Attracting Butterflies to Your Garden

Creating your own butterfly garden is a very rewarding experience in so many ways. It provides you and your family a serene and tranquil setting to unwind after a hard day\’s work or the weekend, watching these butterflies fluttering around going from flower to flower collecting nectar.

Butterflies are attracted to two different types of plants. These include plants that provide nectar for adult butterflies and those that provide food for caterpillars. Each area has its own native butterfly species so planting the right type of plant will attract the right type of butterflies, as well as encourage the butterflies to propagate within your garden. Be mindful though to control the amount of caterpillars in your garden. You don\’t want to end up with a garden over ridden by caterpillars chomping down on your plants.

Flowering period

Choose plants that will flower for a longer period of time. It works even better if the flowers emit a fragrance. Large blossom flowers like snapdragons, hibiscus, impatiens, geraniums, marigolds, calendula, phlox and yellow sage are recommended as they give butterflies full wide access to their nectar.


Cultivate these plants in a sunny location that gets at least 5 to 6 hours of sunlight each day. Ensure that this area is also sheltered from strong winds. Butterflies like to flutter around areas that receive lots of sunlight but it would be a turn off for them to have to fight the wind in order to stay on the plants. Also consider laying some flat stones in a sunny location that will allow the butterflies to take a break as they bask in the sun.

Tip: Do not use pesticides in your butterfly garden. Butterflies are insects too so the poison that kills insects will also kill them.

The below table features the more common types of butterflies with their host and nectar plants (From:


Host Plant for Caterpillar

Nectar Flower Choice

American Painted Lady

Everlasting, Daisy, Burdock

Aster, Dogbane, Mallow, Goldenrod, Vetch, Privet

American Snout


Aster, Dogbane, Dogwood, Goldenrod, Pepperbush

Anise Swallowtail

Queen Anne\’s Lace

Buddleia, Joe Pye Weed

Baltimore Checkerspot

Turtlehead, False Foxglove, Plantain

Milkweed, Viburnum, Wild Rose

Black Swallowtail

Parsley, Dill, Fennel

Aster, Buddleia, Joe Pye Weed, Alfalfa

Clouded Sulphur


Goldenrod, Grape Hyacinth, Marigold

Cloudless Sulphur

Cassia, Apple, Clover

Zinnia, Butterfly Bush, Cosmos, Cushion Mum


Elm, Hops, Nettle

Butterfly Bush, Dandelion

Common Buckeye

Snapdragon, Loosestrife


Common Checkered Skipper


Shepherd\’s needles, Fleabane, Aster, Red Clover

Common Sulphur


Aster, Dogbane, Goldenrod

Common Wood-nymph

Purpletop Grass

Purple Coneflower

Eastern Pygmy Blue


Salt Bush

Eastern Tailed Blue

Clover, Peas


Falcate Orangetip

Rock Cress, Mustard

Mustard, Strawberry, Chickweed, Violet

Giant Swallowtail


Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia

Gorgone Checkerspot


Sunflower, Goldenrod

Gray Hairstreak

Mallow/Hollyhock, Clover, Alfalfa

Thistle, Ice Plant

Great Spangled Fritillary


Thiste, Black-eyed Susan, Milkweed, Ironweed

Greater Fritillary


Joe Pye Weed

Gulf Fritillary

Pentas, Passion-vine

Joe Pye Weed

Hackberry Emperor

Hackberry Emperor

Sap, Rotting fruit, Dung, Carrion

Little Glassywing

Purpletop Grass

Dogbane, Zinnia

Little Yellow

Cassia, Clover




Dogbane, Buddleia

Mourning Cloak

Willow, Elm, Poplar, Birch, Nettle, Wild Rose

Butterfly Bush, Milkweed, Shasta Daisy, Dogbane

Orange Sulphur

Vetch. Alfalfa, Clover

Alfalfa, Aster, Clover, Verbena

Orange-barred Sulphur


Many plants

Painted Lady

Thistle, Daisy, Mallow/Hollyhock, Burdock

Aster, zinnia

Pearl Crescent



Pipevine Swallowtail

Dutchman\’s Pipe, Pipevine


Polydamus Swallowtail





Stonecrop, Clover, Aster, Dandelion, Goldenrod, Mallow

Red-spotted purple

Black Cherry, Willow, Poplar

Privet, poplar

Silver-spotted Skipper

Black Locust, Wisteria

Dogbane, Privet, Clover, Thistle, Winter Cress

Silvery Checkerspot


Cosmos, Blanket Flower, Marigold, Phlox, Zinnia

Sleepy Orange

Cassia, Clover

Blue Porter, Beggar Tick, Aster

Spicebush Swallowtail

Spicebush, Sassafras

Dogbane, Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia

Spring Azure

Dogwood, Viburnum, Blueberry, Spirea, Apple

Blackberry, Cherry, Dogwood, Forget-me-not, Holly

Tawny Emperor


Tree sap, Rotting fruit, Dung, Carrion

Tiger Swallowtail

Black Cherry, Birch, Poplar, Willow

Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia

Variegated Fritillary

Violet, Passion Vine

Joe Pye weed


Willow, Poplar, Fruit Trees

Thistle, Beggar-tick, Goldenrod, Milkweed

Western Tailed Blue

Clover, Peas


White Admiral

Birch, Willow, Poplar, Honeysuckle

Aphid Honeydew, Bramble Blossom

Zabulon Skipper

Purpletop Grass

Blackberry, Vetch, Milkweed, Buttonbush,Thistle

Zebra Longwing


Verbena, Lantana, Shepard\’s Needle

Zebra Swallowtail


Dogbane, Joe Pye Weed, Buddleia, Privet, Blueberry

Creating attractive incentives for butterflies

Make your own butterfly feeder.

Fruits like bananas, watermelon or pineapples attract butterflies. Cut these fruits up and place them on a wire mesh supported on a high platform. Change them everyday or two. Swallowtails, Painted Ladies and Fritillaries are attracted to a fruit station such as this.


Butterflies drink too! Fill a pot (you can use terracotta of even just a simple shallow pot) with pebbles and fill it with water right up to about an inch above the pebble surface. Don\’t have a pot? Use an old Frisbee. Turn it up side down and do the same as you did with the pot (i.e. filling it with pebbles and water).

Nesting for Eggs

As mentioned above, butterflies are also attracted to plants that can host their eggs. Read on the table provided above to know what type of plant is suitable for the listed butterflies.

Knowing which plant to choose in order to get the right type of butterflies to your garden will ensure proper pollination of the plants that you want. Having the knowledge of that correct type of butterflies in your area also increases this chance of attracting these beautiful creatures.

A garden filled with butterfly brings much joy and serenity to the home garden. Observing these beautiful creatures in setting that was created by you is a very rewarding experience not just for you, but for your family and the environment as well. Butterflies are like chicken soup for the soul, providing you with hours of tranquility and relaxation.

More Reading:

Creating a Butterfly garden

Butterfly gardening

Butterfly gardening:

Sally Roth; Oct 24, 2002; Attracting Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Backyard: Watch Your Garden Come Alive With Beauty on the Wing