How to Grow a Butterfly Garden

butterfly garden tips

By planting and maintaining a butterfly garden you will be rewarded with nature’s beauty all summer long.

To draw butterflies you must select plants that produce nectar, as well as, host plants for butterfly eggs and caterpillars.

Host plants give food for caterpillars and a safe haven for butterflies to lay their eggs. Newly hatched caterpillars cannot travel far; therefore, the butterfly will lay its eggs on the preferred plants. If hungry caterpillars munching holes in your plants causes you grief, place these host plants in a less conspicuous area. However, be sure not to plant them too far from the nectar producing plants, otherwise butterflies will not lay their eggs on them.

Here is a list of some of the more common butterflies and their favored hosting plants.

  • Anise Swallowtail: prefers citrus plants and sweet fennel

  • Black Swallowtail: prefers dill, fennel and parsley
  • Checkered Skipper: prefers hollyhock
  • Monarch: prefers milkweed
  • Painted Lady: prefers hollyhock, sunflower and thistle
  • Red Admiral: prefers nettle and pellitory
  • Spicebush Swallowtail: prefers sassafras and spice bush

After selecting your host plants you will need to select your nectar plants. Nectar producing plants give food for butterflies and help to attract new butterflies to your garden.

When choosing your nectar plants, try to choose plants that provide blooms throughout the growing season. You can also add nectar feeders to your garden to increase your butterfly population.

Here is a list of nectar plants to plant in your butterfly garden:

  • Annuals: 
    • calendula,
    • flowering tobacco,
    • heliotrope,
    • inpatients,
    • marigold,
    • petunia,
    • phlox,
    • rosemary,
    • sunflower,
    • verbena,
    • zinnias
  • Perennials: 
    • aster,
    • bee balm,
    • bergamot,
    • black-eyed Susan,
    • blazing star,
    • butterfly weed,
    • chrysanthemums,
    • daylily,
    • goldenrod,
    • heather,
    • hollyhock,
    • hyssop,
    • milkweed,
    • oxeye daisy,
    • peony,
    • peppermint,
    • Queen Anne’s lace,
    • sedum,
    • spearmint,
    • sunflower,
    • yarrow
  • Trees and Shrubs: 
    • azalea,
    • blackberry,
    • black willow,
    • blueberries,
    • butterfly bush,
    • buttonbush,
    • lilac,
    • meadowsweet,
    • mockorange,
    • privets,
    • pussy willow,
    • sumacs

Once all of your plants have been selected you will have to plan out your planting scheme. Taller plants should be planted in the back. Smaller plants should be placed in the front. A good way to plan your garden is to sit down with paper and colored pencils and draw a diagram.

When you begin planting, take into consideration how large the adult plants will be. Each plant will need a generous amount of growing room.

Caution: Pesticides, soaps and oils may kill caterpillars if they are in direct contact or feed on these items. Adding ground beetles, ladybird beetles and lacewings can help control pests naturally.


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