Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterflies are self-propelled flowers.”
R.H. Heinlein

Make your garden more attractive to butterflies by creating a habitat that meets all of their needs.

Here are 3 key elements to consider:


  1. Location: Choose an area with full sun and remember to place the garden where you will be able to view and enjoy it.
  2. Plants: Butterflies prefer a garden that has large masses of color. Choose plants that bloom at different times to keep butterflies and caterpillars interested all season long. Planting tall and short plants will create a safe area for the butterflies to rest away from wind and rain and provide a shady spot for when temperatures are high.
  3. Food & Water: Choose nectar-rich flowers as well as leafy plants for when butterflies are in their caterpillar state. Butterflies drink their water from shallow puddles of water. An area of damp sand or mud is best.

Butterfly Basics

Where do they come from?

Butterflies have 4 stages of life. They begin as an egg, then turn into a caterpillar, a chrysalis and then finally a butterfly.

After mating the female butterfly searches for a suitable “host” plant on which to lay her eggs. A few days later a caterpillar emerges and begins to eat leafy green plants.

Once the caterpillar is fully grown it changes into a chrysalis. The chrysalis are usually attached to a plant stem and are protected by surrounding plants. It is inside this chamber that the butterfly is formed.

Once it emerges from the chrysalis, the butterfly begins to search for nectar-rich flowers to feed upon and shallow areas of water to drink from.

Providing butterflies with everything they need from the time it lays its eggs to when it emerges from the chrysalis and begins to feed will greatly increase your chances of attracting butterflies to your garden. 

Plants that Attract Butterflies

It is important to attract butterflies throughout all of the stages of its life and to create a garden that contains flowers that bloom all season long. Below is a list on annuals, perennials, trees, and shrubs to help you accomplish this task.


Annuals survive until the frost.

  • Cosmos                
  • Hollyhock           
  • Petunia
  • Herbs                   
  • Lantana               
  • Snapdragon
  • Dill                         
  • Marigold             
  • Sunflower
  • Cilantro               
  • Mexican Sunflower
  • Verbenia
  • Parsley                
  • Pentas                 
  • Zinnia
  • Heliotrope


Trees & Shrubs

  • Abelia                  
  • Clethra                
  • Lilac
  • Azalea                  
  • Dogwood tree  
  • Mountain Laurel
  • Blue Mist Shrub
  • Honey Suckle    
  • Rhododendron
  • Butterfly Bush


Perennials are plants that come back every year.

  • Aster                    
  • Daylily  
  • Milkweed
  • Bee Balm         
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Goldenrod         
  • Sedum
  • Butterfly Weed                
  • Joe-Pye weed   
  • Verbena
  • Coneflower
  • Lavender            
  • Veronica
  • Coreopsis           
  • Liatris                   
  • Yarrow


Great Plants for the Caterpillar Stage

  • Butterfly Weed
  • Mallow
  • Milkweed
  • Herbs such as:
  • Parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel
  • Sunflower                          
  • Yarrow

Download or print a PDF of  Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden


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