Setting up a butterfly garden that's safe for children

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  • #14807


    I’m a new dad with a residential section in Kumeu to develop who is keen to turn part of it into a butterfly garden that would be safe for my daughter to play in or around (she’s currently 6 weeks old but I’m thinking long term and I didn’t realise swan plants were poisonous until reading it on this website).

    I’m really keen to help ensure the survival of these beautiful creatures for future generations to continue to enjoy but I don’t want to put my daughter at risk.

    I’ve noticed our neighbours have a couple of swan plants and have noticed the occasional visitors to our section: monarchs and other moths and butterflies, wasps, bees, bumblebees, and the odd praying mantis. Some of these I’d obviously like to encourage, and others to discourage. I’m also interested in bees, fish, birds, dogs, cats, natives, vege and general gardening so it would be good to hear anything that takes these interests into consideration also.

    My questions:

    1). What can I easily and cheaply plant that will encourage native butterflies and moths (I have an area set aside next to a large deck and alongside a fishpond that I may fence off for safety reasons, and I’m currently unemployed so money is important, unfortunately).

    2). How can I encourage bees but discourage wasps? Are bees a threat to butterflies and moths?

    3). Is there anything else I need to be aware of before starting to set up a butterfly garden? Anything I should avoid?

    Thank you :)

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  • #27276


    I’ve started a few butterfly gardens in preschools. I’ve learned a few things along the way which might help.

    Kill everything
    I’ve usually been in such a burst of enthusiasm that I do a quick weed and then get stuck in. When the weeds return and start choking my plants I regret it, but it is very hard to eradicate them later.

    So kill everything, wait for the weed seeds to sprout and then kill them all again. Spray, rake, cover with newspapers and put potting mix over the top, whatever works.

    establish a low growing ground cover
    Once those weeds are gone you want to keep them out. I think clover is ideal for this, as well as being a host plant for the common blue butterfly it enriches the soil.

    Wildflower world have a great clover and wildflower mix

    a cheaper alternative is white clover. Farmlands is the cheapest source local for me Cates Grain & Seed will also courier it to you.

    The advantage of a single crop ground cover is that any weeds that do get in will stand out, useful for those new to gardening like myself.

    Plan the garden
    Ideally you want your garden aligned to the sun. Large stuff like giant swan plant at the back, medium plants like tropical milkweed in the middle, small stuff like NZ pellitory at the front.

    all year nectar
    finally, its great to have a supply of year round nectar. You will need a variety of plants to achieve this. There are lots of suggestions on this site if you want to tackle it on a plant by plant basis. Or you can buy butterfly mix from our shop

    Seed: Butterfly Mix



    Hi kylep

    We live in Massey and are happy to offer you free cuttings of plants and some seeds to get you started also.
    We can be contacted on 8327547.




    Hi kylep

    If you’d like some seeds and/or cuttings to get your garden established, and you come into the city sometime, give me a ring on 551 3383 (I’m in Blockhouse Bay) and you’re welcome to come around and get some cuttings and/or seeds of plants that you’d like in your garden. All free.




    Hi Kylep,

    Great idea to plant a butterfly garden for your family to enjoy. Swanplants aren’t usually an issue with kids as far as poisonous goes and if you are worried you could fence a few off. My kids were raised with swanpkants all around and never tried to eat any, and same so far with the grandies.

    Bees don’t worry caterpillars and butterflies like the wasps do, and anything you plant for the butterflies will be loved by the bees also which is an advantage.

    There is a tab up above ‘Monarchs’ with a drop-down menu, and if you go to that there is a really good list of nectar plants that will provide food for all the butterflies around your place. There is always a lot of talk on this forum about nectar plants and substitutes too so stay tuned. Also there are hot tabs over to the right- if you click on them, you will get all the posts on that topic.

    It is tricky making a garden on a budget, but making a start is the important thing. Some swanplant seeds and some French Marigold seeds to plant in spring will give you a start, and if you admire and ask about gardens with flowers in them in your street, you will probably be surprised how many people will give you bits of this and that to plant.

    There are many plants that are poisonous in gardens, but most aren’t that toxic, and kids don’t make a habit of eating lots of plants outdoors either. I wouldn’t worry too much about that – just make sure there is no hemlock.

    Good luck with your new garden, and stay posted here and you will get lots of advice and ideas from others along the way.


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