Butterfly Gardens

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When done correctly, a butterfly garden will attract winged visitors from spring until fall. The following outlines how to build an ideal butterfly garden that will keep you entertained with many bright and beautiful butterflies almost year round.

Place your butterfly garden in an area that will receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  Plant beds near hardscapes, such as patios, tend to hold on to reflected heat later in the day, making them more inviting. Flat rocks, such as flagstone, not only provide you access to the garden for maintenance needs, but provide a location for early morning butterflies to warm up before starting their day.

Butterflies are attracted to large drifts of plants which provide easy meals. Colors butterflies are attracted to include pink, purple, red, orange and yellow. Flat topped (Yarrow, Shasta Daisy, Coneflower) or clustered (Gay Feather, Lavender) flowers provide an easy landing zone.

It is very important to not use insecticides or pesticides in areas you wish to attract butterflies, since these are non-selective and will kill the good bugs as well as the bad.

Include a water source. Butterflies prefer shallow puddles. To create your own puddle, take a shallow waterproof container, such as a plant saucer or garbage can lid, and fill it with a 50-50 mix of sand and composted manure. Bury it in the ground so it is just above level with the surrounding landscape. Fill the container with water and you have an instant puddle. Aim to keep this mix consistently moist and you will notice butterflies flock to this puddle to take advantage of the water and minerals you have made available. To disguise your puddle, surround the edges with flagstone or other decorative rocks.

Prove a windbreak, especially if you live in windy or exposed areas. Butterflies are easily tossed around on a windy day, so a fence or group of shrubs to provide a windbreak is much appreciated.

If you do not have space for a full sized butterfly garden bed, consider a “snack sized” garden. Choose a container as large as your space will allow. Place it where it will receive the greatest amount of sun possible for your site. Fill the pot with a high quality potting soil and water thoroughly to prepare it for planting. Great plant choices include, in order of height, Canna, Black-eyed Susan, Coneflower, Gay Feather, Lantana, Aster, Marigold, Petunia and Sweet Pea.

The following are plants that attract Butterflies. Please note, while all of these plants have beautiful flowers, not all are suited to every landscape. Be sure to research the needs and habits of these plants before putting them in your yard – a few require deadheading to prevent rampant re-seeding…but, if left to stand, these same plants will provide food for the birds.

Annuals and Perennials

Anise Hyssop, Aster, Astilbe, Baby’s Breath, Bee Balm, Black-eyed Susan, Blanket Flower, Candytuft, Canna, Columbine, Coneflower, Coral Bells, Cosmos, Dahlia, Daylily, Delphinium, Gay Feather, Gloriosa Daisy, Heliotrope, Hollyhock, Joe Pye Weed, Jeruselem Sage, Lady’s Mantle, Lily of the Nile, Lobelia, Marigold, Nicotiana, Phlox, Pink, Red Valerian, Petunia, Pincushion Flower, Rockcress, Russian Sage, Salvia, Shasta Daisy, Speedwell, Spider Flower, St Johns Wort, Stonecrop, Sunflower, Sweet Pea, Tickseed, Verbena, Violet, Wall Flower, Wormwood, Yarrow, Zinnia


Dill, Fennel, Onion, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Marjoram, Rosemary, Mint, Oregano, Parsley, Sage, Thyme

Shrubs, Trees and Vines

Abelia, Butterfly Bush (sterile), California Lilac, Caryopteris, Cedar, Dogwood, Elderberry, Escallonia, Germander, Hardy Hibiscus, Heather, Honeysuckle (vine and shrub), Huckleberry, Mexican Orange, Mock Orange, Oregon Grape, Pawpaw, Redbud, Rhododendron, Red Flowering Currant, Rose, Willow, Wisteria

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