Basic butterfly gardening is fun and rewarding! You don’t need a big garden to attract these beautiful creatures, but you DO need certain elements to invite them to visit.
Butterflies prefer a warm, sunny location and eat nectar from a variety of flowers. It is important to provide nectar sources throughout the season, and autumn is especially important for migrating Monarchs. Annual plants are great choices as they bloom continuously, thus providing a continuous supply of nectar. Favorite annuals include lantana, pentas, verbena, zinnia, heliotrope, and marigold. Perennials also provide nectar, and selecting varieties that bloom at different times will ensure steady nectar sources. Black-eyed Susan, Echinacea, Milkweed, Liatris, Aster and Sedum are among the perennial favorites. Butterflies are attracted to clusters of color so keep similar shades together.
To continue the butterfly lifecycle you can also include host plants in your garden. A host plant is that which feeds caterpillars, and each species has its own host plants. Monarchs use milkweed exclusively, while Buckeyes use verbena and snapdragons, and some species share plants like the Black Swallowtail and Giant Swallowtail which eat rue. It is important to note that butterfly species differ from region to region, and their host plants may differ as well.
To learn more about which butterflies are indigenous to your area visit Butterflies and Moths and go to Map Search. Information from host plant preferences to habitat are included with each species listed.
A final consideration in planning your garden is to NEVER use pesticides.
For more information see these websites:
NABA (North American Butterfly Association) produces “Butterfly Gardener” 4x a year