Do-It-Yourself Butterfly Garden

Love gardening and love admiring butterflies?

Bring nature into your home by combining both loves and creating your very own butterfly-attracting garden. Learn what kinds of flowers and plants you should cultivate in your garden to attract different butterfly species.

Here we list eight common butterflies found in Singapore and their favourite host plants.

 

 

Butterfly

Host plant

1

Chocolate Pansy


Photo credit: Khew Sin Khoon


The Chocolate Pansy (Junonia hedonia)

has orangey brown wings, while its underside is of a duller brown with dark stripes traversing across the wings, almost resembling leaves allowing it to camouflage well in leaf litter.

It flies in a gliding manner and tends to sunbathe with its wings wide open in sunny weather. It is about 5 to 6 cm in length.

Creeping Ruellia

  

Photo credit: Vicky Lim Yen Ngoh

The Creeping Ruellia (Ruellia repens) is a small, creeping herb from the Acanthus family that can grow up to 50 cm tall. It is easy to grow, with small pretty funnel-shaped flowers that are white or pink to light purple in colour.

It is also the host plant for the Peacock Pansy (Junonia almana javana) and the Pygmy Grass Blue (Zizula hylax pygmaea).

2

Common Grass Yellow

 

Photo credit: Khew Sin Khoon

You can easily spot this butterfly with its bright lemon-yellow wings. Look closely – you can find tiny black dots dispersed all over its wings.

The Common Grass Yellow (Eurema hecabe), measuring about 3.5 to 4.5 cm, is one of six species from the genus Eurema. It tends to fly restlessly and is on alert when approached.

Peacock Flower


Photo credit: Arthur Ng

The Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) is an attractive shrub bearing yellow, orange or red flowers borne in clusters.

It grows easily in fertile loamy soils, propagated by seeds. As a shrub, it can grow up to 3 to 6 m in height and can flower throughout the year. It is recommended to do hard pruning annually to retain the vigour of the plant.

3

Common Mormon

Photo credit: Robin Ngiam

 

The Common Mormon (Papilio polytes) measures to about 8 cm and belongs to a group of butterflies called swallowtails and they are known for their long tails that extend from their hindwing.

The males are black on the upperside with a series of large whitish-yellow spots while the females can take several forms. Some look almost indistinguishable from the males while others mimic the poisonous Common Rose butterfly with red spots near the hindwing margin to protect itself from predators.

Indian Curry Leaf


Photo credit: Boo Chih Min

The Indian Curry Leaf (Murraya koenigii) is an aromatic herb you can use in your curry dishes. It prefers warm humid climates and hence it thrives in Singapore. It can be grown in well-drained soil in small gardens or within a container, reaching up to 2.5 m in height.

It can be propagated by seeds – sow its seeds immediately after harvesting. It seeds are viable up to three weeks.

4

Lesser Grass Blue


Photo credit: Horace Tan

The Lesser Grass Blue (Zizina otis) has dull purplish blue wings with a grey underside.

Singapore has three Grass Blue species that are hard to tell apart due to their small size (they measure only 0.8 to 2 cm) and erratic flight. Besides the commonly spotted Lesser Grass Blue and Pygmy Grass Blue (Zizula hylax), the Pale Grass Blue (Zizeeria maha) is less often spotted.

Spanish Clover

Photo credit: Ying Wei Jong

The Spanish Clover (Desmodium heterophyllumI) is a tropical legume with small pink pea-liked flowers that grow up to only about 0.5 cm.

It grows well in full sun and little water conditions and is also known for its medicinal properties and is used in various ways by different cultures to treat ailments.

Please consult your physician before using or consuming any plants for medicinal purposes.

5

Lime Butterfly

Photo credit: Jason Yong

The Lime Butterfly (Papilio demoleus malayanus) gets its name from its host plants that are usually citrus species.

It is also a swallowtail butterfly but lacks the prominent tail that most swallowtails have. It is black with large yellow markings on the upperside, forming a band running from its forewings to hindwings. Its underside is mostly yelow with black markings.

Calamansi

Photo credit: Arthur Ng

The Calamansi (Citrus microcarpa) grows to about 3 to 4 m tall, producing white to whitish-pink fragrant flowers. It grows best in moist to well-drained soil.

 

This citrus-scented plant not only brings a fresh aroma to your garden but it is also a food source for the caterpillars of the Lime Butterfly and its small rounded fruits can be eaten when they turn from green to light orange.

