Butterfly Meadows

Butterfly meadows also create communities within the system
of your natural gardening goals. 

These are opposite of a forest garden where there are overhead canopies of trees and dense vegetation at the edges. 

Meadows open up to a wealth of grasses and flowers, allowing one to see far away horizons.  These are good for gardeners seeking openess.

Meadow areas have:

  • Lots of sunlight for butterflies to bask.

  • Provide lots of color where a flying butterfly can see the flowering weeds or wildflowers below.

  • Lots of grasses and shrubs providing a shelter, especially from northwesterly winds.

  • Lots of grasses, brush piles and rock piles for butterfly larva, butterfly pupa and butterflies that over-winter.

Overall when compared to other wildlife and native gardens, meadows tend to have shorter or low lying plants.  More often these are biennials and annuals amongst grasses.  When flowering, meadows are beautiful but once finished blooming, you'll have a grass field.

If any larger shrubs are added they shouldn't block sunlight for the blooming flowers.  Let flowers and grasses grow high.  Most wildlife prefer to move about under cover and keeping things high helps them and other garden insects move about safely.

Butterflies also need water.  Having wildlife ponds provide water for the different communities in nature and butterflies can puddle as well.  These can be as simple as a small hole or much larger depending on your natural gardening plan.

Overall butterflies need open, sunny areas and the flowers they feed on will get at least five hours of sun daily for nectar sources.

If property already has a large, open area, these can kick-start any meadow garden with native flowers and flowering weeds.  Begin the weeding out process first to gain control of the 'neglected' look.  Once this takes shape its time to start strategically tilling flower seeds that will help in attracting butterflies.  See the page How to Attract Butterflies to understand how to place flowers for butterflies and why.

It's important to note that when compared to other
wildlife gardening, butterfly meadows take time and are
not for the faint of heart.

Another way to jump-start garden is by purchasing wildflower seeds that are in bags with different names like "butterfly meadow" or "annual mix", etc.  These work but it is important to read instructions.

  • If spread out in area that has not been weeded it is likely to become squirrel food because weeds are already established.

  • Make sure area is well weeded.  Don't over-seed area. If over-seeded, in time you will be pulling out the wildflowers because area becomes crowded and over-grown.


What's the difference in a prairie and meadow garden?  For natural gardening purposes the terms are interchangeable, otherwise...

  • Prairies are a stable and functional ecosystem that perpetuates through consistent fire and animal grazing.

  • Meadows are transitional.  They have experienced some kind of trauma like a fire, flood, pest or disease that will kill everything leaving an open, bare area.  Within years native vegetation grows back but the meadow will likely suffer another trauma in time.

Photo: Sandra Cunningham

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