Summer bulbs for a park full of butterflies

An energy drink

Butterflies use up a lot of energy fluttering around. And the females also need energy to lay their eggs. Most butterfly species forage for nectar: it’s their energy drink containing sugars, proteins and vitamins. During the summer months, flowers produced by summer bulbs are perfect for supplying them with this special cocktail. Butterflies have a long proboscis that allows them to reach the nectar in flowers that bees and bumblebees can’t reach. Sometimes, they carry pollen from one flower to another which results in pollination.


Grassy ribbons, borders and containers: all make suitable places for planting summer bulbs in parks. Some summer bulbs such as montbretia and blazing star will naturalize and flower year after year. Others such as dahlias and canna lilies will have to be lifted before the first ground frost. Plant summer bulbs, corms and tubers in a sunny place. Butterflies are cold-blooded creatures that need a body temperature of at least 20°C in order to fly effectively. On cooler days, they warm up by spreading their wings in a sheltered location. Low walls, hedges or shrubs make ideal ‘warm-up’ spots in parks.

What butterflies really like

If given a choice, butterflies will go for purple flowers. This makes the purple flowers of the blazing star (Liatris spicata) really attractive to them. The open centers of single-flowered and semi-double dahlias are just as popular with butterflies. Butterflies also visit dwarf gladioli (Gladiolus nanus) and the Abyssinian Gladiolus (Gladiolus callianthus). Other examples of butterfly favorites are Montbretia (Crocosmia), lilies (Lilium), the pineapple lily (Eucomis) and canna lilies (Canna indica). Besides being so inviting to butterflies and people alike, they also have a long flowering period: summer bulbs can be adding color to a park until well into fall!

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