Gardening Tips

Plantings to Attract Butterflies

Creating a butterfly garden is a great way to encourage and conserve butterfly populations in your area. It's easy to do, since it mainly involves growing plants that provide the color and food sources that attract butterflies.

Butterflies drink nectar (the sugary liquid flowers produce to attract pollinating insects), so include some nectar-rich flowering plants and some host plants where the butterflies can lay their eggs. Different butterfly species prefer different types of plants, so planting a variety of flowers attracts a more diverse population of butterflies. To attract a continuous succession of butterflies to your garden, plant a selection of flowers that provide blooms throughout the season. It is especially important to have blooms in mid- to late summer, when most butterflies are active.

Flowers that are more universally attractive to a variety of butterflies include the following:

  • Aster
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Blue wild indigo
  • Butterfly bush
  • Buttefly weed
  • Coreopsis
  • Daylily
  • Goldenrod
  • Lavender
  • Lilac
  • Joe-pye weed
  • Orange coneflower
  • Purple coneflower
  • Verbena

Plant your butterfly-attracting flowers in full sun. Butterflies find each type of flower easily if they're planted in groups. Mix organic matter into your garden's native soil when planting and you will get bigger, healthier plants. To promote bigger, better flowers, feed your plants every 7 to 14 days.

Host plants for butterfly caterpillars are necessary to retain butterflies in your garden. Different butterflies prefer different host plants, but common ones include parsley, plantains, snapdragons, thistles, clover, and milkweed; trees types include willows, poplar, birch, aspen, and plum. Check your local Cooperative Extension Service to learn which host plants attract butterflies common to your area.

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