How to Create a Butterfly Garden

Learn how to add a butterfly garden to your yard and make it a destination for these beauties.

black swallowtail butterfly in garden

Black Swallowtail Butterfly (Papilio polyxenes)

Close-Up Of Black Swallowtail Butterfly On Purple Flowers

Photo by: Getty Images/Vinod Kumar

Getty Images/Vinod Kumar

Watching butterflies bask in the sun or flit from flower to flower has to be one of the great pleasures of gardening. Here's how to create a butterfly garden that gives these gorgeous creatures a good place to hang out:

Materials

  • butterfly-attracting flowers
  • large, flat rocks
  • water source
  • one or more trees or shrubs

Step 1: Select Site for Butterfly Garden

A variety of broad-leafed trees and shrubs will provide cover from wind, rain and predators. Locate your butterfly garden in a sunny site; if you can't find a protected spot, plant a windbreak of mid-sized cultivars of dense conifers like spruce, juniper or cypress.

Step 2: Remember the Rocks

Invite butterflies to sunbathe. As cold-blooded insects, butterflies like to warm themselves in the sun. Create a few perches out of the wind; chances are you'll also see them resting on a sunny rock or on top of a fence post.

Step 3: Provide Water

Put a mixture of sand and soil in a plant saucer or a shallow bowl and add enough water to saturate the mixture thoroughly, but not so much that there's standing water. Butterflies like to rest on wet sand or soil and absorb moisture and minerals from it. If the "drinking station" dries out too fast in your climate, sink a bucket filled with a wet mixture of soil and sand into the ground.

Step 4: Add the Plants

Choose a wide range of flowering plants that differ in color, type of flower and bloom time to welcome multiple species and give them plenty of options. Butterflies feed on tubular flowers and they especially love those with "landing strips." Yarrow, stonecrop, coneflower, verbena, phlox, butterfly bush, butterfly weed (Asclepias), bee balm, cardinal flower (Lobelia), coreopsis, black-eyed Susan, Joe Pye weed, pentas, and various asters and sedums can keep your garden in butterfly blooms throughout the season.

It's not just the lovely adults you want to attract: you want the babies, too. The best butterfly habitat is a diverse landscape. Depending on the species, butterflies need particular host plants for laying eggs. You may think of plants like milkweed, wild mustard and nettles as weeds, but for some butterfly species, that's food for the young caterpillars.

Step 5: Avoid Using Pesticides

Treat your landscape like the miniature ecosystem that it is, banning the use of insecticides and herbicides. With a diversity of plant material, you're not likely to attract large numbers of plant pests, and you'll also be protecting natural predators.

Next Up

Learn About the Monarch Butterfly's Fall Migration

Make way for monarchs! This pretty, but threatened, butterflies migrate each fall to spend winter where frosts won’t find them. Discovered where you can experience this incredible, endangered annual migration.

Planting for Pollinators

Bring beneficial birds, bees and butterflies to your garden by growing plants and flowers they love.

How to Care for Butterfly Bush

The colorful flowering butterfly bush is easy to care for and a favorite of gardeners and butterflies alike.

Planting and Growing Joe Pye Weed

Forget the "weed" in this plant's name. Joe Pye weed is actually a wildflower that invites lots of lovely butterflies to your garden.

How to Start a Fall Garden

Plant these fall vegetables in the summer to enjoy a haul of fresh produce when the temperatures cool.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed Step-by-Step

Take your garden to the next level with this complete plan and step-by-step instructions for an easy raised garden bed DIY project. Your plants (and wallet) will thank you.

Planting and Growing Milkweed

Welcome endangered monarchs and other beautiful butterflies to your yard with milkweed. We tell you how, when and where to grow different types of milkweed — including butterfly weed, common milkweed, swamp milkweed and showy milkweed — as well as where to get milkweed seeds.

How to Plant a Cactus Container Garden

Look sharp. You can make a cactus container garden in about an hour.

How to Build a Mandala-Style In-Ground Fire Pit

We made an in-ground fire pit, then decorate it with colored river rocks and sand to give it a mandala-inspired look.

Low-Maintenance Plants for Dorm Rooms

These succulents aren't just beautiful, they're super low-maintenance, too. Plant them in bright, hand-painted pots and they instantly become the perfect addition to an apartment or dorm room.

Go Shopping

Spruce up your outdoor space with products handpicked by HGTV editors.

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.