You Can Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Enhancement residentialButterflies add motion and color to any garden. They love heat and are most active during the hottest part of the day when your song birds have quieted down. As with birds, to attract butterflies you need water; however, they won’t visit your bird bath. You can create small mud patches or shallow puddles containing rocks where they can rest and get a drink near their favorite flowers —or you could go all out and establish a “butterfly bar.” This consists of filling a bucket with sand and burying it to the lip in a sunny part of the garden. Keep it almost filled with water. Rocks or stone walls placed in the sun give butterflies a place to bask and warm themselves.

Plants and shrubs for butterflies fall into two categories: nectar plants for adult butterflies and larval food plants for caterpillars. Butterflies won’t breed in a garden without larval food plants. Caterpillars you say! Don’t worry. Many eat weeds and native woodland trees. Others do only small damage compared to the pleasure they bring as butterflies and you’ll find that birds are nature’s way to control the caterpillar population.

Shrubs, such as Honeysuckle, Lilac, Wisteria and Buddleia provide a continuous supply of food for butterflies. Flowers attract butterflies with nectar, scent and color. Purple, lavender and yellow colors seem to be preferred. They also like pink and reddish mauve but not scarlet. They prefer light and medium shades to dark shades.

To attract butterflies:

  • Plant in masses with flowers of the same color grouped together to attract the butterflies’ attention.
  • Plant single flowers with large centers.
  • Plant closer than gardening books recommend to leave less room for weeds.
  • Make sure there is water for the butterflies to drink.

Butterflies are also attracted to native wildflowers. Examples include Purple Coneflower, a perennial that produces a showy, daisy-like flower; and Blazing Star (Liatris), also a perennial, which produces its flowers on a tall spiky stem. Butterflies also enjoy Black-eyed Susan, another perennial that also attracts goldfinches who like the flowers’ seed. Other favorites include Aster, Sweet Rocket, Chrysanthemums, Clematis, Morning Glory, Cosmos, Dahlia, Geranium, and Zinnia.

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