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How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

butterfly gardening how to attract butterflies monarchs pollinator gardening

It doesn't take much to create a butterfly-friendly garden! Try these quick tips for fast results:

  1. Butterflies prefer red, yellow, orange, pink, or purple blossoms and need flat-topped, clustered, or short-tubed flowers so they can get at the nectar. A few good choices: Zinnia, Purple Coneflower; Lantana; and Coreopsis.
  2. Butterflies also need native plants for all life stages – eggs, caterpillars, and new emerging butterflies are adapted to thrive with plants most likely found in their area. This is one reason Milkweed is so crucial to the Monarch migration. When planning the garden, combine plants for continuous bloom so butterflies will always find a food source.
  3. Always avoid using chemicals (or choosing plants treated with chemicals such as neonicotinoids). These are toxic to many caterpillars and they will not survive once the eggs hatch.
  4. Plant a variety of other flowers (and herbs) they can’t resist: Butterfly Bush; Sweet Alyssum; Wisteria; Hollyhocks; Sweet William; Red Bee Balm; Borage; Lavender; Chives; Allium; Phlox; and Butterfly Weed. These will call them in and they will stop by all your plants (pollinating each time!)
  5. Butterflies love the sun! They need to warm their wings for flight and will happily sit on a flat rock in the sun to rest and warm up. They also generally prefer feeding in full sun during the heat of the day (from mid-morning to mid-afternoon).
  6. Give them something to drink. Have you ever seen a group of butterflies gathered on wet sand or mud? They are extracting minerals and drinking water. You can recreate this by placing a layer of coarse sand in the shallow container (terracotta trays work well); keep the sand moist; and place where you see butterflies. Make sure to keep the sand moist but not submerged.
  7. Resist the urge to clean out gardens in the Fall. Many caterpillars overwinter in a chrysalis so if you remove tall plants, you may also be taking with you the chrysalis. In addition, birds love to peck away at left over seeds during the winter so you’re helping other wildlife.

Want more great ideas on butterfly gardening? Visit your region's Extension office or website for Zone-specific suggestions. One website we really love is the Clemson Cooperative Extension, found here.

Interested in adding butterfly-friendly plants to your garden? We still have some left! Those can be found here.



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