It is easy and fun to attract butterflies, the “flowers of the air” to your garden. Planning especially for these beautiful, ephemeral creatures enables you to see their intricate wing patterns up close as well as play an active role in the important work of pollinator conservation. In home gardens, the presence of butterflies flitting and frolicking in carefree flight indicates a healthy and well-integrated habitat.
Butterflies seek flower nectar for nourishment and fuel for flying. With each sip from the heart of a flower blossom, grains of pollen also gather on the butterfly’s body, and it then helps pollinate the garden as it flutters from blossom to blossom. Flowers advertise their unique personal attributes of color, scent, and shape to lure butterflies to land upon them, thus ensuring the spreading of their seeds.
A successfully designed habitat that sustains butterflies includes food, shelter, water and warmth.
Since butterflies are attracted to both flower colors and shapes, plan large groups of plants that provide big splashes of brilliant color to draw them, instead of isolating a single flower plant here and there throughout the garden. Sunny days in the garden are synonymous with a busy freeway of flying butterflies. The hot sun warms their wing muscles, enabling them to soar and fly while going about their job of pollinating, so situate the butterfly garden in the warmest, sunniest area.
On gusty summer days, they need protection from the wind, which is easily provided by arranging tall flowering plants at the back of the border to make it comfortable for the butterflies while they are “nectaring.”
As children are attracted to puddles of water, so are butterflies. A shallow water element in the form of a bird bath, decorative stone water container, or small water garden situated in the ground will serve their needs and add interest to the garden.
Be sure to include a mix of different flowering plants. Here are a few of my favorites:
For the back of a border, the shiny, fern-like, coppery foliage of “SMOKEY” BRONZE FENNEL with its golden umbrella-like flowers is a stunning backdrop for lower growing plants. A long dramatic row of “TORCH” TITHONIA planted at the back of the border makes a blazing hedge of brilliant orange-red landing pad blossoms, and provides both a convenient perch and windscreen for winged visitors. “CINNAMON SUN” or CHOCOLATE CHERRY” SUNFLOWERS glow in deep and deeper red colors and “SUN SAMBA” dances in a full range of bright colors: from cream yellow and deep gold to bicolors in shades of bronze and mahogany over gold.
For the mid-border, air-waltzing butterflies will be attracted to the searing scarlet and orange colors of “PERSIAN CARPET” or “LITTLE LION” ZINNIAS. Charming semi-dwarf “MUSIC BOX” SUNFLOWER offers a range of pretty, golden yellow shades and bicolors that add visual interest or choose “LITTLE LADYBIRDS” or “WHITE SEASHELLS” COSMOS. “BERGAMO” MONARDA is another midrange butterfly magnet.
Line the front of the border with fluffy apricot pillows of “SUMMER PEACHES” ALYSSUM, or “SUMMER SPLASH” or “SIGNET STARFIRE” MARIGOLDS to create a welcoming effect. Or, plant FRENCH or CREEPING THYME, MARJORAM or OREGANO, as the blossoms of these perennial herbs also attract butterflies big-time.
All of these flower selections are excellent choices not only for butterflies, but for gardeners as well as they are beautiful and long blooming garden flowers through the season.
Browse our complete list of Renee’s Garden Butterfly Flowers and Herbs, or choose our Seeds For A Butterfly Garden Bonus Pack, which includes 3 individual packets of easy to grow heirloom butterfly flower varieties to bring butterflies all summer long. It includes complete planting and growing instructions and garden design information.