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How do I Plant a Butterfly Garden?

Josie Myers
Josie Myers

The types of flowers that a gardener should choose to use in a butterfly garden are greatly determined by the area they live in. There are over 20,000 species of butterfly, with about 750 in North America alone. Each species is drawn to different flowers and different regions support various plants, so understanding the types of butterflies and floras native to each region is essential. There are, however, a few rules that apply to any butterfly garden.

Butterflies are drawn to both plants they can feed on and plants that they can lay eggs in. The best butterfly garden will include some of each type of plant. High nectar flowers will provide the food that they require while full grown, while leafy shrubs and bushes give food for the young and therefore provide a good place for the females to lay eggs.

A butterfly.
A butterfly.

Butterflies are very nearsighted, so they prefer groups of the same plant to a single stem. They tend to be drawn most to colors like red, pink, purple, orange, and yellow. Some examples of high nectar flowers that have color schemes that butterflies find appealing are hibiscus, lavender, goldenrod, zinnias, range-eyed, coral-bells, cosmos, daisies, aster, black-eyed Susan, coreopsis, daylilies, goldenrod, lilac, marigold, butterfly bush, oxeye, purple coneflower, and verbena. It is best to stay with one color theme, since they can be confused by visual changes.

Colorful butterfly.
Colorful butterfly.

The best butterfly garden will have a mixture of sun and shade. Butterflies like to bask in the sun on warm days, but also need to have a place to hide when it is cloudy or when they need to cool off. It is good to have an area with some shelter from winds as well, such as a fence or tall shrubs that they can hide behind when breezes pick up. A butterfly garden with five to six hours of sun a day is best as sunlight warms up their circulatory systems and helps them fly.

Butterflies also enjoy shallow water like puddles. A shallow pond can be created with a plastic container filled with gravel or sand. Water or a sweet substance is floated on top.


A few other accessories that can be added are flat stones for the winged friends to sun on or a butterfly house to hold extra nectar. Butterflies also enjoy a bit of overripe fruit. This fruit can be placed on rocks, the ground, or even in the shallow pond to provide some sugar in the water.

Like other gardens, it is best to lay out a plan before planting. Decide what foliage and floras are suited to the region and draw it out accordingly. Perennials should be placed in the back of the gardens, while annuals work best in the front where they can be easily replaced every year. No pesticides should be used when caring for a butterfly garden. With a little research and some clever gardening, butterflies will find happy homes in almost any back yard.

Discussion Comments


Parsley too will attract butterflies.

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    • A butterfly.
      By: Aleksandr Kurganov
      A butterfly.
    • Colorful butterfly.
      By: pandore
      Colorful butterfly.
    • Butterflies.
      By: Mark_VB
    • Butterflies are attracted to bright colored flowers, such as those on a hibiscus plant.
      By: uckyo
      Butterflies are attracted to bright colored flowers, such as those on a hibiscus plant.
    • Verbena is a high-nectar flower that attract butterflies.
      By: JulietPhotography
      Verbena is a high-nectar flower that attract butterflies.