A butterfly garden is a great way to attract a variety of different butterflies to your yard. Not only are butterflies are delicate and beautiful to look at, but since they pollinate plants, they’re actually really important to our ecosystem, too. When you’re planning your garden, research the plants that butterflies in your area prefer. Be sure to include nectar plants for their food, as well as host plants for caterpillars!
1Research the species of butterflies that are native to your area. In order for the plants in your garden to attract butterflies, it’s essential to understand which species might be living nearby. To determine this, you can research online, read a butterfly field guide, or talk to local horticulturists and butterfly gardeners. If there’s a local butterfly garden in your area, you may want to plan a trip to see what’s planted there, as well!
For a map of butterflies found in each U.S. state, visit https://www.thebutterflysite.com/butterfly-gardening-by-area.shtml.
The butterflies in your area will typically feed on plants that are native to your region.
Once you know which butterflies can be found in your area, use that information to decide which plants to include in your garden.
2Plant a variety of nectar plants for your butterflies to feed on. Adult butterflies get most of their food and moisture from the nectar produced by certain flowers. While some species prefer some plants over others, butterflies will often feed on any nectar-producing plants, especially those with brightly-colored flowers.
Some popular nectar-producing plants that will attract butterflies include purple coneflowers, milkweed, butterfly weed, asters, marigold, zinnia, cosmos, and lantana.
3Choose host plants where your butterflies can lay eggs. Once you identify the butterflies that are native to your area, research where they prefer to lay their eggs. Then, include those host plants when you’re planning what you want in your garden. While adult butterflies aren’t always picky about their sources of nectar, they are extremely particular about where they lay their eggs. That’s because butterflies usually lay their eggs on the plants that their larvae feed on, and that usually consists of only 1 or a very few specific plants.
Adult butterflies typically lay their eggs on different plants than the ones they feed from themselves.
For example, a monarch butterfly will only lay her eggs on milkweed, since that is the only food a monarch caterpillar will eat.
Black swallowtails prefer to lay their eggs on dill, parsley, fennel, and carrot.
A Gorgone Checkerspot lays its eggs on the sunflower plant.
4Opt for plants with wide, flat clusters of brightly-colored, fragrant flowers. Not all of the plants in your garden have to be specific to the local butterflies in your area. Butterflies are attracted to bright colors, so consider that when you’re choosing plants, but you can include anything you wish in your garden. If you’re adding in more flowers, keep in mind that butterflies prefer plants with large clusters of blooms, since this provides an easy base for them to land on, especially if the clusters grow flat, like goldenrods, zinnias, verbena, or Spirea.
Butterflies especially like purple, pink, orange, and yellow flowers. However, some butterflies can’t see the color red, so be sure that’s not the only color you plant!
The fragrance of the flowers will also help attract the butterflies to the garden.
5Include a variety of heights, colors, and shapes in your garden. Planting a diverse selection of plants will help attract more butterflies to your garden. If you plant a variety of colorful blooms, the butterflies will be more likely to see the garden from a distance. Also, you’ll be more likely to see multiple species of butterflies if you have a more diverse selection of food and host plants for them to enjoy.
A variety of plant heights will help your butterflies feel more sheltered.
6Leave a nearby section of wild grass and wildflowers, if it’s possible. If you have the space, consider leaving a patch of ground somewhere near your garden where you grow the natural grass, wildflowers, and undergrowth that would occur in the wild. During periods of wind and inclement weather, butterflies typically take shelter in tall grass and shrubs. This patch will provide a natural hiding spot to keep your butterflies safe.
They’ll also hide here if any predators approach.
If this isn’t possible, you may want to include a butterfly house in your garden instead