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Attract Butterflies To Your Landscape

Updated on February 27, 2015
Sweet Nectar!
Sweet Nectar! | Source

Butterfly gardens are created for the intention of attracting, well . . . butterflies! Butterflies help the environment by pollinating flowers and providing food for nestling songbirds as caterpillars. Butterflies (and bees) are critical for the environment as they pollinate the plants as they skip along, from flower to flower.

The glimpse of a butterfly in flight can be a fanciful treat to see. What amazes me is their ability to navigate in any breeze. It’s such a dance! It always amuses me how they manage, it looks like a lot of hard work on their part.

Hard Work Should Be Rewarded

To me, the best rewards come in the form of my favorite things. Put a piece of cheesecake in front of me and I’m first one in line to help you move next Saturday. Mmmm, cheesecake! Sorry, back to the butterflies’ favorite things.

Give your visiting guests what they need and they will want to stay ~ awhile ~ and maybe even a return visit! The bountiful accommodations will be a welcome retreat for the butterflies, and a feast for your eyes.

Small grouping of flowers that butterflies love.
Small grouping of flowers that butterflies love. | Source

Gardening Tips at the Smithsonian Butterfly Habitat Garden

A Fiesta On The Flowers

The specific theme of your butterfly garden, combination garden container or hanging basket is to provide an inviting oasis for the winged beauties and provide what every weary traveler is searching for.

The simplest of amenities will satisfy these nectar seekers. The simplest of effort by you is all that’s needed to lure these colorful creatures to your landscape.

Beautiful butterfly, stay awhile.
Beautiful butterfly, stay awhile. | Source

Go Native

I recommend cultivating native plants for a flourishing butterfly garden. The native plant species that I am including in this article would benefit those folks residing in the Mid-Atlantic States.

The reason for planting native varieties is simply that these plants have already adapted to the environment naturally . They are acclimated to the local environment, and establish very quickly. Your new butterfly garden plants will be more comfortable and feel like being home. Hopefully, the butterflies will feel at home, too!

Put Out The Welcome Sign

A busy bee on purple Echinacea.
A busy bee on purple Echinacea. | Source

Planting A Butterfly Garden Is Like Posting A ‘Welcome’ Sign

Like hungry and tired tourists searching the roadway ahead for a ‘Diner’ or hotel ‘Vacancy’ sign, your butterfly garden is a fragrant, colorful invitation to your garden destination.

Locate the garden or planter in a sunny area. Butterflies love the sun’s warmth, and most of the varieties of plants that are beneficial to butterflies require full sun in order to successfully grow.

Include a flat stone in your butterfly garden. Butterflies bask in sunlight as a way of raising their body temperature. This enables them to fly and remain active. Flat flower-types, flat stones and open flat areas are good places for landing and spreading their wings. They like to perch on stones, and appreciate a small patch of bare soil too.

Keep flower form a consideration when choosing the plants for your butterfly garden. Single flower forms are more desirable rather that double flowers. Who wants to land on a bumpy runway after an exhausting flight? The nectar from single flowers is so much more accessible. The butterflies are able to extract their meal effortlessly, and then on to the next flower they go.

Ah, a sunny respite.
Ah, a sunny respite. | Source

Hurry Up Bee . . . Or There's More For Me

Competition for nectar from a Milkweed plant in the meadow.
Competition for nectar from a Milkweed plant in the meadow. | Source

Large Splashes Of Color

Design your butterfly garden with groups of flowers as opposed to isolated plantings. Butterflies are first attracted to flowers by color. Big splashes of colorful will entice from a distance.

Select nectar producing flowers for your hungry visitors. Flowers that bloom with a tubular shape or have clusters or flat-toped forms are the favorites of butterflies.

Open For The Season

Ensure that air traffic at your busy butterfly garden remains open by planting varieties that will continuously bloom throughout the growing season. Early spring butterfly activity begins and continues until late fall. Include plants that will provide nectar throughout the entire growing season.

Guide To Attracting Butterflies To Your Garden

If You Plant It, They Will Come

Now that you have decided to host your garden party at the Butterfly Inn, become a butterfly watcher! Get to know the colorful butterflies that frequent your fine establishment. They are very distinctive, and easy to identify with a good field guide.

Partial Listing Of Native Plants For Your Butterfly Garden

Achillea (Yarrow) Nectar & Larval Host

Agastache (Hyssop) Nectar

Antirrhum (Snapdragon) Larval Host

Aquilegia (Columbine) Nectar

Asclepias (tuberosa Butterfly) Flower Nectar & Larval Host

Aster (Michaelmas Daisy) Nectar

Astilbe Nectar

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) Nectar

Chrysanthemum Nectar & Larval Host

Cleome hassleriana (Spider Flower) Nectar

Cosmos (Yellow Cosmos) Nectar

Dianthus (Carnation) Nectar

Digitalis (Foxglove) Larval Host

Echinacea (Coneflower) Nectar

Eupatorium coelestinum (Hardy Ageratum) Nectar

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower) Nectar

Helianthus (Sunflower) Nectar & Larval Host

Lantana (Shrub Verbena) Nectar

Lavendula (Lavender) Nectar

Mentha (Mint) Nectar & Larval Host

Monarda (Bee Balm) Nectar

Petunia Nectar & Larval Host

Phlox Nectar

Rudbeckia (MD State Flower ~ Black-eyed Susan) Nectar

Scabiosa (Pincushion Flower) Nectar

Verbena Larval Host



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    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi Woody Marx,

      Yes, it is quite distressing to me to realize our history of forcing the evacuation of many native species ~ human or otherwise.

