As you lay back and take a cool sip of refreshment, you may have noticed butterflies flitting about in the garden. Attracted to the nectar, butterflies are especially active during the summer, seeking sweet nectar from colorful flowers. Due to conservation efforts focused on preserving essential habitats, butterfly gardens have become popular features in many home gardens. In addition to being beautiful to watch, butterflies serve a variety of useful purposes, including pollination and pest control.
One important aspect of a butterfly garden is to cultivate native flowering plants, which will provide a safe haven for those lovely winged dwellers. By learning which plants can help attract butterflies, you will soon be able to support a flourishing habitat for these beneficial pollinators. One of the easiest ways to create a pollinator or butterfly garden is purchase a raised garden bed kit. It is simple and straightforward to assemble and allows you to effortlessly design your garden layout. For added visual interest, select a Cascading Raised Bed, which offers an elegant configuration for separating plants with different root or soil requirements.
A few tips...
Before you begin, it is important to keep in mind a few tips:
- Plant for continuous bloom to ensure that butterflies have a stable food source all season long.
- Refrain from using pesticides or insecticides near your butterfly garden, which can be lethal. Even organic pesticides such as neem oil may run the risk of killing butterflies or disrupt their feeding habits.
- The location of your butterfly garden should receive full sun and include water sources, such as puddling stations.
- If you seek to attract unusual or rare varieties, consider adding host plants that act as a food source for caterpillars.
- Tall plants should be situated in the back, while shorter ones should be near the front.
A plant in the mint family, bee balm is effective in attracting a wide range of butterflies, including silver-spotted skippers and fritillaries, though they are known best for attracting swallowtails. Featuring vibrant scarlet and magenta blooms, bee balm is a hardy and reliable perennial that grows in most regions. It is often considered an alternative to butterfly bush, which is invasive and should be avoided. A multipurpose plant that can also be grown in herb or tea gardens, its fragrant foliage has long been used in tea to relieve colds or flus.
Native to the prairies and open meadows, coneflowers are ubiquitous flowers that add a splash of color to a dull spot in the backyard. It attracts many different species of butterflies, including fritillaries, monarchs, painted ladies and swallowtails. Birds such as blue jays, cardinals, and goldfinches enjoy picking the seeds after the flowers have bloomed. With prickly stems that can grow to 4 ft tall, coneflowers are suitable for adding an elevated element to your garden.
An essential plant in butterfly gardens, milkweed plants are a critical food source for monarch caterpillars, whose toxins render them unpalatable to predators. Milkweed comes in three different species: common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly weed. Butterfly weed and swamp milkweed, which are highly ornamental and available in a variety of cultivars, are suggested. Tropical milkweed is to be avoided, as it is an invasive species that can be harmful to monarchs. While they are edible for caterpillars, milkweed sap is toxic to humans, and caution should be taken not to get the sap on your skin or eyes.
The maypop, or purple passionflower, attracts two exotic butterfly species – the rust-orange Gulf fritillary and the striking zebra longwing, which are commonly found in Florida and Texas. The unique structure of the passionflower beckons these species to lay their eggs, which feed exclusively on the leaves. The zebra longwing prefers shady locations, while the Gulf fritillary prefers sunny areas, making it beneficial to plant several plants in different locations with different shade requirements.
With their bright, floppy, disk-shaped flower heads, sunflowers are an attractive addition to a garden. It may come as a surprise to learn that sunflowers are a haven for migrating butterflies, as they do not resemble typical nectar producing flowers. However, they are rich in nectar and provide an ideal landing spot for a multitude of butterfly species, including painted ladies, monarchs, and various types of checkerspots and swallowtails. They are also a host plant for the American lady, bordered patch, and silvery checkerspot. For those seeking to attract monarch butterflies, the Mexican sunflower is a favorite.
Bluestar is an uncommon perennial with lovely, pale periwinkle flowers that attracts hummingbirds, bees, and various butterflies to visit. Native to the mid-western and southern states, bluestar grows in dense, billowy clusters and performs well in native gardens as ornamental borders. It is low-maintenance, disease, and insect resistant plant, making it suitable for beginners, though skilled gardeners will also benefit from growing them. Typically blooming from late spring to early summer, it is ideal for those that want to get an early start on their butterfly garden.
Blazing Star Flowers
A choice nectar plant for monarch butterflies, blazing star flowers derives its name from its tall, grass-like foliage and dense tufts of purple flowers, which can reach to 3 – 4 ft in height depending on soil quality. In addition to monarchs, it is also popular with painted ladies, silver spotted skippers, and hummingbirds. Plant these flowers in masses to attract numerous congregations of butterflies for a showy display.
Lavender is a staple in many gardens, with its aromatic properties attracting a variety of butterflies including cabbage white, hairstreak, monarch, sachem, and western tiger swallowtail. Often used in essential oils or potpourri, lavender adds a natural, calming scent to the garden that attracts beneficial insects and repels pests. It is a drought resistant plant that prefers hot weather. To retain optimal fragrance, lavender flowers should be harvested during early spring in early morning after the dew has evaporated.
Heliotrope bears an interesting name, with Old Greek origins, referring to an ancient belief of the flower’s tendency to turn and face the sun. An old-fashioned plant popular during the Victorian era, it has recently seen a revival in interest, due to its ability to attract beneficial pollinators and its pleasant smell. Its saturated five-lobed flowers depict purple and indigo blooms in tightly coiled clusters that complement its verdant, dark green leaves. Frequent visitors include red admirals, small tortoiseshells, skippers, and swallowtails.
While many flowers do not smell like their names, the chocolate cosmos does. Boasting a unique, chocolate scent and a maroon, velvety sheen, these striking flowers are native to Mexico, where they are resistant to harsh weather and scorching temperatures. Though they differ from other vibrantly colored flowers that attract pollinators, they do a good job bringing butterflies to the yard. They are also one of the rarest flowers in the world, as they are thought to be extinct in the wild. You can find chocolate cosmos available for a limited time at online flower catalogs, so keep an eye out.