Planting a Butterfly Garden: The Ultimate Guide

Blossom Lady
Apr 16, 2021 01:51 PM
Planting a Butterfly Garden: The Ultimate Guide

Butterfly gardens are a great way to bring life and color into your yard. Butterfly gardens are full-sun gardens that are filled with plants that attract butterflies. These plants are generally nectar-producing flowers. Nectar-producing flowers are usually beautiful, so you have the double benefit of attracting butterflies and adding beauty to your yard. Whether you have a lot of available space or just room for a few planters, planting a butterfly garden is a rewarding experience. Many butterflies are becoming endangered, but you can do your bit to encourage these beautiful creatures into your garden when deciding on your planting scheme. Choose their favorites and create a butterfly paradise. Here are a few simple ideas that you can use to get started.

Tips & Ideas

1. Plant on the patio

If you want to get up-close and personal, plant irresistible blooms in pots or in beds at the edges of patios. Butterflies will happily sup on nectar from a variety of plants, so choose carefully to have flowers in bloom throughout the summer.

2. Butterfly pots

Verbenas and heliotrope are much-loved by butterflies and are also long-flowering, providing them with food for many months. Plant trailing verbena in baskets and on the sides of large pots and raised beds. Blend heliotrope and jewel-colored upright verbenas with compact, single-flowered cosmos varieties, bedding salvias, or tender lantana.

3. Bedding feast

Gloriously colorful and vibrant zinnias are the sort of flowering plants that make both gardeners and butterflies happy. Their cheery flowers repeat through summer if dead-headed regularly. Other tempting bedding plants include fragrant wallflowers, single french marigolds, oregano, Mexican sunflower (tithonia), single dahlias, sweet alyssum (lobularia maritima) and lavender.

4. Nectar of the gods

The ultimate nutritious treat for butterflies is a saucer of washed sand saturated with water enriched with sugar syrup and manure. Leave it in full sun and watch them flock in!

Ensure there is no surface water, so butterflies can land on the sand.

Perfect plants

Butterflies like to be warm, so grow plants that they find attractive in sunny beds. To keep these beautiful and beneficial insects visiting your garden, offer a good selection of plants to provide nectar from spring all the way through to autumn. Spring flowers will pep up insects after winter hibernation, while autumn ones will allow butterflies to build up essential food reserves.

1. Long-standing favorite

The tall stems of Verbena bonariensis provide nectar from spring until the first frosts. These airy plants look elegant scattered through other plants or when used as a see-through screen.

2. Cottage-garden style

Centranthus ruber is an amazing sight when its flowers are covered in a haze of feeding butterflies. The rich red blooms appear from mid-summer until autumn, when the plant will self-seed ready for another year.

3. Bright and showy

The butterfly weed Asclepias tuberosa is a perennial, so it flowers reliably year after year. The 3ft-tall plant is topped by striking orange flowerheads and develops long seed pods in the autumn.

4. Delectable beds

Flowering from late summer into autumn, hebes provide a late feast for butterflies. There are many different varieties, in a shade and size to suit every garden, and their evergreen foliage is welcome in winter.

5. Butterfly bush

Found along railways, roadsides, and on wasteland, buddlejas are tough plants

that are easy to grow in any soil. Their dense panicles of multi-colored flowers are paradise for butterflies into the autumn.

Great nectar producing plants

Any Location

  • Butterfly Bush
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Marigold
  • Verbena
  • Aster
  • Lavender
  • Lobelia
  • Coreopsis
  • Phlox

Northern States

  • Clover
  • Coneflower
  • Daylily
  • Aster
  • Snakeroot

Southern States

  • Salvia
  • Lantana
  • Red Pentas
  • Porterweed

Do you like the idea of a butterfly gardening? Have you already tried to grow it? Tell me in comments!

Happy gardening!

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Amelia E Henchey
Apr 19, 2021 11:22 AM

I've done some very limited butterfly gardening in the past — planted a few milkweed plants in my vegetable beds. I'm going to try to create a much more vigorous pollinator garden this  year. Thanks for the information here — I think it will help!

Amy Henchey
Silver Spring, Maryand

Mar 20, 2022 04:05 PM

I plant vegetables nearly every summer, and have become concerned over the scarcity of butterflies in the recent years, and would like to dedicate a portion of my yard to butterflies this year.

What are the easiest to plant and care for flowers I can use?  I am a handicapped 71 years young grandma and won't be able to keep gardening for many more years so must make this first garden continue for years to come.

Thank you for any advice.  

I live in central KY and loved to watch the monarchs migrate in flocks years ago.  Now we rarely see any.

Jun 17, 2022 02:23 PM

One of the best plants I ever planted was a 1 gallon butterfly bush near our front gate. It's now a 20' high tree and I come home to butterflies ever day.