How to Grow a Butterfly Garden

Want to attract more beautiful butterflies to your garden? Here’s how to create a hospitable environment for your butterfly garden…

There’s just something magical about butterflies, isn’t there? Flitting around, with their beautiful bright colors and short lifespan, butterflies just add something special to the garden. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, you need to create a habitat where they will thrive. This includes growing plants they love, as well as setting up your garden to be more inviting to them in general.

Below are a few things you’ll need to design your very own butterfly garden:

Sun: Warmth

Most butterflies like a sunny place to soak up some rays (they are cold-blooded), plus most nectar-rich flowers like sun too, so pick a site for your butterfly garden that gets the morning sun and at least 8 hours of full sun a day. Even the rays of the Arizona sun aren’t too warm for butterflies to hatch.

Flowers: Candy is Dandy

The simplest butterfly gardens are just flower gardens full of flowers adult butterflies like to sip sweet nectar from. This kind of butterfly garden is a “candy” garden: fun to look at, offering sweet snacks to adult butterflies. But sometimes, candy is dandy, so if attracting butterflies to watch flitting around is your aim, this garden will suit you just fine. Choose flowering plants you like to look at and select a variety so that there will always be something in bloom (plants that bloom late spring through fall are ideal). Old fashioned single varieties are often better nectar sources than very double ones are.


Food for a Family: Lovely Leaves!

Flowers are fun, but when a butterfly is ready to lay eggs she looks for the perfect plant with leaves that will nourish her baby caterpillars. A few kinds of caterpillars aren’t too picky about what they munch, but many are highly specific and without exactly the right (usually native) plants, there will be no new butterflies to enjoy. Give them what they need, however, and they will make your yard a home.

One example you are probably familiar with of a butterfly that needs a specific plant for its caterpillars to eat is the Monarch: Monarch caterpillars eat milkweeds, including the showy orange Butterfly weed (Asclepius tuberosa), common milkweed (A. syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnate) and others (check which species are native in your area and plant those).

Water: Puddle Station

Butterflies don’t need a lot of water but will sip from a birdbath if you put a few rocks in it for them to alight on, or you can make a butterfly puddle station by putting a shallow pan in the shade, filling it with clean sand, and keeping it full of water. This is also great for bees, who make a big difference in the success of your garden!


A note about plants, insecticides, and butterflies: Many insecticides, even organic ones, will kill adult butterflies and/or caterpillars (baby butterflies), so avoid using them in your butterfly garden. It is also important to either grow your own plants from seed or buy plants that were raised organically or at least by a nursery that does not use systemic insecticides (long-lasting man-made chemicals that get inside the cells of the plant and remain there for months). Amazon has many plants free of these here.  Visit this site to find a list of other retailers that have pledged not to sell plants treated with neonicotinoids, one of the most insidious of the synthetic insecticides.

To learn more about butterfly gardening, plus find a list of plants butterflies love, visit


Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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