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29, Sep
How to design a butterfly garden

Today we will tell you about the necessary steps to create a butterfly garden.

Read first. Find out what butterfly species are specific to your region. Observing for a few days and using a butterfly field guide will help you along.

Choose “host plants” for your garden. Remember from your research what the caterpillars (larvae) of native butterflies eat. Here are two great examples:

  • Molochaisum – attracts caterpillars of the danaida monarch butterfly.
  • Parsley – attracts caterpillars of the swallowtail butterfly.

Choose “nectar plants” for your garden. Nectar plants are a good food source for butterflies. There are a variety of possible plants and some of them are shown below. The best possible options are:

  • Buddleia – suitable for swallowtails. This is a large plant: 4 feet (1.2 m) tall, 6 feet (1.8 m) wide. Make sure it is winter hardy enough for your area. Some varieties of this plant are considered invasive, so if you buy it, make sure you prune its shoots properly to prevent seeds.
  • Meaty red cottonwood is a good fit for a wireworm. This plant grows up to 3 feet (0.9 m) tall and 18 inches (0.5 m) wide. It also serves as a host plant for the caterpillars of the Danaida monarch butterfly.
  • Eutrochium is suitable for swallowtail. It grows into a very large plant – 8 feet (2.4 m) tall and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide. It is a perennial plant.
  • Aster – Asters grow up to 3 feet (0.9 m) tall and 2 feet (0.6 m) wide. They are perennials. Butterflies are especially fond of the native, natural varieties.
  • Monarda – This plant grows to 2 feet (0.6 m) tall and 18 inches (0.5 m) wide. It is perennial.
  • Cinnia – This plant is attractive to several species of butterflies, and they especially like its tall varieties. The plant usually grows up to 4 feet (1.2 m) tall and 1 foot (0.3 m) wide. It is an annual and grows easily from seed.
  • Pentas lanceolatum is suitable for swallowtail. This plant grows to 2 feet (0.6 m) tall and 3 feet (0.9 m) wide. In cold climates, it is an annual.
  • Heliotrope – This plant attracts many butterflies. It grows up to 2 feet (0.6 m) tall and 1 foot (0.3 m) wide, though it can grow in a pot. It is a perennial plant in temperate areas, but an annual in cold climates.

Make a garden on paper. Draw a plan, or decide where to add the above plants to your existing garden. Be aware of the size of the plants that have grown as early as the planting stage. Also consider their light and water needs.

Buy seeds and plants from a garden store. You can also order plants and seeds online. Choose plants that are strong and healthy so that they will take a good root.

Plant your butterfly garden. Be sure to water the planted seeds and plants until the plants take root and the seeds germinate. Keep the seeds in a separate niche so they have a good chance to germinate.

Watch for butterflies and enjoy their presence in your garden. Watch for female butterflies laying eggs on host plants. Record butterfly observations in a notebook. You can also add pictures there. A digital notebook is the best and easiest solution, and you can add information to it for years. Observations of changes in species and the number of butterflies that come to your garden can be useful for biologists, ecologists and climate change specialists who use local information to see whether species are decreasing or increasing, as well as tracking temperature changes and fluctuations.


  • If there are danaid monarch butterflies in your area, they are very easy to attract. The meat-red cottonwood mentioned above, or the tropical cottonwood (an annual in colder climates) are great host plants for them. Tropical cottonwoods can be grown in winter from seed.
  • Butterflies are relatively poor fliers. Don’t plant your garden downwind in an open area. If your entire yard is windswept, plant shrubs or large, dense perennials on the windward side of the area designated for butterflies. That way the butterflies can feed on the nectar of the flowers in the windlessness, at least relatively, in peace.
  • Monarchs are fascinating butterflies. Their flight route is one of nature’s great wonders. Plus, you can get involved by helping to track the monarchs that fly into your area. 
  • Beautiful flowers attract more butterflies.


  • Always try to avoid planting potentially invasive plant species. Such plants can spread many miles beyond the borders of your garden and disrupt natural native ecosystems. If you plant them, they will spread.
  • Butterflies are insects! Insecticides should not be used in the butterfly garden.
  • Buddleia is considered a noxious weed in some regions, such as Washington State.
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