Want to attract butterflies to your garden but short on time? This comprehensive guide reveals the best low-maintenance plants that butterflies love. Discover blooming times, light requirements, and more!

Have you ever dreamt of watching a kaleidoscope of colorful wings flitting through your garden? Butterflies are not only beautiful to behold, but they’re also vital pollinators that keep our ecosystems thriving.

In this guide, we’ll be chatting about the wonderful world of butterfly gardening! We’ll delve into the fascinating world of easy-care flowers that will attract them while spiling the secrets to designing a garden that creates a butterfly haven.

Here’s what you need to know!

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Why You Should Plant a Butterfly Garden

Butterfly gardening is the practice of creating a garden that is specifically designed to attract and support butterflies. This is done by planting a variety of nectar plants that provide food for adult butterflies and host plants that provide food for their caterpillars.

Here are a few great reasons to create a butterfly garden this year.

  • Butterflies are important pollinators, and many species are in decline due to habitat loss and other factors. By creating a butterfly garden, you can help support butterfly populations and promote conservation efforts.
  • Butterflies are one of nature’s most beautiful creatures, and watching them flutter around your garden is such a joy. By planting a butterfly garden, you can create a beautiful and tranquil space in your yard.
  • Butterfly gardening can be a fun and educational activity for children and adults alike. By learning about the life cycle of butterflies and the plants they rely on, gardeners can gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world and the importance of conservation.
  • Butterfly gardens can be incredibly low-maintenance, as many of the plants that attract them are easy to grow and require little care. This makes butterfly gardening an excellent choice for gardeners who want to create a beautiful and functional garden without spending a lot of time or money.

It’s also important to note that planting a butterfly garden not only attracts butterflies but will mostly likely attract hummingbirds too. Because every butterfly garden has bright and beautiful nectar-loving plants that feeds butterflies and hummingbirds.

And keep in mind that the more plants for butterflies you grow, the more you will attract to your flower garden. Last year, I had dozens in my garden and it was SO FUN and peaceful to watch them enjoy the blooms.

Sound like something you want to do? With a little planning and some basic knowledge, anyone can create a butterfly garden in their own backyard. So let’s get at it!

swallowtail butterfly on zinnias in cottage garden

What You Need to Make a Butterfly Garden

If you are wondering how to arrange a butterfly garden, it is pretty simple to do. You’ll want to create the best growing conditions for your plants while creating a habitat for butterflies. Here are a few tips that will get you started!

  • Choose a sunny spot in your yard for your butterfly garden, as they love basking in the sun. Ideally, the garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • Choose plants that provide nectar for adult butterflies and host plants for their caterpillars. Some examples of nectar plants include butterfly bushes, milkweed, zinnias, and coneflowers. Examples of host plants include milkweed for monarch butterflies, parsley for swallowtails, and fennel for black swallowtail. More on plants below.
  • Butterflies need water, but they can’t drink from deep pools. Provide a shallow dish of water filled with sand or stones so that they can land and drink safely.
  • Butterflies need shelter to escape from predators and harsh weather conditions. Shrubs, trees, and tall grasses provide that shelter and roosting spots for butterflies.
  • Pesticides can be harmful to butterflies and other pollinators. Avoid using them in your butterfly garden and opt for natural pest control methods instead.
  • Regular maintenance is important to keep your butterfly garden healthy and thriving. Deadhead flowers to encourage more blooms, weed regularly, and prune shrubs and trees as needed.
black butterfly on a butterfly bush on a sunny day

How Much Sunlight Do Butterfly Gardens Need?

Butterfly gardens need full sun because most flowers that attract butterflies need full sun. And the butterflies themselves need the warmth from the sun to warm their muscles for flight. So growing plants for butterflies in full sun is a must.

Now that’s not to say that you can’t grow plants in the shade they will love because you can. We have a bottlebrush buckeye in the backyard that is under a canopy of trees and it gets LOADED with butterflies every summer when it blooms.

swallowtail butterfly on bottlebrush buckeye
Bottlebrush buckeye flowers and swallowtail butterfly

6 Simple Tips for Attracting Butterflies with Plants

Before we get into low-maintenance plants that butterflies love, here are a few important tips to know before you plant your garden.

  • Select plants with varying bloom times so butterflies are fed from spring through fall. Check the plant tag for bloom times. Butterflies are drawn to clusters of like colors so it is important to plant enough of the same flowers together.
  • Butterflies favor native plants.
  • Where possible, avoid pesticides in your gardens because they can wipe out butterflies and other pollinators.
  • Butterflies are drawn to brightly colored purples, blues, yellows, whites, and pinks.
  • Focus on plants with multiple florets as well as composite flowers, because they can get more nectar at one time.
  • Avoid double-flowering varieties because they carry less nectar.

