Butterfly Gardens

Butterflies need four key elements to survive. 

  • Puddles - Butterflies cannot drink open water.  Wet sand, earth or mud is the best butterfly fountain.  Allow your birdbath to overflow to create mud puddles.
  • Sunlight - Butterflies need sunlight for feeding and egg laying, therefore, plants should be in full sun.  Butterflies also like open areas so try to keep flowerbeds around the edges of your yard.
  • Shelter - Butterflies need protection from the wind and an undisturbed area for egg-laying and chrysalis formation.  Plant brambles, honeysuckle or Buddleia alternifolia to provide ample shelter.
  • Food - Both larval and adult foods must be provided to maintain the butterflies’ residence in the garden. 


Here is a list of some foods:
(A)=adult food & (L)=larval food

(A) – Alyssum, Asters-late varieties, Anemone, Astilbe, Aubretia Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatile), Bergamot & Bee Balm (Monara), Blazing Stars (Liatris species), Butterfly Bush (B. davidi & B. fountain), Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa), Candytuft, Chives, Clematis (C. paniculata), Coreopsis, Goldenrod, Beggar-ticks (Compositae), Tickseed-sunflower, Joe-Pye weed, Thistle, Ironweed, Gayfeathers, Mexican Sunflower, Cosmos, Heliotrope, Daylily (Hemerocallis), Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), Impatiens wallerana, red and orange best, Lavender (Lavendula species), Lantana bush (L. camara) Lily (Lilium), Lilac, Phlox (Phlox drummondi), Primrose, Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Stonecrop (Sedum Spectabile), Thyme, Wisteria, Zinnia (Zinnia elegans), single flower best.
(L) – Red Clover, Hollyhock (Alcea rosea), Lupines, Nettles, Plantain, Parsley, Dill, Carrot, Queen Anne Lace (Umbelliferae), Violets.
(L) – Trees.  Willow, Wild Cherry, Poplar, Apple, Hawthorn, Elm and Hackberry.
(A & L) – Milkweeds, Dogwood (Cornus species), Dogbanes (Apocynum species), Erica, Heath, Geranium, Cranesbill Goldenrods (Solidago species), Marigolds (Tagetes erecta), single best, Thistle (Cirsium species).

How to Create a Garden that Will Attract Butterflies:

  • LocationFind a location that will allow you to have a good view, but will not be continually disturbed by children and pets.  The ideal placement for your butterfly garden is a sunny area that is protected from the wind.  Flowers generally produce more nectar in sunny areas.  Also, a butterfly’s body temperature needs to be above 85 degrees for flight.
  • Garden Design- To attract many butterflies to your garden, you should have a large area of flowering plants (some are listed below).  A mixture of perennials and annuals will help you extend the blooming season as early into spring and as late into fall.  You should also take into consideration the plants that are food for the adults as well as the plants that caterpillars eat.
  • Feeding - Planting flowers and nectar plants will provide excellent food sources.  Some butterfly feeders use nectar (6-8 parts water to 1 part sugar) or rotting fruits provide a good source of food (bananas, peaches, apples, etc.)  Males need sodium for the mating process. Therefore, placing a small salt block, like the one used for deer, in your garden can attract butterflies.


Summer Plants
Bee Balm
Black-eyed Susan
Butterfly Weed