Attracting Butterflies to your Garden

Butterflies are some of the most beautiful and interesting creatures on earth and can be easily attracted to your garden. Like any living creature, they have certain habitat and food preferences. Below are some tips to get you started planning your butterfly habitat.

Butterfly Habitat

Sun and shelter are important. Butterflies cannot fly in wind or rain and prefer sunny and calm or gently breezy weather. A wood or brush pile will give them a place to rest and hide.

Plants for Butterflies

There are two groups of plants that will help attract butterflies. Plants that provide nectar as a food source and host plants that butterflies can lay eggs on. By planting a variety of these plants you can help attract and keep butterflies in your garden.

Nectar Plants

Select a variety of nectar producing plants which will provide flowers in bloom throughout the season. It is especially important to have flowers in mid to late summer when most butterflies are active. Flowers with multiple florets that produce abundant nectar are ideal. Below is a list of nectar plants that can easily be grown in our area:

Perennials Annuals
Echinacea (Purple Coneflower) Marigold
Leucanthemum (Shasta Daisy) Aster
Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan) Cosmos
Liatris Zinnia
Aster Dianthus
Asclepias (Butterfly Weed) Lantana
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) Verbena – trailing
Echinops (Globe Thistle) Verbena bonariensis
Coreopsis (Tickseed)
Nepeta (Catmint)
Achillea (Yarrow)
Verbena provide a food source for butterflies

Verbena provide a food source for butterflies

Host Plants

Below is a list of host plants that butterflies like to lay their eggs on and that caterpillars can feed on. Note that many of them are considered ‘weeds’, so it would be a good idea to keep a wild area where these plants can thrive.

  • Queen Anne’s Lace – Black Swallowtail
  • Nettle – Tortoiseshells and Red Admiral
  • Vetch – Silvery Blue
  • Milkweed – Monarch
  • Thistle – Painted Lady
  • Hollyhocks – Painted Lady and Checkered Skippers
  • Aster – Pearl Crescent
  • Grasses – many including Northern Pearly Eye, Long Dash and Tawny Edged Skipper
  • Dogwood – Spring Azure