Gardening for wildlife may seem simple at first glance, but there are actually many facets to investigate. If you are looking to attract the local wildlife, what better plants to use than natives? These species were the original butterfly attractions. The Butterfly Weeds, Joe-Pye Weeds, and Blazingstars were here long before the imported butterfly bush.
Plants propagated from local sources have not been through the selection or breeding processes used to develop the named or cultivated varieties found at your local garden center or nursery. Therefore they possess all of their natural attracting characteristics. When plant breeders select for size and color, sometimes scents and nectar are bred out.
Native wildflowers are needed for wildlife during all seasons. In the summer the beautiful colors attract all shapes and sizes of butterflies. But have you ever noticed all of the incredible insect life? Many of these local bugs happen to be on the menu of all of the native birds. Suddenly you have butterflies sipping nectar and all manner of birds feasting on the insect life. Sounds like a backyard pocket prairie paradise.
Native grasses are a necessary companion for wildflowers because they are used as the structure and physical backdrop for the prairie or meadow. They actually help hold up tall flowers as well as provide cover for small animals and birds on the ground. Their seeds are also an important food source for birds and animals in the fall and winter. Some of our favorite local grasses include Little Blue Stem, Big Blue Stem, Indian grass, and Side-Oats Grama.
There are three major needs in attracting wildlife to your backyard pocket prairie.
1) A water source: Water can be as simple as a bird bath or as wonderful as a pond or bog garden.
2) Food: Food has many types and purposes: feeding the birds, attracting the caterpillars or butterfly larvae, and providing nectar for mature butterflies. We must remember that it is not IF a native wildflower attracts butterflies but more a matter of which ones are attracted the best.