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.
Home Butterfly Gardens – Easy to Grow
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.
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.
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 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.
Slideshow: Butterfly Garden Plants
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
- Coreopsis major
- Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
- Maximillian’s Sunflowers (Helianthus maximilianii )
- Phlox (Phlox subulata)
- Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea )
- Common violet
Are you ready for your own home butterfly garden? Visit other pages on Home Garden Joy to learn how to grow plants from seeds, make your own compost, and more.