Butterflies are arguably one of the most beautiful features of a summer garden. There’s something very relaxing about watching butterflies flit around the yard. But how can you attract butterflies to your garden? Butterflies subsist on nectar, the sugary solution that many flowers make for the sole purpose of attracting pollinators--animals that fertilize the flowers by inadvertently transporting pollen from flower to flower while feeding. Although there are butterfly feeders and prepared nectar solutions widely available, it is easier and cheaper to attract butterflies naturally, with plants.
There are many easy-to-grow perennial plants that come back year after year, so only need to be planted once that butterflies love. Most plants that attract butterflies do need full or at least partial sun, so should be planted in a sunny area of the yard that is easy to view. Be careful not to apply pesticides to pollinator-attracting plants. These poisons can be deadly to butterflies and caterpillars.
Here are just a few butterfly attracting plants that are easy to find, easy to grow, and that bloom throughout most of the growing season.
Purple Coneflower: Shown in the photo above, this purple flower is a wildflower native to U.S., and is a common perennial sold in nurseries. This plant can grow to nearly 40”, is extremely hardy and drought resistant, has a long bloom time, and requires little care; a perfect low-maintenance nectar producer.
Butterfly Bush: Butterfly bushes are woody and tall (can reach more than 5 feet in height) so requires some space and at least partial sun. Butterfly bushes produce cone-shaped bunch composed of tiny flowers.
Butterfly Weed: I know what you’re thinking…a weed? I fight to keep weeds out of my garden! This perennial is another type of wildflower that can tolerate poor soil, so it is hardy and easy to grow. Preferring full sun, these plants grow to a height of 18 – 36” and produce bunches of bright orange flowers throughout spring and summer.
There are many more plants, in a wide range of heights and colors, which attract butterflies. Some other choices include salvia, verbena, marigolds, lavender, asters, bee balm, blueberries, goldenrod, lilacs, yarrow and azaleas. For additional helpful information about butterflies and creating a butterfly garden see How to Create a Butterfly Garden and Basic Facts About Butterflies.