How to Create a Butterfly Garden
Learn how to make your yard a destination for these beauties.
- butterfly-attracting flowers
- large, flat rock
- water source
- one or more trees or shrubs
Step 1: Select Site for Butterfly Garden
Choose a site that has some sun but is also sheltered from wind. Include a few trees and shrubs for roosting at night and for cooling off on the hottest days.
Step 2: Remember the Rocks
Add one or two large, flat rocks in the sun so butterflies have a place to bask when mornings are cool.
Step 3: Provide Water
Since butterflies cannot drink from open water, provide them with a "puddle" by filling a container, such as an old birdbath, with wet sand where they can perch and drink safely.
Step 4: Add the Plants
Add nectar plants, including aster, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, cosmos, ironweed, Joe-Pye weed, phlox, purple coneflower, sedum, and zinnia. Include food plants for the larvae, including dill, fennel, milkweed, and parsley. Different butterfly larvae feed on different plants, so research the butterflies native to your region to determine what to plant. Remember: Butterfly larvae are caterpillars. Learn to distinguish the larvae of butterflies you're trying to attract from pest species. Minimize the use of pesticides to protect butterfly larvae and adults.
The light blue flowers of amsonia appear in late spring to early summer. The willow-like green leaves of this perennial turn golden in fall. Amsonia thrives in partial shade to full sun and will attract butterflies to your garden. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 9, depending on species.
Want to add a vertical element to your midsummer garden? Consider gayfeather, whose purple, lavender or white spires are like 3-foot-tall exclamation points. Butterflies and hummingbirds are big fans of this sun-loving perennial.
Baptisias, herbaceous perennials native to the Midwest and eastern U.S., bloom in mid spring to early summer, depending on the species and weather. Colors range from yellow to white to blue. Hardiness varies with species and cultivar, from USDA Zones 3 to 9.
This small (18 inches tall and wide), shrubby perennial produces its fragrant blooms throughout the summer in blue, lavender, purple or white, depending on the cultivar. Heliotrope prefers moist, well-drained soil in full sun or, where summers are hot, in afternoon shade. Butterflies are attracted to its flowers, which offer a delightful vanilla scent. Bring container plants under cover for winter or take cuttings.