Design Your Butterfly Garden

With These Simple Basics

Everyone Loves Butterflies.

When you build a Butterfly Garden into your yard and gardens, you too will enjoy a bouquet of flying flowers.

Nectar flowers are the key to attracting butterflies and enticing them to linger in your yard.

So, you will want to include as many areas of flowers as you can care for.

Choose plants that bloom over a long period and offer small blossoms to get the most benefit.

You will want to arrange your plantings to accommodate the feeding and flying habits of your butterflies.

For nearly all butterflies, planting in full sun is best, especially in the spring and fall when a chill is in the air and the sun's warmth is most welcome.

Opening up a sizable sunny clearing will make dense woodland gardens much more attractive as a butterfly garden.


A Butterfly Garden Has Flowers For Shelter and Food.

Your garden needs a sheltered place where butterflies can feed without being buffeted about by strong winds.

You will want to use nectar plants or host plants to create wind breaks.

Trees, shrubs and trellised vines provide windbreak, protection and sought after food sources.

Lilacs and Weigela grow into sturdy shrubs that protect the butterfly garden and the flowers offer nectar for Spring's first visitors.

A fence or trellis covered in Trumpet creeper, Honeysuckle or Passionflower works well also.

Trees offer protection from harsh elements and some are host plants for the caterpillars.

Flight Paths

Your butterfly garden needs open space and wide paths to allow butterflies to sail through the garden unimpeded.

Prairies, meadows and other open spaces are a good choice for a sunny hillside or a backyard and are attractive to the larger butterflies like Monarch and swallowtails.

A shady spot can be a butterfly garden as well.

Include paths that wind through your shrubs and sunny openings so woodland butterflies like the Spicebush swallowtail, can fly through as well.

Varied Height

Planting tall and shorter plants in your butterfly garden satisfy butterflies as well as your aesthetic eye.

Some butterfly species, such as the Spring azure and the Tiger swallowtail will visit tall flowers. Other species such as the Least skipper and Little yellow, stay close to the ground in their search for food.

Keep shorter plants in front of beds and borders and along walkways where they are easily accessible to the small butterflies that seek out nectar at lower levels.

Try lining a walk with impatiens, lavender, sweet alyssum and Verbena.

For the back of your gardens, plant Joe-pye-weed, tall sunflowers and cosmos.

Medium height flowers may include Zinnia, Coreopsis, Liatris, Coneflower, and Black-eyed-susan.


Although butterflies use vision to locate flowers, they are near sited. I call them the Mr. MaGoo of my garden.

Mr. MaGoo was a near sited cartoon character of the 1960's that bumbled his way through life, yet always got where he was going in one piece.

This is why your butterfly garden needs to have flowers planted in clumps or clusters. It is much easier for these near sited insects to see a splotch of color than it is to see a plant here or there.

Butterflies smell with there feet and antennae after landing on flowers and plants.

Many flowers attractive to butterflies are also highly attractive to our noses too.

For example, butterfly bush with its strong scent is often covered with butterflies.

Other nectar flowers that exude fragrance include lilac, lavender, heliotrope, sweet alyssum and pinks.


Flower Seasons

Select annuals for your garden with a long bloom season. You can assist your annuals by deadheading, feeding and watering as needed.

Plant perennials in your garden that bloom at different times to provide a continuous supply of nectar and host plants for larvae.

You will be amazed how much you enjoy the display of color and fragrances. Many perennials and annuals make great cut flowers.

In warm winter areas, where many butterflies are on the wing throughout the year, you can provide nectar with flowers as lantana, verbena and bougainvillea.

In cold winter areas your gardens will need flowers in bloom from spring to fall.

Lilac, Dianthus and Candytuft provide nectar in spring and early summer.

Mid summer is peak butterfly time in your garden and your choices of nectar blooming flowers is numerous.

Coneflower, Blazing star, Scabiosa, Butterfly bush and scores of other reliable perennials.

Most annuals are attractive to butterflies and you should have several.

Make sure your butterfly garden has late summer and fall flowers, as they are prized by butterflies.

Joe-pye-weed, Goldenrod, Asters and Milkweed fit into most gardens. California fuchsia is an especially valuable late bloomer in the west.

Annuals with flat flowers like Zinnia are Paramount in any Flying Flower Garden.

Butterfly weed

Insecticides and Butterflies Don't Mix In Your Butterfly Garden.

A natural setting for butterflies is both attractive and essential to their well-being.

There is no place for insecticides in a butterfly garden.

Pesticides kill off butterflies, caterpillars as well as their eggs.

Read labels of any products before you use them.

Organic insecticides kill caterpillars, because they ingest the leaves and become sick and die.

Insecticides can also be toxic to beneficial insects that control many pest insects naturally.

Over look the occasional insect outbreak and surely turn your head when a caterpillar is munching away.

If you are concerned about caterpillars eating your edible crops, use netting or floating row covers to protect them from egg-laying butterflies.

It is important to offer water and shelter for butterflies in your butterfly garden.

Mud puddles or little saucers of water are needed for many species of butterfly.

Wood piles are great shelter from the weather.

Sure you can buy butterfly houses, but my experience says they become yard art and homes for wasps if you don't stay on top of things.

Because butterfly houses aren't natural, few are really ever used by butterflies.

An open area in the sun with a few well placed rocks will be a morning gathering place as your butterflies look to warm up in the morning's sun.

Learn more about butterflies and mating habits in your gardens.

A Butterfly Friendly Yard

Plants for Nectar and Hosting

Native Flowers Attract More Butterflies

Native Vines of North America

Native Shrubs for Nectar and Hosting

Native Trees, Important Host Plants

A Butterfly's World

Butterflies Mating

Add Water for Your Butterfly Garden

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