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Butterfly on a plant

How to Create a Butterfly Garden

Butterfly on a plant

Whimsical and classic, butterfly gardens are a no-brainer, since they work well with local environments by fostering the use of beneficial native plants and wildflowers, all while attracting butterflies, and other advantageous insects.

Forever popular among collectors and observers, as well as being creative muses, butterflies are well-known for their unique beauty, with thousands of different varieties worldwide. But, more importantly, they also play a vital role in nature.

As they gracefully flutter about from plant to plant, they are effectively pollinating along the way. They also happen to be a valuable food source for many birds and other creatures.

Indeed, these important creatures are certainly a fascinating insect to study — as well as being delightful to have around.

But how can we attract more butterflies to our green spaces? It’s simple! With a bit of light research on what environments they’re drawn to, accompanied by the right selection of plants, you can easily create a garden that attracts these graceful beauties.

Environment plants

With so many types of butterflies globally, there’s no one-size-fits-all scenario. So, depending on where you live, you may need to figure out what types are native to your region and go from there. With that being said, let’s discuss some general pointers that make most varieties happy:


Since butterflies are coldblooded creatures, they rely on the sun to get their circulation going. Without the opportunity to bask in the sunlight, they lose their ability to fly and become sluggish and dormant. So, when planning out your butterfly garden, ensure that there’s plenty of sunlight available.


You’ll often notice that butterflies drink from mud puddles. This is because they rely on the many vital salts and minerals that this environment provides them.

Because of this, you’ll need to ensure that you give your butterfly garden ample water on the regular (especially on hot days). That way, you’ll be encouraging the perfect habitat fit for their needs.

Natural Settings:

Picture how a meadowland might look, and how such a space incorporates not only native flowers of varied sizes but an array of tall grasses and undergrowth.

When planning out your garden space, ensure that there is at least one section that alludes to this type of setting. By doing so, you’ll be helping the full life cycle of butterflies, since caterpillars often rely on the protection and coverage of such habitats.

Colour Selection:

It’s good to keep color in mind when making your flower selections since studies have proven that butterflies are drawn to certain tones over others. In particular, they thrive on flower beds constructed of red, yellow, pink, purple, and white blooms, and are less attracted to blue.

Not only that, but they also seem to prefer flowers with shallow cores — perhaps because it allows them to access the nectar easier.

Avoid Chemicals:

Similar to the plight of bees and many other fragile species, there’s a direct link towards the decline in butterfly populations and the use of garden chemicals. And so, it’s widely advised to avoid any kind of synthetic pesticide, fungicide, or insecticide within your green space, since these treatments are incredibly detrimental to their survival. Whenever possible, it’s always better to go with natural alternatives.

What to Plant:
White Butterflies in the garden

When selecting plants for your butterfly conservation garden, always aim for native species, and incorporate an array of wildflowers, since these varieties are the natural food source for your local butterfly population. It’s also a good idea to opt for a wide variety of plants to provide a well-balanced buffet of nectar options for our little friends.

Also, look to interplant blooms that thrive across different seasons since the ideal setting would provide pollinating flowers from spring right through to the autumn (with spring and fall being the most crucial feeding times).

Although there are tons of plant species to choose from (and vary depending on where you live), below are twelve beneficial plants that attract butterflies, and do very nicely as a starting point for any butterfly garden:

  1. Goldenrod
  2. Sunflowers
  3. Marigolds
  4. Cosmos
  5. Zinnia
  6. Phlox
  7. Milkweed
  8. Hollyhock
  9. Little Bluestem Grass
  10. Switchgrass
  11. Queen Anne’s Lace
  12. Butterfly Bush
Fun Facts:

Curious to learn more about these beloved insects? Check out some of these interesting facts to brush up on your butterfly knowledge:

  • Just like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two butterflies are the same, and each one has a uniquely different wing pattern.
  • The word butterfly comes from the middle ages and was used to specifically describe the yellow brimstone butterfly since this particular insect not only looked like a piece of flying butter but was believed to eat butter too!

  • Among the rarest butterflies in the world, is the Palos Verdes Blue, which is known for its stunningly iridescent powder blue wings. It was thought that this tiny butterfly was extinct until it was unexpectedly rediscovered in a small area of California in the late 1990s.

  • The largest known butterfly is the Queen Alexandra Birdwing. Native to the pacific island nation of New Guinea, this giant Rhopalocera has a wingspan of up to 11 inches (about the size of a frisbee).

  • Contrary to popular belief, not all butterflies migrate. Surprisingly, the majority of species spend their entire life cycle within a relatively small territory.

  • North American Monarch butterflies, on the other hand, are known for their spectacular migration routes and have been studied at large. Starting their journey southwards from Southern Canada and the Northern United States, they take a total of five generations to finally reach their desired destination — Mexico, before starting their long trip northbound once again.

  • Monarchs are not the furthest travelers, though. That honor goes to the European branch of Painted Lady butterflies, who travel right down into the Sahara desert of Africa before making their prolific journey back to Europe.

  • In many ancient cultures, butterflies were seen as a representation of rebirth and joy.

  • In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of Monarch butterflies return to their nesting spot around the same time as the Day of the Dead celebrations, in which some believe that the butterflies are deceased loved ones returning home to visit.

  • From Ireland, Greece, Germany, and beyond, many European legends point to butterflies as being human spirits transformed after death — With white butterflies being associated with children’s souls in particular.

Now that you’ve been inspired with some random butterfly facts to keep under your belt for your next trivia night, as well as being equipped with some basic gardening tips, you have everything you need to get started on your very own butterfly garden.

And, by supporting a healthy habitat for butterflies, not only will your garden space be filled with beneficial native plants that work with the environment, but it will also attract an eclectic array of butterflies and moths — which are always an enjoyable sight.

yellow petaled flower by elias sorey unsplash

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