Butterflies are good for more than just beauty, they are one of the best pollinators for your garden. Check out how to attract butterflies to your garden.

How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

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Butterflies are good for more than just beauty, they are one of the best pollinators for your garden. Check out how to attract butterflies to your garden, and some excellent advice for beginning gardeners.

Flowers with butterflies on them, butterfly bush with a tiger swallowtail and a sunflower with a monarch

What plants attract butterflies

Butterflies need a place to lay their eggs, so you need host plants for their babies to survive. Monarch caterpillars eat milkweed, swallowtail caterpillars eat parsley, dill, and fennel. To attract the type of butterfly you want to see in your garden, plant the host plants for their offspring.

When you plant your host plant, make sure you realize the caterpillars are heavy feeders and they will eat plenty, sometimes decimating the entire crop. If you want to attract swallowtails and you want to eat fennel, plant A LOT! 

Adult butterflies also need food. They eat nectar. As they go from flower to flower eating nectar, they transfer pollen from one flower to the next pollinating your plants much as bees do. They are a great helper in garden productivity. And man, are they ever gorgeous! So, attract butterflies to your garden for more fun and learning. 

Plants that attract butterflies

Keep in mind you need a continuous source of nectar plants for your friends to enjoy, so plant native plants that bloom in succession. Just because you have flowers in spring, doesn’t mean the butterflies don’t need food for the rest of the growing season.

Some great nectar plants for a wide variety of butterflies include marigolds, nasturtiums, verbena, butterfly weed, and zinnias. 

monarch butterfly sipping nectar from pink zinnia in the garden

Perennials that attract butterflies

Perennials that attract butterflies are a good idea because they will bloom on their own yearly and you won’t have to replant. Plants that butterflies love include phlox, coneflower, lantana, blue star, black-eyed Susans, yarrow, aster, coreopsis, and lavender. 

Bushes that attract butterflies are cool because they usually bloom for a long period of time. Our butterfly bushes keep blooming from late spring to late fall. Rose of Sharon, firebush, summersweet, lilac, spicebush, bluebeard, and meadowsweet are great butterfly-attracting bushes for your butterfly garden. 

Watching butterflies is one of our favorite pastimes at Little Sprouts. One of my favorite butterfly stories is one day in the summer we were playing outside and I was talking to the kids. 

I raised my arm up to my side and was telling something very animated with my arm involved in the story when a butterfly flew right up and landed on my finger like I had cued it to do so. 

butterfly landing on a child's back in the butterfly garden

How to attract butterflies

One child was so amazed about that, for weeks every time we played outside he would stand there with his arm out waiting for it to happen again.  He begged me for years to tell him how I did that.  It was just a beautiful moment with nature through no fault of mine.  But a great memory for all of us. Another great reason to attract butterflies to your garden.

We have seen butterflies emerging from a chrysalis as brand new creatures, and have even spotted a butterfly laying her eggs. We saw her touching down and went over after she left and found the eggs. Also, we have watched eggs hatch, and watched chrysalises form. It’s an amazing life cycle. Planting a butterfly garden has a lot of benefits besides just for your flowers.

You and your kids can learn so much by watching the lifecycle, metamorphosis, and feeding habits of butterflies.  It’s a beautiful creature God created that is useful and glorious! In addition, butterflies are great pollinators for your flower and food gardens so they make your plants grow better.

monarch sipping nectar from flowers on butterfly bush

Butterfly nectar recipe

You can attract butterflies with fruit or sugar water as well. Just put out a plate with some overripe fruit, or some simple syrup, and butterflies will flock to your garden to enjoy it. Simple syrup is half water, half sugar, heated on the stove while stirring until dissolved.

Remember to let it cool before feeding it to butterflies. You can make it with 1/4 sugar and 3/4 water and feed it to your hummingbirds and butterflies in your garden. Just another way to attract butterflies to your garden. It’s the same recipe as hummingbird food.

You can also attract butterflies with chopped up old fruit on a plate. They love rotting fruit as well. Set some out and it will be covered with them.

If you are interested in learning to garden but don’t know where to begin, click here

If you don’t have enough pollinators, you can learn how to hand pollinate here until you get them to your space.

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  1. Beautiful! We get quite a few butterflies, but I haven’t noticed the caterpillars as much. The butterfly site is a great resource.

    1. Maybe they are just in an area where you don’t notice them rather than on your vegetable crops. Thanks so much for checking this out!