Butterflies do not randomly pollinate any good-looking flower. As I mentioned previously, butterflies have discriminating eyes. And unless female butterflies have indulged too much in dandelion wine , they have some stringent selection criteria on their minds when they are deciding what gardens to pollinate in.
Butterflies expect to be wined and dined. If you are running low on cash and just throw in a few milkweed plants, don't expect a migration of monarchs in your backyard. Butterflies like large splashes of color. Lots of color = lots of food. The butterfly bush, Buddleia, will give you a lot of bang for your buck.
Another important thing to know about the female butterfly is that like most females, she is hearing the tick of her biological clock and thinking about laying her eggs. Yes, some fine dining might keep her visiting temporarily, but sooner or later she'll be wondering if this where she wants to lay her precious eggs.
Keep in mind that her babies have discriminating tastes in food plants. Caterpillars are not the munching machines that they appear. They have discriminating palates. Some will demand a diet of only one specific plant, and then they will have prolonged discussions over their meal- "Hmmm..some nice fruity essences here...munch munch munch...a little bit tannic for my taste though...munch munch munch" So to create a butterfly garden that will keep her coming back for more, you need both nectar plants and host plants.
Well now is the time (at least here in the Southeast US) to plant the seeds for a butterfly garden that will be buzzing with life in a couple short months. Some things I'm planting now:
1. Butterfly weed (Asclepias)
1. Fennel (for the Black Swallowtail caterpillars)
2. Parsley (also for the Black Swallowtail)
3. Milkweed is also a host plant
For now my list is short, but if I convince my hubby to help tear up the front yard to make more room for more plants, then there'll be more to report!
Looking for more detailed information? The Clemson University Extention has a great article on Butterfly Gardening in South Carolina, including popular nectar and host plants. I've also enjoyed watching the progress of a Texas butterfly garden over at Gardening Obsession.