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Butterfly Plants

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Butterfly Plants attract beautiful butterflies to your garden

Butterflies are such a delight and they can even help pollinate flowers, but they won’t just visit any old garden. If you want to attract butterflies to your garden you’ve got to provide food, water and habitat for the adult butterflies as well as the caterpillar larvae. By choosing butterfly-attracting plants and plants that their caterpillars like to munch on from this selection of butterfly plants, you’ll be well on your way to attracting an array of delightful butterflies to your garden.

Butterfly Plants are known for having bright color blooms

If you want to attract butterflies to your garden, follow these simple steps:

  1. Stop using pesticides. In particular, don’t use malathion, Sevin or diazinon as these are known to kill butterflies.
  2. Grow some native plants. Native butterflies have evolved to feed and lay their eggs on native plants so they’re often the best choices when it comes to butterfly-attracting plants.
  3. Grow plants that provide food for the adult butterflies. Growing native plants is important but you also have to make sure you’re growing the specific plants that butterflies like to feed from.
  4. Grow plants that feed the caterpillars. Butterflies will seek out plants that they need for food but they’ll also want to hang out around plants that will suit their larvae so you need plants for both life stages if you want continuously attract butterflies to your garden.
  5. Grow flowers with the right colors. Butterflies prefer bright colors, especially red, orange, yellow, pink and purple.
  6. Grow flowers that are the right shape. Butterflies need flowers that either have a short flowering tube or are flat at the top.
  7. Create butterfly zones. Butterflies feed in the sun so make sure you plant butterfly-attracting plants in sunny spots. Placing attractive rocks in these spots will also give butterflies somewhere to rest. Importantly, butterflies need water to drink and they also enjoy ‘puddling’ where they fossick around in mud or damp sand. If you can include shallow dishes of water and damp patches of sand or mud in these zones, you’ll have created the perfect space for butterflies to hang out in.

Butterfly Plants include Milkweek, Goose Berry, Blueberry, and many more

So now you know how to attract butterflies to your garden, which plants should you grow? Here’s a list of butterfly-attracting plants and caterpillar host plants. In brackets next to each plant is the butterfly (or butterflies) that are most strongly attracted by the plant.

  • milkweed (Monarch butterflies)
  • gooseberry (Gray Comma butterflies)
  • blueberry (Henry’s Elfin butterflies)
  • grasses (Woodland Skipper butterflies)
  • lobelia (a wide variety of butterflies)
  • Japanese honeysuckle (Baltimore Checkerspot butterflies, Swallowtail butterflies, Hemaris difficult and Hemaris thysbe)
  • Echinacea (a wide variety of butterflies)
  • Touch me not (Netted Carpet Moth)
  • Bee balm Monarda (a wide variety of butterflies but especially Swallowtail butterflies)
  • Dove’s Foot geranium (Cacyreus marshalli, Brown Argus butterfly)
  • Siberian iris (a variety of butterflies)

Pro tip:

Milkweed is the only source of food for the monarch butterfly so grow this if you'd like to attract monarch butterflies.

Pro tip:

Caterpillars eat leaves. This may sound obvious but sometimes when people decide they want to attract butterflies to their garden, they overlook the fact that this means that caterpillars will chew holes in plant leaves. This can make certain plants or areas of your garden look a little untidy.

If this bothers you, there are steps you can take to overcome the issue while still attracting butterflies to your garden. For example, you can plant other plants that the caterpillars don’t like to eat in front of the caterpillar host plants so that no one can see the host plant. If you do this, just make sure you plant the butterflies’ food plants in full view so you have the best chance of seeing the butterflies.

The Many Advantages Of Planting Butterfly Plants
Numerous environmental challenges, including habitat loss and toxins, don't make it easy to be a butterfly these days. Property owners can help by planting vegetation that are food sources for these insects. These plants don't just provide nourishment for butterflies in both their larval and adult stages. The beautiful blooms of these plants also attract hummingbirds and other useful insects, as well as enhance the appearance of properties. But not just any flower is a "butterfly plant." Read on to learn more about some that do attract these insects, and what is required to grow them.

Bee Balm (Monarda)

This plant is also commonly known as bergamot, monarda, and Oswego tea. As its name indicates, bees and other pollinating animals find their blossoms attractive. Reaching heights anywhere from one to eight feet and two feet in width, bee balm's flowers have multiple petals than come in an array of vivid colors. These hues range from white to scarlet, and the plant has striking blue, green foliage. Bee balm is a late-blooming plant, with flowers visible in summer through early autumn. This is a drought, deer, and rabbit resistant plant that requires little maintenance.

Bee balm falls within the 3-9 range of the USDA growing chart. Although it can survive dry times, it prefers regular moisture when possible. The plant does best in full sunlight, and grows and spreads quickly. The plant is susceptible to some disease and mildew strains. Fortunately, horticulturists have developed several new bee balm varieties over the last decade that is both beautiful and disease resistant.

Marigolds (Tagetes patula)

Properly known as "French marigolds," this beautiful and familiar garden staple both attracts pollinators and repels an infamous garden predator. Marigolds like lots of sunlight, are drought and deer resistant and do as well in containers as they do in yards. The plant grows to a height of six to ten inches, and generally is ten inches in diameter. Marigolds proliferate and do well in clusters. They should be "dead-headed" in late summer to help conserve growing energy. Marigolds should be monitored and treated for mildew in dry summers as well. Marigolds have blooms in vivid hues of gold, orange, and red. The plant grows within the USDA's 9-11 "hardy" zone, and often blossoms until there is frost. Marigolds also produce chemicals that repel nematodes, a notorious garden pest.

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)

Initially, from the Middle East and prominently mentioned in the Bible, this tall plant attracts many birds and butterflies. A tall plant that can grow from one to eight feet, the hyssop is two to three feet in diameter. It blooms in the summer and early fall and produces spiky blooms that range from pale blue to fuchsia in color. The hyssop falls within the USDA growing range of 4-10. Because of its desert origins, this is a plant that likes full sunlight and needs little water. And while some animals like the hyssop, deer are not among them. This is also a great container plant, with several varieties.