Attract Butterflies

oggcloverh.gif (163x98 -- 7647 bytes)

Attract Butterflies
to your Garden

Related Articles

Prepare for Spring
Spring Stretch!
Attract Birds Intro
Attract Butterflies

Attract Birds housing and water

Attract Birds - trees

Attract Birds - Shrubs and Plants

Plants for Birds and Butters spreadsheet

By Butterflylover and Auntie Canuck

Few sights are more delightful than seeing a Butterfly dancing in the breeze.  By growing a few special plants in your garden, you can help to preserve these delicate creatures.  Planting a butterfly garden can create a paradise of still  beauty AND animation.

For an extensive list of plants that attract birds and butterflies, download our handy spreadsheet with many types of bird and butterfly attracting plants.  It can be sorted by plant type, bloom time, color, etc.  Note you will have to print it out to see the legend.  Use legal size paper, landscape orientation.

Shop Online

Planting a successful garden that promotes the entire life cycle of a butterfly requires two types of plants.  First you have plants that larva feed on.  These are referred to as host plants.  My personal favorite is Sweet Fennel.  Adult butterflies lay eggs on the host plant, which will serve as a food source for the larva until it becomes a full sized caterpillar.  The caterpillar will molt several times during this phase.  At this point, the caterpillar’s body begins to change.  They will usually leave the host plant to find a more sheltered place to continue their metamorphosis.  The caterpillar attaches itself to something sturdy such as a twig or branch.  There, the body begins to liquefy and they enter into the chrysalis stage, or as many refer to it as a cocoon.  Around two weeks later, they emerge from the chrysalis as a beautiful butterfly!  They hang, while flapping their wings, to pump body fluid into them.  Then, the search for the second type of required plant begins.

The second type of plant required is referred to as the nectar, or food plant.  A nectar plant is the plant from which adult butterflies use their long tongues, or proboscis, to feed on the nectar from flowers.  There are an endless number of plants to choose from.  The fun begins when you begin to decide the type of butterfly you want to attract and what types of plants will be needed for a particular species.bflyflowerani.gif (120x84 -- 9668 bytes)  There is a smaller chance of going wrong when choosing nectar plants. Although certain species are very particular in the type of food plant they choose, they are not as finicky in their adult stage.

Although I do prefer to try to choose native plants, there are certain annuals in my zone which are a must in my butterfly garden. Lantanas and Pentas, I have found, are on the favorites list for butterflies, not to mention that hummingbirds find them irresistible also!  Another favorite of mine would have to be Butterfly weed.  It is from the milkweed family and meets the needs of both caterpillar and butterfly.

Use this upcoming winter season to plan a design for a butterfly garden.  Study the types of butterflies you wish to attract to your garden.  Find their preferences for host and nectar plants.  Review those seed catalogues that companies tease us with during the winter months when they know we are fantasizing about the months to come.  Decide where you want to plant this paradise for both you and the butterflies.  You really don’t need a big area. Until recently, I had always opted for container4butflyani.gif (100x114 -- 5115 bytes) gardening and it worked great.  But as my love for these creatures expanded, so must my garden.  It is very important to choose a sunny spot, preferably protected from high winds.  Butterflies are notorious sun worshippers and must have sunlight to thrive.

Here is an Excel spreadsheet gardening.xls with botanical and common names of plants that attract butterflies (and birds).  It's detailed and should be printed out using the landscape setting on legal sized paper.  It is sortable by any column, so you can find suitable plants for your garden.  (Use your browser's "BACK" button to return to this page.)

Be sure to stay away from pesticides.  They can mean almost instant death to caterpillars and butterflies alike.  animbutter2.gif (100x114 -- 7461 bytes)Don’t get carried away and think that you have to keep an immaculate garden.  This is the best part.  A few weeds in the garden, are never a bother to butterflies.  The pleasure of a butterfly garden is much greater if you spend time enjoying the view and not worrying so much about the  appearance. Remember, gardens are to savor and not to be mistaken for a task that has to be done.

