egg-laying site, which could prevent the survival of its offspring. Grow you nectar-producing native plants in sunny areas that are protected from strong winds.
The plant type and color are important. Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blooms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes. For example, monarchs are attracted to asclepias, which is a family of milkweed — a beautiful, brightly colored plant, and a magnet for butterflies.
Plant your garden for continuous bloom. Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their lifespan. Try to arrange the garden so that one plant stops blooming as another starts, like spring-blooming ceanothus and summer-blooming plumbago.
Trees can host butterfly larvae, too. Dogwood and flowering crabapple are great for butterfly larvae.
Butterflies also like a place for “puddling.” They often congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in puddling, an act of drinking water and extracting minerals.
To create a butterfly puddle, place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat. Make sure to keep the sand moist. Step back and watch the magic happen.
As long as you have planted what butterflies love, your yard will be a beauty in motion.
• The Green Thumb is a column by Tracy’s master gardeners. University of California-certified master gardeners are available to answer gardening questions from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at 953-6112 or firstname.lastname@example.org.