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Constructing a Butterfly Garden

Updated on August 14, 2011

Butterfly Garden Basics

1) Choose a sunny location. Clear it out of excess growth, leaving a few select "weeds" like queen anne's lace, violets, clover etc.

2) Research the butterflies that are native to your area, and make a list of plants that they use for nectar and as host plants for their caterpillars. For example plant milkweed for monarchs, members of the parsley family for swallowtails, and brassicas for cabbage whites.

3) Next research the plants on your list and learn how large they grow (some milkweeds can be 5ft high), whether they are perrenials or annuals, and whether they like particularly sunny or wet locations.

4) Based off of the information you gathered plant the plants in your garden.

5) As a water source bury a shallow plastic container in the soil and add dirt and rocks to it. This will collect water when it rains and become a mud pool. Butterflies will drink from this since they can not drink from open water.

6) Keep the garden manicured but avoid all pesticides, harsh fertilizers, and excessive weeding (many weeds will be host plants for the butterflies)

Butterfly Nectar Sources

  • yarrow
  • columbine
  • milkweed
  • coreopsis
  • marsh marigold
  • echinacea (I once watched an eastern swallowtail spend 1/2 hr on this plant)
  • bee balm
  • salvia
  • butterfly bush
  • cosmos
  • daylily
  • dianthus
  • four o' clocks
  • hollyhock
  • honeysuckle
  • lantana
  • joe pye weed

Caterpillar Host Plants

  • milkweed
  • fennel, parsley, dill
  • rue
  • vetches
  • meadowsweet
  • alfalfa
  • snapdragons
  • mallows
  • nettles
  • oaks
  • willows
  • aspens
  • cottonwood
  • poplars
  • birches
  • elms
  • hickories
  • black locust

What Is Your Favorite Butterfly?

Choose your favorite North American butterfly of the list below.

See results


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    • Brandon21 profile image

      Brandon21 6 years ago

      Thank you. Glad you like it.

    • daisyjae profile image

      daisyjae 6 years ago from Canada

      Nice tips on how to grow a butterfly garden, and pretty pictures too.