An abundance of flowers of any kind is almost certain to attract butterflies to your garden, but if you choose your plants carefully, you can ensure that they come to stay!
As butterflies develop through their life cycle, egg, larva (caterpillar), chrysalis, and adult, they rely on different types of plants for food and shelter. Each stage in the butterfly life cycle has its own special requirements.
To develop a butterfly garden, you must include plants which will provide an accessible source of nectar which is the main interest of butterflies. The more food you provide, the more butterfly species your garden will attract.
- The most appealing plants are those that have flower heads which are composed of short, tubular blossoms and are flat-topped to provide a good landing platform e.g. Achillea (Yarrow), Asclepias (Butterfly Weed), Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Coreopsis, Echinacea (Coneflower), Monarda (Bee Balm).
- Plant single rather than double blooming varieties as the nectar is more accessible in these forms.
- Plant your garden to provide continuous bloom as butterflies are active from early spring through fall. Aster, Helianthus, Sedum, Solidago, and Vernonia are perennials which provide a valuable source of nectar late in the season.
- Herbs are especially attractive to butterflies. Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, and Thyme provide not only a source of nectar but are also a favored host plant for butterfly eggs.
- Plant annuals among your perennials to ensure a continuous supply of nectar throughout the season. Excellent varieties include Cosmos, Lantana, Pentas (Star-cluster), French Marigold, and Zinnia.
For a successful butterfly garden you must make sure to include host species for the adults to lay their eggs on and which will provide food for the larvae or caterpillar stage. You must be willing to allow some plants to be eaten by caterpillars!
A - Buddleia 'Black Knight' (Butterfly Bush) - 6' tall, deep purple flowers, July-Frost (1 plant)
B - Rudbeckia 'Herbstonne' - 72", yellow, July-Oct. (1 plant)
C - Helianthus salicifolius - 60", bright yellow, July- Oct. (1 plant)
D - Echinacea 'Magnus' or other coneflower cultivar - 30"-36", pink, July-Sept. (3 plants)
E - Sedum 'Neon' or other tall Sedum cultivar - 24", vivid purple-pink, Aug-Oct. (1 plant)
F - Aster 'Purple Dome' - 18", deep purple, Sept-Oct (1 plant)
G - Monarda didyma (Bee-Balm) - 24"-30", various, July-Aug (1 plant)
H - Achillea 'Moonshine' (Yarrow) - 18", yellow, June-Oct (2 plants)
I - Nepeta faassinni 'Dropmore' (Catmint) - 18", blue, May-August. (1 plant)
J - Scabiosa 'Butterfly Blue' and/or 'Pink Mist' - 12", blue or pink, April-Nov. (3 plants)
K - Sedum cauticolum 'Lidakense' - 6" blue foliage, rose-pink, Aug-Oct. (3 plants)
Leave about 5' of space for plant A (2 1/2' on all sides of stem)
Space plants B and C - 30" apart
Space plants D through I - 24" apart
Space plants J and K - 15" apart
Consider adding a birdbath or stepping stones.
For added color and interest, tuck annuals into the front of the border and plant spring flowering bulbs between the perennials.