Simple Green: Grow a Butterfly Garden

Simple Green: Grow a Butterfly Garden

Trent Johnson
Mar 25, 2009

Butterflies are not only beautiful and harmless creatures, but they also provide natural pest protection against destructive aphids, eat rotten fruit aiding in composting, pollinate flowering plants and are a food source for bats, birds and lizards. Here are a few simple steps to promote butterflies in your garden...

Summer and fall are the peak seasons for butterflies. The best and most obvious way to attract butterflies to your garden is by supplying plenty of colorful flowers. They don't care how organized or tidy your garden is — they're just in search of nectar for food. Native flowering plants are recommended to attract butterflies because those are what they're used to and will prefer.

Here are three important things to remember when promoting butterflies in your garden:

  • Provide a water source for butterflies. This can include a shallow dish that is filled with water and placed in the butterfly garden, or a mist sprayer set up to spray mist in the butterfly garden.
  • Use native plants. Native plants are best suited for the region where you live and are generally the easiest to maintain, and are the most likely source to attract butterflies.
  • This should be an obvious one, but don't use insecticides in your butterfly garden. Insecticides not only kill "pests" but also kill the butterflies and caterpillars you wish to attract.

The North American Butterfly Association's regional garden guides provides an impressive list of native and non-native plants for attracting butterflies, but some of the most attractive plants to butterflies are milkweed or parsley.

And don't forget about their different life stages! Dandelions, violets, clover and even crabgrass are excellent caterpillar food plants.

Below is list of host and nectar plants, a place for caterpillars to setup shop and plants which will feed them in their later life stage as a butterfly.


  • willow

  • poplar

  • elm

  • birch

  • hackberry

  • hawthorn

  • fruit trees

  • almond

  • fir

  • Southern magnolia


  • viburnum

  • lilac

  • cotoneaster

  • spirea

  • mallow

  • cinquefoil

  • butterfly bush

  • sweet mock orange


  • ageratum

  • sweet alyssum

  • bachelor's button

  • bee balm

  • hollyhock

  • nasturtium

  • clover

  • sweet pea

  • milkweed

  • thistle

  • mallow

  • rue

  • parsley

  • dill

  • fennel

  • Queen Ann's lace

  • coneflower (Echinacea)

  • penstemon

  • nicotiana

  • cosmos

  • marygold

  • dianthus

  • delphinium

Resources and Inspiration:
Denver Post: How to Grow a Butterfly Garden
EHow: How to promote a butterfly garden
North American Butterfly Association

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