One of the biggest pleasures that my garden gives me is its ability for attracting butterflies to it. With the right nectar plants, a garden can be swarming with these fluttering friends all season long. But it is not just the plants that attract butterflies. There are a few other things that you can do to encourage them to visit as well.
Lots of things are important when you set out on a quest of attracting butterflies to your garden. Colors, plants, watering spots, and lack of pesticides all play a part.
Tips for Attracting butterflies to your garden.
If you want your yard to be a magnet for butterflies, try some of these tips to make your garden a place that naturally attracts them.
Find alternatives to pesticides.
One of the reasons that we see so many less bees and butterflies in our gardens now is the prevalent use of pesticides. If you are truly interested in making sure that butterflies visit, you’ll need to stop using pesticides and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Roundup. in particular, targets milkweed, the sole food source of the Monarch Butterfly. Find alternatives to pesticides, such as crop rotation, polyculture, companion planting and other organic gardening methods.
Create Butterfly watering areas.
Butterflies don’t like to be flying all the time. They need to rest and recover just like we do. Since they like full sun, place birdbaths with some rocks in them in the sunny areas of your garden to use as a landing spot.
Try using some flat rocks here and there in sunny spots in your garden, as well. The butterflies will land on them and carefully placed rocks can add to garden decor.
Color is important
It is not just the plants that attract butterflies, but the color of them. Butterflies love really bright colors, such as red, yellow, purple and blue. When butterflies see those colors in your garden, it pulls them in since they know the nectar will be great for them to feat on.
Butterflies also like to feast on flowers that have a landing pad so that they can sit as they feast. Flowers with huge tops like yarrow, zinnias and peonies, and long lush blooms, such as butterfly bush and butterfly weed are very attractive to them, because they are easy to feed from.
Go for the Sun
If your gardening style is shade gardening under the canopy of trees, you won’t be seeing many butterfly visitors. The reason is that butterflies love the sun. Think of the times that you typically see butterflies fluttering about. It’s normally a bright sunny day. So try to clear out at least one sunny patch in your garden to attract butterflies.
Growing native plants is not only beneficial in attracting butterflies, it makes your garden easier to manage. Why fight Mother Nature? Plant natives that grow easily in your area which will also attract pollinators to your yard. The butterflies that are local to your area enjoy local plants the most.
Let some Vegetables go to Flower
If you enjoy vegetable gardening, you’ll know that the vegetables can taste bitter if you allow them to go to flower. But it is not just floral plants that butterflies like. Herbs and vegetables that have gone to flower attract butterflies like mad. Sacrifice the taste of a few vegetables and herbs and you will end up with more butterflies in your yard.
You might even consider creating a butterfly sanctuary in your yard if you have the room. Fill it with some natives, a bird bath in a sunny spot, some nectar plants and some herbs and vegetables grown just to allow to go to flower. You’ll be amazed at the number of butterflies you will have visiting.
Stagger blooming Cycles
Be sure to plant so that you have a succession of flowering nectar plants in bloom in your garden all through the summer months. This will ensure that the butterflies will keep visiting from spring right into fall.
Choose the right Flowering Plants
There are certain plants in my yard that always seem to be covered in butterflies. For me, zinnias (with their great landing pads) and butterfly bushes with their long lush blooms are always a magnet for butterflies. The two collages below show just how much they like these two plants, at least for me.
Spicebush Swallowtail Papillo troilus feeding on some nectar. He seems to be enjoying himself! My zinnias are so popular with swallowtails right now! Sometimes I see several feasting on one plant!
My butterfly bushes are always swarming with butterflies. In these photos, buckeye butterflies, a yellow Swallowtail and a dark morph tiger swallowtail stopped by for a visit. At one time the bush had over 50 buckeyes enjoying the nectar.
Popular Butterfly Nectar Plants
The list of nectar plants that butterflies love is long and varied. Different flowers attract different types of butterflies, as well. This list shows some common pairings, although the plants are attractive to other butterflies, too.
- Butterfly Bush (Top rated. It attracts dozens of varieties of Butterflies)
- Butterfly Weed (Honorable mention – Also attractive to many types of butterflies.)
- Bee Balm (Swallowtails)
- Milkweed (Monarchs)
- Lupines (Achmon blue)
- Ornamental grasses (Broad Winged Skipper)
- Wisteria (Silver spotted skipper)\
- Baptisia Australis (Wild Indigo Dusky wing)
- Yarrow (Milfoil butterfly)
- Phlox (Spicebush Swallowtail and Tiger Swallowtail)
- Sunflowers (American Lady and Giant Swallowtails)
- Snapdragons (Cabbage White)
- Daisies (American Painted Lady)
- Black Eyed Susan (Orange Sulphur)
- Verbena (Black Swallowtail)
- Lantana (Fiery Skipper)
- Salvia (Silver-Spotted Skipper)
- Coneflower (Eastern Tailed Blue)
There are special butterfly feeders that you can purchase to attract butterflies. They work in a similar way that hummingbird feeders do. Just add a commercial butterfly nectar that is rich is sodium and protein for them to supplement their diet. Butterfly feeders are normally brightly colored red and yellow feeders which butterflies like to visit.
Even having dishes of water with some orange slices in them will bring the butterflies to feast!
If you love to see monarch butterflies in your garden, check out my tips for attracting monarch butterflies.
If you put even a few of these tips into practice, you garden will be a magnet for attracting butterflies all summer long.
Editors note: This post was originally published in 2013 and has been revamped and updated to include lots of new information on attracting butterflies.
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