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Home Butterfly Garden Ideas

Updated on November 17, 2014
Attract butterflies to the garden.
Attract butterflies to the garden. | Source

Home Butterfly Garden

A home butterfly garden attracts beautiful, colorful butterflies. A good butterfly garden includes plants for shelter, food and host plants. Host plants are plants that host or support butterfly larvae (caterpillars). By offering butterflies a habitat that includes their favorite plants for nectar and food, plants to shelter them from high winds, and plants that will nurture and support their young, you'll make your home butterfly garden attract to all sorts of beautiful butterflies in your local area.

Be sure to place your home butterfly garden near enough to your house so you can easily peek into the garden throughout the day. If that's not possible, include a garden seat or bench so you can relax and watch the butterflies in comfort.

Organic gardening is the way to go if you want to nurture butterflies and other wildlife in the garden. Try not to use pesticides, herbicides or fungicides in the butterfly garden. Anything marked as killing insects will kill butterflies, too. The good news is that most butterfly garden plants are disease-resistant and if you choose varieties of butterfly garden plants suited to your gardening zone and local climate, or choose native plants for your region, you should have a relatively pest-free garden anyway.

Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush | Source

Best Location for a Home Butterfly Garden

When starting your home butterfly garden, choose a location that receives full sun. Full sun is defined as at least six or more hours per day of direct sunshine. Most butterfly garden plants need full sun, and the warmer it is, the more active the butterflies will be.

Butterflies dislike high winds. If you can, place your butterfly garden in a spot that has some shelter from high winds or include sheltering plants such as Buddleia (Butterfly Bush).

While a water source is not essential to a butterfly garden, mud puddles or butterfly puddles offer butterflies water and mineral salts. Have you ever seen butterflies 'drinking' from a gravel driveway or a mud puddle after a rain? These are usually male butterflies seeking salts and other minerals as well as moisture. You can replicate a natural butterfly puddle using a butterfly mud puddle basin, which looks like a shallow bird bath, purchased from a garden center. Or you can dig a shallow depression and line it with stones. Don't forget to keep it moist if rainfall is scarce.

Before planting any flowers, shrubs or other plants in your home butterfly garden, have the soil tested at your local Cooperative Extension Office. They can guide you on what you may need to add to the soil before planting your butterfly garden plants.

Yellow coneflower
Yellow coneflower | Source

Designing the Butterfly Garden

When choosing your plants for your home butterfly garden, use larger plants such as Hibiscus and Butterfly Bush for the back of the garden bed. Add taller perennial flowers such as daylilies, Echinacea and Cardinal flower in front, with low-growing perennials such as phlox and achillea as the front border. Perennials bloom during a specific season, so planting a few annual flowers that attract butterflies including zinnia not only keeps bright color blooming throughout the growing season, but offers butterflies nectar, too. Native plants or plants that evolved in your area often provide local butterfly species with exactly what they need for food, shelter and offspring; they evolved together, and support one another.

Don't forget the host plants. Each butterfly species relies upon a different host plant for food. Parsley, mint, and butterfly weed are just a few host plants butterflies love. Including a few in the butterfly garden says "welcome" to butterflies and encourages them to linger, lay eggs, and produce more butterflies.

Nurturing butterflies by providing them with a home butterfly garden is more than just a fun gardening exercises. As natural habitats for butterflies dwindle in urban areas, the more home gardeners can provide food, shelter and host plants for butterflies, the more we can support these beautiful insects.

Designing the Home Butterfly Garden

You can place a few butterfly garden plants in a container or pot on the deck or plant any size butterfly garden. The key is to select plants that produce abundant nectar for butterflies and include groups of plants in similar colors. In nature, butterflies seek groups of plants of similar colors. This is nature's cue to butterflies that there is a food source nearby. You can recreate this effect in the garden by planting flowers of a similar color in the garden, creating patches of bright yellow, orange, red, pink, blue or purple to attract butterflies.

The following is a partial list of butterfly garden plants. Please check with your local County Cooperative Extension office to make sure these plants will grow well in your local area.

Shrubs for the butterfly garden:

  • Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)

Butterfly garden perennial flowers:

  • New England Aster
  • Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta )
  • Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis )
  • Butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa )
  • Virginia Bluebell
  • Daylilies
  • Coreopsis major
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
  • Maximillian’s Sunflowers (Helianthus maximilianii )
  • Phlox (Phlox subulata)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea )
  • Common violet
  • Yarrow

Annual Flowers

  • Lantana
  • Marigold
  • Zinnia


© 2012 Jeanne Grunert


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    • ThelmaC profile image

      Thelma Raker Coffone 

      6 years ago from Blue Ridge Mountains, USA

      Great hub and beautiful pictures. I love your home state of Virginia! I look forward to following you on hubpages.


    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 

      6 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      It's wonderful to see butterflies in the garden. I planted a buddleia last year and was so surprised to see how much it grew and how many butterflies were attracted to it. I would like to add more this year, so your list will come in handy. Voted up and SHARED!

    • Jeanne Grunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      6 years ago from Virginia

      Thanks Dirt Farmer! I took all these images, but they were taken over the course of the last three summers. I just picked my best pictures from among those I had with butterflies in them.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      6 years ago from New York

      Fantastic pictures! The colors and the butterflies are simply gorgeous. You've provided lots of plants and good information. I didn't realize you should plant flowers of like colors together. I will have to try that this year. I have butterflies visiting my butterfly bush and coneflowers but don't think any of them are living here. Voted up, useful and interesting.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 

      6 years ago from United States

      Wow, Jeanne! Your pictures are gorgeous. Are they from last year, or are your plants blooming super early? Our only "butterfly" plants blooming now here in MD are lilacs and violets.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What wonderful information on Butterfly gardening. Over the years I have added lots of those blooms in your list for them. I love watching them and giving them the plants they need.

    • TheRightWord profile image


      6 years ago from Sunny California

      Thank you, very useful information. We have some of these plants already, and now I can add new flora to attract more butterflies.

    • Golfgal profile image


      6 years ago from McKinney, Texas

      Thanks for list, I am planning a butterfly garden. I currently have lots of little butterflies in my yard. Not sure what kind they are. They are fluttering everywhere, I love coneflowers. I planted two last year but they are cling up very slow this year. The slugs are having their way with them.


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