Butterfly Garden Design

Plant a garden that caters to butterflies, and you’ll be rewarded with flitting, fluttering color—along with drifts of flowers.

Butterfly Garden Brings Hours of Family Fun

Butterfly Garden Brings Hours of Family Fun

Butterfly gardening involves planning a garden to attract, retain, and encourage butterfly populations. Select a variety of nectar producing plants with the aim of providing flowers in bloom throughout season, sure to bring hours of fun.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Invite butterflies to set up housekeeping in your yard with a butterfly garden design. The best butterfly gardens welcome not only spotlight-stealing adults with their colorful wings, but also encourage their humble beginnings: caterpillars. By including plants that nourish adult butterflies along with their caterpillar precursors, your butterfly garden design can create a place where nature rules. Learn what it takes to have an effective butterfly garden design. 

Use a two-pronged approach to your butterfly garden by including attributes that attract adult butterflies, as well as their young. To fuel adults with ample food, include a variety of nectar-rich bloomers. Intermingle flowers with different forms, like a flat-blossomed zinnia (Zinnia elegans) that provides a wide landing pad for butterflies or a spikey Summer Jewel salvia (Salvia coccinea ‘Summer Jewel’).

Plan your garden to have non-stop color to keep the butterflies coming. Most butterfly garden designs incorporate quite a few annuals to help achieve a steady flower show. Good annual candidates for a butterfly garden include creeping zinnia (Sanvitalia procumbens), marigold (Tagetes spp.), mealycup sage (Salvia farinacea), Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) and pentas (Pentas lanceolata).

It’s also wise to include perennials in your design to give your garden year-round interest. Perennials that butterflies favor include butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii), garden phlox (Phlox paniculata), bee balm (Monarda didyma) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea).

Arrange bloomers in drifts so that near-sighted butterflies can easily spot the large swaths of color. Focus on flowers that feature bright tones in your butterfly garden design. Most butterflies can’t resist blossoms in shades of pink, red, purple, and yellow. These winged wonders also have a strong sense of smell and are lured by fragrant flowers. Remove spent blossoms in your butterfly garden faithfully to coax more flower buds to form.

Develop your butterfly garden design for a sunny location, since both butterflies and most of the plants they feast on thrive in sun. Try to choose a spot protected from wind. Include a watering hole in your butterfly garden design. Adult butterflies like to sip salts, moisture and minerals from moist sand or damp earth. Build a butterfly puddle by sinking a shallow pot saucer into soil and filling it with sand. Maintain a water level that’s just below the sand’s surface.

Surround your puddle with a ring of flat stones that can absorb sunlight and provide a place for butterflies to sun. Try to site your stones where they’ll absorb morning sunlight. Butterflies are cold-blooded and seek spots to bask and warm their wings for flight.

Many butterfly gardens focus solely on the winged portion of a butterfly’s life cycle, and you certainly must attract the adults before you can hope for a caterpillar. By including plants that caterpillars like to munch in your butterfly garden design, you’ll improve your chances of hosting a caterpillar. If you’re lucky, you may even get to witness an adult butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

Caterpillars feed on specific plants, so you’ll have to do some research to stock your garden with plants that caterpillars native to your region find tasty. The one thing caterpillars consistently do is munch, munch, munch. It’s a good idea to tuck plants destined to satisfy voracious caterpillar appetites into a less visible portion of your butterfly garden design. Place this section where you can easily visit and observe caterpillars, but not front and center where chewed—and even missing—leaves will detract from the garden’s beauty.