Working for the Weekend: Butterfly Puddling Spot

Butterfly Puddling Spot

With spring well settled in, most areas of the southeast should be seeing butterflies by now. In addition to adding nectar and host plants to your yard to draw them in, you can also build a butterfly puddling area in your yard to help meet their needs.

Tiger Swallowtails PuddlingCourtesy
Tiger Swallowtails Puddling

Most butterflies feed only on nectar from flowers. However, butterflies also need water for hydration and other nutrients, like salts and minerals, that nectar can’t provide. Landing on or close to a lake or stream is pretty risky, so butterflies land on a patch of muddy or sandy ground and drink the water there in relative comfort and safety.

Building a puddling area in your own yard is a great way to encourage butterflies to visit. This project can be as simple or detailed as you desire – here’s what to do.

  • Choose a Location: Ideally, you want to locate your puddling area near butterfly plants in your garden already.  Place it somewhere convenient for observation as well; ours is located in the butterfly garden off the back porch.
  • Choose a Container: It’s best to use a shallow container of some sort to contain the puddling area. We’ve used both a terra cottta saucer set directly on the ground as well as a low, shallow birdbath.
  • Provide Landing Spots: Fill your container with dirt or sand. If you use dirt, avoid potting soils with fertilizers or other additives – butterflies can be pretty sensitive to chemicals.  You may also choose to place some flat rocks in the container.
  • Keep Moist: Without rainfall, your puddling area will likely dry out in the sun each day. Fill with water (we prefer to use rain water from our rain barrel when possible) until the surface is wet.
  • Be Patient: It might take awhile for butterflies to discover your little oasis, but they should come around eventually.
Butterfly Puddling Area
Our Butterfly Puddling Area

Have you ever seen butterflies puddling? Have you created a special spot in your garden for this activity? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.

Every Thursday, the Working for the Weekend segment highlights a project or job for Southeastern gardeners to tackle in the weekend ahead. Know of a project you’d like to see featured here, or a garden chore you’d like some help with? Make your suggestions in the comments section below.

Author’s Note: This post originally appeared in expanded form on My Florida Backyard on Oct. 8, 2010.

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Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.