Attracting Butterflies to Your Yard

Butterflies can be a beautiful, fascinating, colorful addition to your backyard habitat!

Sadly, many butterflies have lost their favorite feeding spots and breeding grounds to human development. Areas that have not been built up may instead be poisoned with deadly pesticides. By inviting butterflies into your yard, you can help them feed, breed, and flourish.

It can be very easy to attract butterflies to your yard. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Food for caterpillars — after all, that’s where butterflies come from! Caterpillars have chewing mouths and like to eat leaves and stems.
  • Food for butterflies. Butterflies have sucking mouths and like to sip nectar or tree sap.
  • Sunshine. Try to plant your butterfly garden in a place that gets at least five hours of sunlight daily.
  • Shelter from the wind. If your body was mostly wing, would you want to sit in a strong breeze all day? Protection from the wind gives butterflies a chance to relax and eat.
  • A mud puddle in a sunny spot. This will provide water and essential minerals for your fluttering guests.

You can keep your butterfly garden attracting guests from spring through fall if you pick plants that bloom at different times.

  • Common plants that caterpillars like to eat include: carrot, various grasses, parsley, sunflowers, verbena, violets, clover, lilac, fennel, and cabbage.
  • Common trees that caterpillars like to eat include: alder, aspen, cherry, apple, willow, poplar, sassafras, and some oaks.
  • Common plants that butterflies like to eat include: mints, hibiscus, mums (chrysanthemums), honeysuckle, snapdragons, lavender, thistle, black-eyed Susan, cosmos and other daisies, daylilies, marigolds, and zinnia.

Not sure what will grow best in your backyard habitat? Ask around. Talk to the folks at your local garden center — they can help you pick plants that will thrive in your yard AND attract winged visitors. “Flying flowers” will make your backyard habitat all the more beautiful… and you’ll be helping the species survive and thrive.