      In the instance of the butterflies . . . I can only recommend the greening of areas to again provide a habitat and a reason to return.

      There is a movement in local municipalities to create more open spaces for people, plants, insects and animals!

      Perhaps you can become active in recovering 'wasted' space and convert to a 'no mow meadow' or no mow median' in your town, with the help of a local garden group.

      Contact a local plant nursery and co-ordinate with them to provide free discards that you can then incorporate into your new green spaces.

      You'd be surprised just how many organizations and companies are of like minds with respect to this important concept. Pick one town, village or street that needs a face-lift and go for it!

      What a difference you'd make. :)

      N T T

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      It is sad to me how the decline in such awesome creatures as butterflies seems to be the trend--at least for people who live in cities. I can remember not too long ago when it was not so special to see a butterfly like the monarch here in Ontario, but it has been ages since I have seen one. Perhaps out in the country they do, but they are a disappearing species (along with other insects like the preying mantis for example) that used to be everywhere. If you can attract butterflies where you live you are very lucky and I hope you have lots of opportunities to experience these delicate,fragile,colourful insects.

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi Dolores Monet,

      Thank you, thank you, thank you! I was notified about the awesome nomination last Saturday, and voting ended Wednesday, so I'm afraid you're too late to vote.

      However . . . I have just received confirmation that this Hub has been awarded ~ Hub Of The Day! :)

      I am so thrilled to have been nominated, let alone to have actually won. WOW!

      I appreciate your vote of confidence though! This is so incouraging . . . I'm tickled pink!

      Thanks so much for stopping by - you rock!

      N T T

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      9 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Wow congratulations on the nomination. You deserve it. Now I have to go figure out how to vote. 2 years here and I am such an idiot. Anyway, the butterflies are wonderful and make such a perfect addition to a backyard.

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi ripplemaker,

      Thanks so much for stopping by ~ I appreciate it! I'm grateful for receiving your nice comments, and happy that it left you feeling good.

      Gardening brings me great pleasure and relaxation. When I feel the need to slow down from life's demands, the garden is where you'll find me.

      I can thank my Grandmom for my interest. Being from the country, she'd always tell me to 'Go outside and let the stink blow off 'ya!' So I would. Being outdoors heals whatever hurts!

      And yes, I'm thrilled to be nominated for a Hub Nugget for this article, just thrilled!

      N T T

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 

      9 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      Those photos are simply beautiful! It brought me to a feeling good place. So I can imagine what it must be outdoors for real!

      Congrats on your Hubnuggets nomination! For voting and other details, head this way:

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi Simone Smith,

      Thanks for sending such nice comments. I'm having a blast writing and photographing for my Hubs. I am so glad I found Hub Pages! ! ! :)

      With Summer in full swing, the butterflies visit my garden often ~ and sometimes vie for prescious nectar with the bees. At least the butterflies aren't 'packin' a stinger'!

      N T T

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      Aaaah! How lovely! I'm rather thankful to live in a house where the landlords have done many of the things advised in your guide. Butterflies abound!

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi Movie Master,

      Thank you for the nice comments. I'm happy you liked the Hub. I enjoy taking nature photos, and writing articles on Garden Design allows me to photograph some lovely aspects of nature's beauty.

      Beauty is where you find it . . . and we both are fortunate to be exposed to the beauty of both of our own individual Continents.


      N T T

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      9 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi NotTooTall, I love this article and your awesome photos, lots of interesting and helpful information, thank you.

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi Liz,

      Thank you for stopping by . . . I'm happy you enjoyed the Hub.

      So just remember, you can now label that bare patch in your garden as "My Butterfly's Landing Pad"! :)

      N T T

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      HI NTT

      I really like this article (and cheesecake too!)

      I never knew that butterflies were attracted to large flat areas to sun themselves and the list of native plants is really helpful and I really love the photos too. thank you!

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi vwriter,

      Thank you for reading the Hub, I appreciate your taking the time!

      I hope you enjoyed it. It sure was a pleasure to research and write about these beautiful ~ and necessary ~ creatures.

      N T T

    • vwriter profile image


      9 years ago from US

      Interesting article. I'm giving it a thumbs up.

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi naturegirl7,

      I super appreciate your visit, and leaving me comments about the Hub.

      It's so funny . . . my nickname was 'nature girl' all through my young years. It has since developed to be 'plant lady' since I have matured. :)

      Thank you for stopping by, I'm glad you enjoyed the piece.

      N T T

    • naturegirl7 profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 

      9 years ago from South Louisiana

      Lovely hub with good information.

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi RTalloni,

      I thank you for reading my Hub, I hope you found it useful and enjoyable.

      The list contains a 'sampling' of the wonderful plant possibilities. These are my favorites as they perform well for me, and will provide a continous bloom period . . . the buffet is always open!

      I'm glad you stopped by!

      N T T

    • NotTooTall profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from The Land of Pleasant Living

      Hi kentuckyslone,

      Thank you very much for stopping by and reading my Hub.

      Creating a garden for butterflies will attract a host of other beneficial insects and animals to the site. Usually, where there are butterflies flourishing, the bees and birds follow.

      Native plants are readily available for purchase, and can be highly ornamental - they're not all 'woodsy' or 'wild-looking'.

      Go native!

      N T T

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Thanks much for the info with a list of butterfly friendly flowers. Fabulous collection of photos.

    • kentuckyslone profile image


      9 years ago

      Absolutely beautiful! I also recommend the cultivating native plants for attracting butterflies (and song birds and humming birds too!) Voted up and rated as beautiful...


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