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Flowers for Butterflies

Updated on February 18, 2013
jeannergrunert profile image

Jeanne Grunert is a full-time freelance writer, novelist, and garden communicator. She lives and works on a 17-acre farm in Virginia.

Flowers for Butterflies

Plant flowers for butterflies, and attract butterflies to your garden. By choosing butterfly garden flowers and adding host plants that provide food for butterfly larvae, you can attract beautiful, colorful butterflies to your garden. Even if you don't have a large yard or garden, you can still plant flowers to attract butterflies in window boxes, planters, pots or containers. Just by adding a few plants to attract butterflies to your garden, you can increase the number of these beautiful, colorful insects this summer.

Planting a Butterfly Garden

Site Selection

Choose the location of your butterfly garden with special care. You want a spot that is easy to see from your home, porch, patio or deck so that you can enjoy the beautiful butterflies as they visit the garden. You also need a location that is mostly sunny, with at least several hours of bright, direct sunlight per day. Butterflies need warmth and butterfly garden plants need plenty of sunlight, two considerations that will guide the ultimate choices of location for your butterfly garden.

If you're planting a new garden, consider getting a soil test for the garden. Soil tests can be completed by your local County Cooperative Extension office for a small fee. They will guide you through the proper way to collect a sample. The results of the soil test and the recommendations provided help identify the right things to add to the soil to improve its pH or add nutrients to help your butterfly garden flowers grow better. These should be added before the flowers are planted in the garden, so have your soil tested early in the spring, before it is time to purchase and plant the flowers.

Pictures of Butterfly Garden Flowers

Click thumbnail to view full-size
LantanaButterfly BushZinniaButterfly BushZinniasScabiosaButterfly BushEchinacea or Purple ConeflowerDayliliesGaillardia or Blanket Flower
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Butterfly Bush
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower
Echinacea or Purple Coneflower
Gaillardia or Blanket Flower
Gaillardia or Blanket Flower

Annual Flowers for Butterflies

Annuals are flowers that must be planted each year. They grow, flower, and die all in one year. Annual flowers are usually planted as soon as the last danger of frost is past in the spring. This date is also called the "frost-free date." The actual date for your area will vary according to where you live. Consult a map of gardening zones or your local County Cooperative Extension office for the date for your area.

Annuals for butterfly gardens include flowers such as marigolds, zinnias, lantana, and petunias. Marigolds and zinnias are easy to grow from seeds. Lantana and petunias are easier to plant when they are purchased in pots from the local nursery and garden center. Lantana needs very warm weather to flourish and grow, and in some very southern parts of the United States, it may live through the winter. It is an exceptional flower for attracting butterflies.

Butterfly Bush

Monarch butterfly on butterfly bush.
Monarch butterfly on butterfly bush.

Butterfly bush (Buddleia) is a fast-growing shrub that produces abundant scented flowers that attracts butterflies. It somewhat resembles a lilac flower, but the scent is different. Butterfly bushes need full sun or partial sunlight. They grow quickly and if conditions are right, will seed plentifully in the garden. Some people even consider them a nuisance because of how easily they seed new plants in the garden. You can dig up the baby plants that grow each year and move them to new parts of the garden or give them away to friends.

Butterfly bushes come in a wide range of colors including white, light purple, dark purple, and even bicolored or multicolored flowers. They require little care, but should be cut down low to the ground in the fall or early spring before they begin growing again to prevent them from quickly overgrowing their location. They attract many, many kinds of butterflies and are an idea shrub for the garden. Once they begin blooming in late spring, they'll bloom nonstop until the first heavy frost in the fall.

Perennial Flowers for Butterfly Gardens

Sabiosa "Butterfly Blue"
Sabiosa "Butterfly Blue"

Perennials are flowering plants that grow and bloom over multiple years. There are many kinds of perennials. Those that attract butterflies tend to be what are called native perennials, or flowers that grow naturally in the local environment. Native plants support local butterfly populations, and as such as very important to help support local butterfly species. They are a great choice for beginning gardeners, too, because they tend to be easier to grow since they are adapted to the local climate. Perennials that attract butterflies include scabiosa "butterfly blue", gaillardia, Echinacea, daylilies, monarda, milkweed or 'butterfly weed', and many flowering vines, including the invasive hummingbird vine.

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    • jeannergrunert profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeanne Grunert 

      5 years ago from Prospect, Virginia

      @jolou: Thanks Joanne!

    • jolou profile image


      5 years ago

      Your photos are lovely. I love butterflies, they are beautiful to see.


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