Thursday is Earth Day, and if you want to mark the day by doing some planting, Anita Camacho, CEO of Little Red Wagon Native Nursery in Tampa, has a suggestion.
"Native plants are important for our ecosystem," says Camacho. "Wildlife needs it, all of our insects rely on the native plants, as well as it benefits us from erosion and air quality and these plants grow on our sandy soil. So it’s easy gardening and it’s chemical-free.
So, how do you decide what goes in your garden?
"It really depends on what you’re trying to attract to your garden as to what you would want to plant," Camacho said.
Camacho, a butterfly specialist, says different plants bring different butterflies to your garden.
"For me, butterflies are flying art,” said Camacho. "They’re beautiful, they're not threatening, they can’t sting or bite you."
So, how do you bring these beauties to your home?
"I think if you’re trying to attract the monarch, which is the easiest, you need a milkweed, a native milkweed and a nectar."
For demonstration, Camacho showed us how to plant a butterfly garden in a pot.
She starts with a pot with holes and layers leaves at the bottom.
"Just a small layer to cover the bottom," said Camacho. "It helps with drainage and also gives some nutrients."
Fill the pot halfway with dirt, then arrange three plants.
We start with a red Tropical Sage, then Pink Swamp Milkweed.
"So, we’ll be ready for the monarchs to come and eat," explains Camacho.
Last is Twinflower, to flow over the pot.
Turn the plants sideways and squeeze gently to transfer from one pot to the other, letting the extra dirt fall.
Once all plants are set, add the rest of the dirt and cover with a layer of moss to help retain moisture.
What if you don't have a green thumb?
"These plants are evolved in our Florida sandy soils, so they naturally grow here and we don’t have to do a lot to them," said Camacho.
"We water them initially the first couple weeks to get them established and as long as you’re planting a plant that belongs in the sun and giving it a little water to get its roots started, you're going to be green thumb all the way."
Camacho says plants in pots might dry out a little bit faster than in the ground, so you'll want to start with watering those at least once a week.
Camacho says it won't take long for your garden to attract butterflies.
"Now, you’ve got a host plant for two different butterflies, you’ve got nectar," said Camacho. "And hummingbirds like the red, so you’ve got a lot of things here for wildlife in one little pot.”
Camacho has traveled the world studying butterflies and is opening a butterfly conservatory at The Little Red Wagon Native Nursery later in 2021. She says it will be a tranquil environment full of free-flying butterflies.