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Create a garden filled with butterflies

Alicia is a freelance writer who covers everything from pets to cocktails, with cocktails being her favorite. Her loves in life include cheap wine, overpriced lattes, and avoiding exercise at all costs, all while trying to stay slim. She...

Add a little color to your garden

Truth be told, butterflies don’t offer any major benefit to your garden but they are pretty to look at. They are generally attracted to bright flowers so creating a garden they love will be just as pleasing to you as it is to them.

Butterfly in garden

Other than being colorful and pretty, the biggest benefit of having butterflies in your garden is that they are a great food source for other creatures. While it may seem morbid to create a garden that attracts them only to have them devoured by a bird or lizard, the fact of the matter is the whole process contributes to healthy vegetation and healthy environments. The birds, lizards and mammals that may feed on butterflies and their larvae will help keep other more destructive bugs out of your garden too.

Butterfly basics

The most successful butterfly garden will include plants that support butterflies through their entire life cycle, including the larvae stage, the transformation stage and the adult stage. Some butterflies will only lay their eggs on certain plants, so even if you have plants that adult butterflies are attracted to, they likely won’t stick around long if they can’t lay any eggs.

Pick a sunny spot. Most plants that attract butterflies will require full sun. Pick an area of your yard that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight daily.

Pick plants that caterpillars love. As mentioned above, butterflies will only lay eggs on plants that caterpillars will eat. Pretty ingenious, right? Plants like dill, milkweed, fennel and parsley are favorites of caterpillars. Consider planting them in a pot, as many of them look a little like weeds when planted in your garden.

It’s all about the nectar. Adult butterflies love to drink the nectar of plants. They are attracted to large clusters of plants of the same color. Consider picking a color scheme, like yellow, and planting several plants in the same area. Butterflies will have an easier time spotting your garden from afar.

Provide a water source. Bugs need water too. During hot months especially, it helps to have a shallow water source that butterflies and other beneficial insects can access without drowning. Consider placing a shallow dish in your garden with a few rocks in it to serve as a place to land.

Create an undisturbed area for metamorphosis. One of the most amazing things about the butterfly is that it transforms from a somewhat unattractive caterpillar to a beautiful winged creature. Creating an area that is somewhat blocked from wind and other traffic will provide a safe haven for caterpillars in the process of changing.

Create a container garden. Butterflies aren’t picky; if you don’t have a lot of space, plant some of their favorite plants in pots on your patio or balcony. As long as you have a good variety of plants, the butterflies won’t care that they aren’t in the ground.

Caterpillar favorites

Before you plant, look to see what types of butterflies are native to your area and then plant what will attract that type of butterfly. Planting an array of plants to attract butterflies that aren't native to the area will not do any good.

  • Milkweed (Monarch butterflies will only lay eggs on this plant.)
  • Carrots
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Queen Anne's lace
  • Aster
  • Violets

Butterfly favorites

  • Butterfly weed
  • Aster
  • Coneflower
  • Salvia
  • Lantana
  • Pentas
  • Passion flower
  • Phlox
  • Mexican sunflower
  • South American verbena
  • Zinnia
  • Black-eyed susan
  • Anise hyssop
  • Coreopsis
  • Butterfly bush

Many of these plants will attract hummingbirds too >>

More gardening tips

How to landscape for your region
Get the most edible space out of your garden
6 Eco-friendly landscaping tips

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