 

6

Painted Jezebel

Photo credit: Khew Sin Khoon

The Painted Jezebel (Delias hyparete) is usually found flying among treetops, near the crowns of the trees.

Measuring about 7 to 8 cm, it bears a beautiful yellow and orange-red pattern at the underside of its hind wings, just like a painting.

Malayan Mistletoe

Photo credit: Teo Siyang

The Malayan Mistletoe (Dendrophthoe pentandra) is the only known host plant of the Painted Jezebel and can be found widespread in Singapore.

A woody shrub that can grow up to 2 m, it bears attractive pink flowers and is commonly found growing on trees. Since it is a parasitic plant, regular maintenance of its growth is necessary to avoid deterioration of its host plant.

7

Plain Tiger

Photo credit: Khew Sin Khoon

The Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysippus) is probably one of the more commonly spotted butterflies in Singapore. It has these rich orange forewings with broad black borders outlined with a series of white spots. There is also a less common orange form that has fully orange hind wings.

Measuring about 6.5 cm, it flies slowly while feeding on its favourite nectaring plants.

Giant Milkweed

Photo credit: Arthur Ng

The Giant Milkweed (Calotropis gigantea) is a medium-sized shrub that can grow up to 4 m tall when planted in the ground.

It torlerates drought and saline sites and can be propagated by seeds or cuttings. The caterpillars of the Plain Tiger feed on its sap-rich leaves that are unpalatable to predators.

The plant exudes a milky sap when damaged or cut. This may cause skin irritation in sensitive individuals.

8

Tawny Coster


Photo credit: Khew Sin Khoon

The Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore) is another commonly seen butterfly across Singapore. Measuing about 5.5 cm, it flies slugguishly in a fluttering manner around plants of the passion fruit family.

It bears a pair of deep orange wings with narrow black outer borders and black wing spots. On the underside, the male has wings that are salmon orange whereas the female spots pale tawny yellow wings.

Stinky Passionflower


Photo credit: Jennie Tang Yurue

As its name suggests, the Stinking Passionflower (Passiflora foetida) is a species of passionfruit and its leaves produce an unpleasant odour when crushed.

The plant is a climber that grows up to 6 m in height. It has large hairy leaves that serve as food for the Tawny Coster. It produces white flowers that are marked with a ring of radially oriented purple streaks and blossom open in the morning, closing by about noon.

Propagated by seeds, it grows best in full sun condition with lots of water.

 

Benefits of Gardening
Not only does gardening have an aesthetic function, scientific research has also shown that it can improve your overall well being, such as reducing stress. It is a good hobby to cultivate and you really don’t need green fingers to fill your homes with lush greenery.

Discover the other benefits you can get from gardening here.

Gardeners’ Day Out

Participate from the comfort of your home with online activities such as talks and demonstrations, video tutorials of activities and promotions offered. Enjoy Gardeners’ Day Out online at www.nparks.gov.sg/GDO.

You can also enjoy videos of our Gardening With Edibles Masterclass Series. They are conducted by NParks horticulturists, focusing on unique and challenging edibles across different plant families.

Do you enjoy butterfly watching? Would you like to learn about our butterflies and contribute to a citizen science study on these flying jewels? Join us for the next Butterfly Watch, as part of the NParks Community in Nature Biodiversity Watch series, to help us to learn more about the butterflies in our City in Nature.

 

Learning More
If you are a gardening newbie, visit NParksSG, our refreshed YouTube Channel that serves as a one-stop repository for close to 300 video resources. It covers topics ranging from types of soil needed for your garden and how to plant, harvest and even cook your edibles.

 

Keep your garden safe from attack by insect pests. Learn more about five such common pests of edible plants here. How can you make your garden more welcoming to bees? Learn more here.

For more information about the flora and fauna found in Singapore, please visit Flora and Fauna Web.

 

If you like what you read, follow us on FacebookInstagram and Telegram to get the latest updates.

 

 

Text by Ang Xin


About the writer
Ang Xin is a final year Life Sciences student at National University of Singapore. She worked at NParks’ Communications and Community Engagement department for five months as part of her university’s Final Year Internship project. She curated content for the various NParks’ social media platforms and produced digital illustrations and infographics that translated dry scientific information into interactive and accessible messages that could be better understood by the general public. 

Please email wong_yeang_cherng@nparks.gov.sg for more information on our internship programme.


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