How to Attract Butterflies

How to Attract Butterflies

Gardening to attract butterflies - the flying flowers that everyone loves!

"The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough."  ~Rabindranath Tagore

Every year when the weather warms up I am delighted by the arrival of the many different butterflies that visit my garden.  They are so beautiful…like flying flowers! Such a fanciful image inspired me to envision every home, business, retirement home – EVERYBODY EVERYWHERE - having a butterfly garden.  Imagine…all of our communities covered in colorful butterflies! 

Monarch catepillar feeding on milkweed


The Lifecycle of a Butterfly


A butterfly has an amazing life cycle.  Starting as a tiny egg, it transforms into a hungry caterpillar, changes again into a seemingly dormant chrysalis, finally to emerge as a gorgeous winged creature in just a few weeks. 

Attracting these enchanting visitors to your garden is easy. When Mother Nature provides warm temperatures of at least 50 degrees, all you need to do is provide the right host plants (this is where the butterflies lay their eggs, and the caterpillar babies feed on the leaves), nectar plants (this is where the adult butterflies eat) and water.


Providing Plants that Butterflies Thrive On


There are many great butterfly plants.  Your primary focus should be on host plants, upon which butterflies lay their eggs and caterpillars feed.  Each specie of butterfly requires a specific type of plant for its caterpillars to eat.  A caterpillar will starve to death before it eats any plant other than its specific type of host plant.  My favorite host plants are Dill and Fennel (to attract Eastern Black Swallowtails), Milkweed (Monarchs and Queens), Passion Vine (Gulf Fritillaries and Variegated Fritillaries), and A. fimbriata or A. tomentosa Pipevines (for Pipevine Swallowtails). For a full list of all the exciting possibilities, read the Butterfly Host Plant List from the Dallas Lepidopterists’ Society.


butterfly host plants


Most summertime butterflies live only one or two weeks, during which they focus on eating and finding a mate. Butterflies feed on nectar from flowers. The more variety of nectar flowers in your garden, the more butterflies you will see.  Nectar plants are the supermarkets for the adult butterflies.  Butterflies will not come to your garden if you do not have a supermarket for them.  My favorite nectar plants are Lantana (Lantana camara 'Miss Huff' is my NUMBER ONE pick!, or Lantana urticoides), Tall Verbena (verbena bonariensis), Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'), Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia), Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii), all the Milkweeds, Tall Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata 'John Fanick'), and Profussion Zinnias. With a wide variety of nectar plants in your garden, you will enjoy a live butterfly show every day!


Nectar Plants


Read more about butterflies in The Life Cycles of Butterflies by Judy Burris.  Or visit Texas Discovery Gardens and check their calendar of events.  Imagine…your garden brimming with beautiful butterflies, or walking out of your office for a break with the butterflies! 

Happy Gardening!