But let me mention, if you do decide to plant a butterfly garden, you would benefit from including a bench or some type of seat where you can sit, and marvel at their beauty.  You just can’t measure the gratification that comes from watching a butterfly flirting around your garden.  As you watch these creatures, I hope that your love for them will become as powerful as mine has.  As your fascination with them increases, so will your thirst for knowledge of one of God’s most beautiful creatures.

Planting for Butterflies

In the old days, gardeners were advised to use bright reds and oranges to lure butterflies, but it turns out that pink, purple, lavender, and yellow work just as well.  The key is to keep similar colors together.  Butterflies are not very smart.  A big jolt of color or fragrance is often necessary to get their attention.

Most Buddleja (also called Buddleia) produce lavender or purple flowers, so use that hue as a starting point for choosing the colors of your other flowers.  Orange or yellow contrasts nicely with purple, and many butterfly gardens use either purple and yellow or purple and orange as the basic color scheme. 

Butterfly Favorites

A butterfly sips flower nectar by sticking its long tongue (a proboscis) down the throats of nectar-rich flowers.  Some flowers are much more eatable than others.  They need to have a lot of nectar as well as a butterfly-friendly shape.  No butterfly garden should be without at least one of the following three plants:

bflybush.jpg (200x144 -- 8798 bytes)Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa).  This native perennial weed is hardy through zone 3. The seeds are hard to sprout, so nursery-propagated plants are a better choice.  Butterfly weed needs plenty of sun, blooms orange from midsummer onward, and seldom grows more than 1–2 feet (30–60 cm) tall.  Once planted, it likes to stay put.

Butterfly bush
(Buddleia davidii). This hardy shrub has become so popular that nursery-grown plants are easy to find.  They are hardy through zone 5; come in many shades of purple, pink, and white; and, depending on conditions, grow 3–10 feet (91cm–3 m) tall.

(Lantana camara).  This tender perennial survives winter only in zones 8–10; in other zones, you can buy bedding plants in the spring and grow them as summer annuals.  Plant in full sun. Almost all butterflies like lantana.

whiteconeflr.jpg (150x104 -- 4857 bytes)Other Plants. 
As long as your garden includes plenty of flowers, preferably the nectar-rich types with fewer petals (single flowers), you will still see plenty of butterflies.  Butterflies prefer single flowers rather than the double-petal type because they allow them to get at the nectar hidden in the middle.  Single flowers that are relatively flat give butterflies a solid place to land and easy access to nectar.  Among easy annuals, single cosmos, marigolds, and zinnias are of great interest to butterflies.  Where you can use more height, try tithonia, also known as Mexican sunflower or torch flower.

More good plants
to incorporate into your butterfly haven include any type of verbena, salvia, cosmos, phlox, coneflower, and rudbeckia.  Always keep your eyes peeled for flowers that attract butterflies in your area — butterflies often show strong regional preferences for certain plants like:  Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Bee Balm, Coneflower, Dogbane, Joe Pye Weed, Ironweed, Boneset, Liatris, Small Globe Thistle, Golden Rod, Heliotrope, Swampweed, Milkweed, Penta, Phlox, Pincushion Flower, Red Sage, Pineapple Sage, Sweet William, Coreopsis, Verbena, Fennel, Dill, Parsley, Blue Salvia, Abelia, Azalea, Buttonbush, Honeysuckle, Lilac, Spicebush, and Viburnum.

Butterfly Feeders also help to attract and keep butterflies in your garden. Butterfly houses and Butterfly Niches provide resting places and "overnight" accommodation.

Visit the following links for more information on butterfly gardening:

Home ] Prepare for Spring ] Spring Stretch! ] Attract Birds Intro ] [ Attract Butterflies ]

[ Home ]  Site Map ]  Articles ]  The Garden ]  At Home ]  [ Message Boards Mirtha Stuwort ]  facebook ]

Copyright Our Garden Gang 1999-2016