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How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

To attract butterflies to your garden, you need the flowers that produce the nectar that butterflies drink. Nectar is the butterfly’s main source of food. To raise butterflies in your garden you need to grow the plants that caterpillars eat.

A butterfly garden needs:

  • Host plants for caterpillars.
  • Nectar plants for adults.
  • Abundant sunshine.
  • Wet sand or mud puddles in shady nooks.
  • Shelter from high winds.
  • An environment kept healthy through the absence of insecticides.

Baby butterflies (caterpillars)

Placing caterpillar foods into your garden will greatly increase your chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies.

Plants that provide food for caterpillars

  • Milkweeds (Asclepias syriaca, A.incarnata, A.speciosa)
  • Passion Vine (Passiflora spp.)
  • Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea)
  • Wild Senna (Cassia spp.)
  • Pipevines (Aristolochia)
  • Carrot (Daucus carota)
  • Fennel(Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)
  • Wild Lilacs (Ceanothus spp.)
  • Wild Plums and Cherries (Prunus spp.)
  • Buckthorns (Rhamnus spp.)
  • Ashes (Fraxinus spp.)
  • Hop-tree (Ptelea trifoliata)
  • Aspens and Willows (Salix spp.)
  • Poplars (Populus spp.)
  • Sage (Artemisia spp.)
  • Poplar(Poplus spp.)
  • Wild Lime (Zanthoxylum)
  • Citrus (Ruta spp.)
  • Carrot (Daucus carota)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Adult Butterflies

Adult butterflies love nectar from flowers. The more nectar you have in your garden, the more butterflies you will see. Some flowers contain more nectar. Flowers that contain lots of nectar will be most effective in attracting butterflies. Flower color is also important to attracting butterflies. Butterflies are near-sighted and are more easily attracted to large stands of a particular color.

Tips to attract butterflies:

  • Adult butterflies will stay in your garden for longer periods of time if you have plants for them to lay their eggs on.
  • Patches of plants that flower at the same time are more attractive to butterflies than a single plant with a few flowers.
  • Avoid or minimize the use of insecticides and herbicides.
  • Plant your flowers in sunny places and provide some rocks or stone walls where they can "bask" in the morning to warm up.
  • Provide a few sheltered areas, like shrubbery or brush piles to protect them from wind and rain, and provide caterpillars a nice place to pupate.
  • Plant more than one source of nectar. Planting a variety of nectar sources will encourage more butterflies to visit the garden.

Nectar bearing plants that usually attract adult butterflies

  • Asters (Aster spp.)
  • Bee balm (Monarda)
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii)
  • Butterfly plant (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Bush cinquefolia (Potentilla fruticosa)
  • Cosmos (Cosmos spp.)
  • Gaillardia (Gaillardia spp.)
  • Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
  • Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
  • Ornamental thistles
  • Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus)
  • Sunflower (Helianthus spp.)
  • Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus)
  • Verbena (Verbena spp.)
  • Zinnias (Zinnia spp.)

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