A butterfly garden will not only provide you a quiet sanctuary away from the hustle of everyday life, it will open your child’s eyes to the wonders of nature and give them a sense of accomplishment when they finally see the delicate creatures descend upon the flowering plants they put in the ground themselves.

Your child will learn how to be a good steward of our environment by caring for the garden, learning about the importance of native plant species and the life cycle of the butterfly: egg, caterpillar (or larva), chrysalis (or pupa) and butterfly.

Inspiration: Stop by the MOSI BioWorks Butterfly Garden and Flight Encounter Exhibit.

This exhibit showcases butterflies native to West Central Florida and allow you to get up close and personal in the free-flying butterfly enclosure. The Butterfly Garden adjacent to the Flight Encounter Exhibit will provide some inspiration for you through its display of native and Florida-friendly nectar and host plants. The BioWorks Butterfly Garden is open year-round during museum hours.

Creating a Butterfly Garden: You will first need to find the right location in your yard which gets plenty of sun and is protected from the wind and pesticides. If you have poor soil, supplement with store bought soil or compost.

Next, choose a few host plants which butterflies can lay their eggs on and caterpillars can eat like Milkweed, Butterflyweed, Privet Cassia, Bahama Cassia, Maypop Passionvine and Corky Passionvine. Then, choose a few nectar plants for adult butterflies to feed on such as Pentas, Lantana, Salvia, Firebush, Butterflybush, Anise Hyssop, Blazing Star, Tropical Sage, Godenrod, Tampa Mock Vervain, Scorpion Tail, Beach Sunflower, Ironweed, Spanish Needles, and Blanket Flower.

Butterflies need a place to rest, too!: Find some flat, light colored stones and place around your garden. This will give butterflies a place to rest and bask in the warmth of the sun. Build a few puddling sites as well like a sandy or muddy area you can keep moist to provide a place for butterflies to drink.

Did you know Florida has more butterfly species than any other state east of the Mississippi River? There are more than 100 species of butterflies in Hillsborough County alone according to Kristen Gilpin at MOSI. Species include the Monarch, Queen, Zebra Longwing, Gulf Fritillary, Giant Swallowtail, Cloudless Sulfphur and Great Southern White. Consider sparking your child’s artistic side by allowing them to photograph the butterflies in their garden or draw a picture in a booklet so they can track the progress of their beautiful garden.

by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting,