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Butterfly Gardening Web Brochure
for the Rio Grande Valley of Texas

Compiled by Gil Quintanilla and Mike Quinn

Contributors:   Diann Ballesteros, David & Jan Dauphin, Javier Deleon, Carol Goolsby, Martin Hagne, Maxine McClendon, Joshua Rose, Ellie Thompson, Cynthia Traylor, Ann Vacek, Frank Wiseman



Helpful Pointers on Soils, Growing Season, and Climate

The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is in USDA Zone number 9. Nestled between the Chihuhuan Desert on the west and the Gulf of Mexico on the east, the Lower Rio Grande Valley is an area of contrasting climatic and biotic influences.  Annual rainfall ranges from about twenty-six inches along the Gulf coast to seventeen inches on the western edge. Enjoying an average mean temperature of about 72 degrees, the Valley also has about 325 days of sun and boasts the longest growing season in the United States.  Temperate and tropic climates meet here and so do the major Mississippi and Central bird flyways. Eleven different biotic communities serve as habitat to over 300 species of butterflies.  Unfortunately, over ninety five per cent of this natural habitat has been lost due to agricultural, industrial, and urban development.  By planting a butterfly garden, you will help restore some of this lost habitat and provide a haven for wild butterflies.

20 Easy Steps to Successful Butterfly Gardening

1. Plan for a Good Mixture of Butterfly Nectar Plants and Caterpillar Food plants - Natives are Recommended

2. Controlling Bermuda Grass prior to planting is important. Seek expert advise.

3. Best time to plant is October -December to give roots a chance to establish well before the heat stresses of late Spring and Summer.

4. Plants grow large and quickly due to the long growing season.  Liberal initial spacing is recommended.

5, Plant ground covers and low plants at garden edge and taller plants at back or center of garden.

6. Watering deeply, but infrequently encourages deep root growth.

7. Watering from above (vs. drip or flood irrigation) may wash the nectar out of your flowers.

8. Put nectar plants in the sun and food plants in the sun or shade.

9. Group planting of each species is more attractive to butterflies than planting each member of a species separately.

10. Use of well prepared organic-supplemented beds with 4-6 inches of mulch prevents weeds and is preferred over chemical fertilizers

11. All the free mulch one can shovel is available from various local municipalities.

12. Strive to have something blooming year round.

13. Trim and prune according to the plant's needs and trim off spent flowers to promote more blooms.

14. Occasional stripping of plants is a sign of a successful butterfly garden. The "frass" the caterpillars leave behind is an added fertilizer bonus.

15. Drip irrigation and timers saves water and helps prevent evaporation.

16. Bait stations, using bananas and/or other fermenting fruits, should be used to attract unusual and fascinating butterflies.

17. Enjoy the other interesting wildlife that will visit your garden such as birds, horned toads, dragonflies, day-flying moths, bees, and beetles.

18. Note that the greatest butterfly diversity and abundance occurs in the fall and in the spring with the peak occurring in October and November.

19. For the love of Butterflies and the Environment, avoid using pesticides and herbicides.

20. Enjoy, experiment,  and have fun with your butterfly garden!


Places to Buy Native Butterfly Plants

National Butterfly Center (956-583-9009)

3400 Butterfly Park Dr.

Mission, TX 78572

Benito Trevino, Rancho Lomitas, Rio Grande City, TX -

Valley Nature Center, Weslaco, TX -

Mike Heep Nursery, Harlingen, TX -

Valley Garden Center, McAllen, TX


Design and Build Landscape Companies

that specialize in creating bird and butterfly habitats with native plants, ponds, and water features

Mother Nature's Creation - Contact Billy Snider or Sue Griffin

2822 Nueces, Harlingen TX 78550 (956) 428-4897


Williams Wildscapes - Contact Allan Williams

Pharr, Texas



References and Useful Links:

Native Plant Project. Butterfly Gardening with Native Plants of the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Texas 

Quinn, Mike. 2004. Butterfly Plants for the Lower Rio Grande Valley

Quinn, Mike. 2004. Caterpillar Food Plants for the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

NABA South Texas website. Chapter of the North America Butterfly Association

Wauer, Roland H.  2004. Butterflies of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Johnson Printing, Boulder, Colorado

Opler, Paul A., Harry Pavulaan, Ray E. Stanford, Michael Pogue, coordinators. 2006.

Butterflies and Moths of North America. Bozeman, MT: Mountain Prairie Information Node.

Bozeman, MT: Mountain Prairie Information Node. (Version 061607)


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