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What Sort of Flowers Should I Plant to Attract Butterflies?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Butterflies are insects in the order Lepidoptera. Many people find butterflies pleasing to look at, since they have distinctive, beautiful wings covered in rich colors and patterns. It is possible to hang out a feeder to attract butterflies, but butterflies can also be enticed to visit a home with flowers.

In addition to making the garden more colorful, butterflies will also make the garden healthier, since they cross pollinate plants as they feed. A butterfly garden can be as small as a window box or as large as a sprawling multi-acre garden. As well as enticing butterflies, a butterfly garden is also a draw to hummingbirds and other wild animals.

When you plant a garden to attract butterflies, think about all their stages of life. Make sure to have plenty of forage for caterpillars, as well as sheltered overhanging shrubs for pupa casings and the chrysalis which a caterpillar spins before turning into an adult butterfly. If you encourage butterflies to live and breed, they will proliferate. It is also important to provide water for butterflies, perhaps in the form of a fountain or small water feature.

The best place to plant flowers which attract butterflies is in full sun. Butterflies prefer warm sunny areas, and they are especially attracted to purple, pink, red, orange, and yellow flowers. Flowers which attract butterflies also tend to have flat tops or small clustered blooms, along with short flower tubes so that the butterflies can easily feed. Since butterflies rely heavily upon nectar, any nectar producing plant will tend to attract butterflies.

If you are trying to attract butterflies in a low water garden, consider yarrow, butterfly milkweed, asters, hollyhocks, snap dragons, columbines, calendula, cosmos, delphinium, fleabane, zinnias, verbena, marigolds, goldenrod, salvia, phlox, bee balm, alyssum, candytuft, and heliotrope. If you have more water available, coneflower, borage, milkweed, globe thistle, fuscia, sunflowers, lobelia, sweet peas, lavender, and lilacs are all excellent choices. You can also plant cinquefoil, passion flowers, honeysuckle, nasturtiums, wisteria, vetch, lantana, violets, daisies, candytuft, cornflower, mignonette, rocket, and sweet william in a garden which will attract butterflies.

If you want to attract butterflies and encourage them to stay, plant flowers at multiple levels so that the butterflies can hide easily from predators and find new treats around every corner of the garden. As the above list indicates, butterflies are drawn to a wide range of flowers, shrubs, and climbing vines, and a butterfly garden can be a riot of blooms to attract many species, or you can plant a small number of plants to target specific butterflies. You may want to consider reading up about butterflies in your region, and plant flowers which appeal to these butterflies in particular, to ensure that your butterfly garden is a success.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By motherteresa — On Sep 02, 2008

Cinquefoil, one of the butterfly attracting plants, has also some negative characteristics. It is a very persistent, creeping plant that grows well in acidic soil. It spreads easily and can gradually take over and choke other plants.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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