Butterfly Gardening5/25/2012




Sweet Summer Memories!


This morning in contemplation of writing this blast, my mind drifted back to my childhood and those carefree summer days playing with my friends.  Whenever I see a butterfly, my mind can’t help but to go back to Jimmy and Billy’s backyard fort.  Boys being boys, they forbid girls to enter with a few exceptions when they wanted to show off their prized butterfly collection.  On those rare occasions when I got to see the butterflies I had mixed feelings;  sure I thought they were beautiful, but the thought of capturing a butterfly and then putting it under glass just so you could see them whenever you wanted, never quite held the same mystique of capturing a moment when they were in flight.


If you are like me and want to sit and enjoy the flight of the butterfly in your own back yard, then you may enjoy plantings that attract the butterflies of all kinds.  Here are some tips to creating a great butterfly friendly yard:


1.        Plant your garden in full sun - flowering plants need sun to make food for themselves and the nectar for butterflies.  Butterflies also need sun to warm their bodies for flight.


2.       Plant butterfly-attracting flower s - Butterflies are attracted to flowers with strong scents and bright flowers where they drink sweet, energy-rich nectar. 


3.       Include Host Plants in your garden - Butterflies lay their eggs on host plants that the emerging caterpillars will eat.  The sight of a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis will more than make up for the chewed leaves.


4.       Use colorful plants.  Butterflies see more colors than humans do.  They seem to prefer red, orange, yellow, purple and dark pink.  A large, colorful garden is easy for butterflies to find and encourages them to stay longer.


5.       Don’t use chemical pesticides.  Pesticides kill butterflies, caterpillars and other useful insects.  Instead try planting marigolds, petunias, mint and other herbs that naturally repel pests.  Encourage ladybugs and dragonflies to dine in your garden, wash pests away with insecticidal soap.


In short – some plants that attract a variety of butterflies include:   Butterfly Bush, Marigolds, coneflowers, Heliotrope, butterfly weed and zinnias.  The table below shows more detailed regarding butterfly type, their host plant and nectar plants.  


I hope your plantings bring back happy childhood memories for you as well.



Host Plants

Nectar Plants

Black Swallowtail

Parsley, Dill

Heliotrope, Joe-Pye Weed, Lantana, Liatris, Marigold, New England Aster, Oregano, Oriental Lilies, Petunia, Phlox, Privet, Purple Coneflower, Tickseed Sunflower, Verbena, Zinnia

Checkered Skipper

Hollyhock and Mallow

Globe Amaranth, New England Aster, Showy Coneflower

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Sycamore Tree

Blue Cardinal Flower, Butterfly Bush, Butterfly weed, Garlic Chives, Common Milkweed,



Blue Cardinal Flower, Butterfly Bush, Butterfly Weed, Common Milkweed, Globe Amaranth, Heliotrope, Joe-Pye Weed, Lantana, Marigold, New England Aster, Oriental Lililes, Showy Coneflower, Zinnia

Morning Cloak

Willow, Aspen, Elm, Cottonwood


Painted Lady

Thistle, Hollyhock

Butterfly Bush, Common Milkweed, Cosmos, Heliotrope, Marigod, New England Aster, Purple Coneflower, Zinnia

Question Mark, Red Admiral

Nettle, Elm

Globe Amaranth, Mist Flower, White clover, Butterfly Bush, Heliotrope, Garlic Chives, Privet

Red Spotted Purple

Willow, Oak, Poplar, Hawthorn


Spicebush Swallowtail

Spice Bush

Butterfly Bush, Delphinium, Cosmos, Lantana, Oriental Lilies, Phlox, Privet

Two-tailed Swallowtail

Green Ash, Chokeberry


Variegated Fritillary


Black-eyed usan, Butterfly bush, globe amaranth, marigold, new England aster, oregano, zinnia


Apple, Poplar, Willow