Create a Butterfly Garden

Every garden will host an occasional butterfly, but if you want a garden full of butterflies you need to attract them and create a habitat to keep them

A little planning goes a long way if you want to attract and retain butterflies in your gardens.  They like certain types of flower, are partial to certain colors, are constantly searching for nectar, and need just the right food for their caterpillar stage.  Certain plants and plant arrangements will create an ideal habitat for the butterfly.  You should also find out just which species live in your area so you can create their ideal habitat.


There are a few general things you can do to attract butterflies.

  • Plant bright colored, flat blooming flowers. They like a flat place to perch.

  • Plant butterfly attracting flowers in full sun.

  • Provide a spot with shallow, fresh water with rocks for the butterflies to land on.

  • Do not use pesticides.

But of course there is a lot more you can do.

Plant a wide variety of bright flowering plants with flat blooms.  Choose annuals that bloom all season and early and late blooming perennials that will extend the blooming season.  Choose nectar producing plants that are favored by the butterflies in your area.  Most butterflies prefer red and orange flowers.  Find out which flowering species are native to your area, the butterflies are used to looking for those plants.

Plant butterfly attracting species in groups, they will make a greater impact in attracting butterflies.


Put a birdbath in the garden and keep the water shallow and fresh for the butterflies.  Some small rocks in the basin will give the butterflies a place to perch close to the water surface.  Butterflies will also enjoy a bowl or basin of very wet sandy combined with some garden soil or composted manure.  Butterflies like puddles and the males acquire necessary salts for reproduction from mud puddles.  The bowl or basin can be set into the soil.


Locate trees, shrubs and tall plants where they will protect your butterfly garden from the wind.  Butterflies do not like to contend with the wind when feeding or laying eggs.  They will find a protected area if possible instead.  Nearby shrubs and trees may also provide the food source and habitat for the larvae to develop.

The butterfly caterpillar has specific needs that are different of course from the butterfly needs.  Most will need leaves to feed on, some prefer the reproductive parts of flowers or seeds.  Groundcover plants can provide shelter and protection for the pupae and larvae.  Flowering plants that attract the butterflies do not necessarily provide food for the caterpillar, so their food must at least be very nearby.  Find out what the species in your area need.

Eliminate the use of pesticides.  Even the natural remedies such as soaps and oils can kill the caterpillars.  If you have a devastating problem in the garden that must be treated, at lease just spot treat carefully with the most natural method that will help.  A benefit of eliminating pesticides will be an increase in the population of the good guys that prey on the bad guys.


You can also add useful ornaments in your garden such as a nectar feeder that will supplement the butterflies’ food source, and a butterfly house.  A butterfly house can be a lovely addition to the garden and provide shelter from wind and weather while protecting the butterflies from birds.

Your local garden centers generally know which plant varieties will attract the butterflies in your area, and may even have butterfly garden plants grouped together.  Plants that commonly attract butterflies are listed on the next page.  Or you can do a little more research on your own and create a very specific garden for the butterflies of your region.  A great site called The Butterfly Site lists butterflies common to each state.

Enjoy the butterflies!

Sharon DwyerComment