To learn more, read this post that I wrote about butterfly gardens.

Close up of Sunflowers 'panache' in the flower patch

How to Start a Small Butterfly Garden That is Easy to Care For

You can grow a butterfly garden no matter the space or gardening experience you have. If you are a beginner gardener or lack garden space, you can easily start a small butterfly garden in containers or by using a small strip in the ground. Starting a small butterfly garden is a fun and rewarding project that can attract a variety of colorful butterflies to your yard. Here are some steps to get started:

  • Choose a sunny spot
  • Select plants from the list below.
  • Plan your garden layout given the size and shape of your garden, and plan the placement of your plants accordingly. Grouping plants of the same species together can make it easier for butterflies to find them.
  • Prepare the soil and avoid using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, as they can be harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects.
  • Plant your garden.
  • Provide a water feature by adding a shallow dish or birdbath with rocks for them to perch on and drink from.
  • Maintain your garden by watering, weeding, deadheading, and pruning as needed. If maintaining a butterfly garden in containers, fertilize plants with a slow-release granular fertilizer.

When Should I Plant My Butterfly Garden?

Spring or fall is the best time to plant a new garden. And if you don’t want to break your back starting a new garden from scratch, you can try this easy method or start a small garden in containers with these simple tips.

Want to Encourage More Caterpillars?

To encourage more caterpillars in your garden, plant lots of milkweed and dill that you let go to seed. For example, I let my dill plants bolt in the summer and every season, you’ll find these gorgeous caterpillars in my vegetable garden.

caterpillar on dill plant in potager garden
Caterpillar on dill plant

The Best Low-Maintenance Plants For Attracting Butterflies

Now that we’ve covered how to create and grow a butterfly garden, let’s talk plants! There are lots of beautiful annuals, perennials, and shrubs that are easy to grow, easy to care for, and attract lots of butterflies too. I have seen butterflies in action in my own gardens and can tell you they are huge fans of certain flowers.

Before planting, check your hardiness zone to be sure these plants will do well in your climate. And make a list for yourself of the different bloom times so you can plant a garden that always has something flowering for them to enjoy. I’ll provide you a list of some examples that work in spring, summer, and fall.

While most of the plants on this list will do well in a range of zones, keep in mind that I garden in hardiness zone 6b New Jersey and many of these grow well here.

Bee Balm

A perennial favorite of pollinators, bee balm lights up the garden with vibrant red, pink, purple, or white flowers. It blooms from mid to late summer, thrives in full sun to partial shade, and prefers moist, well-drained soil. Butterflies love bee balm and it’s pretty high on my list of butterfly-attracting plants. They cover my monarda flowers when they are in full bloom.

close up of bee balm (monarda) flowers in the garden - perennial flowers list that bloom in midsummer
Flowering hostas, monarda and joe pye weed flowers -Shade Garden in the back border

Echinacea (Coneflowers)

Coneflowers are so gorgeous, aren’t they? Each year when they bloom I am just in awe. Those pretty orange centers get me every time! Echinacea is another summer-blooming perennial that requires full sun and attracts lots of pollinators. Renowned for their daisy-like appearance with pink, purple, or white petals, coneflowers bloom from early summer to fall, prefer full sun and well-drained soil.

They are perfect for the cottage garden because they are bright, bold, tall, and beautiful. Plus, echinacea self-sows easily and spreads throughout the garden over time once established.

And the butterflies go crazy for the nectar too. I’ve found that monarchs enjoy my echinacea as I see them drop by often. As a side note, I’ve been growing coneflowers for years and they can really take over an area. To keep them under control, divide them and move them around in spring or fall.

close up of echinacea in the garden

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

A magnet for butterflies, this shrub offers cascading spikes of purple, pink, white, or red flowers through summer into fall. It loves full sun and well-drained soil and is considered a perennial in warmer climates, though sometimes treated as an annual in cooler zones.

They bloom all summer long and will be covered with butterflies not to mention, they grow pretty quickly after planting. So if you need a plant that will get some height in a short amount of time that blooms, the butterfly bush is a great option.

Butterfly bushes are wonderful butterfly-attracting plants that look so gorgeous and graceful in the garden too. The care is pretty minimal but can be a little invasive in certain areas. So read the label and check with your local cooperative extension before planting.

swallowtail butterflies on a butterfly bush

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

With vibrant orange flowers, this perennial is a type of milkweed, crucial for monarch butterflies. It blooms from early to mid-summer, thrives in full sun, and prefers well-drained soil.

Have you grown butterfly weed before? I realize it doesn’t sound very attractive but the dainty orange flowers are really striking in the summer garden. The brightly colored orange blooms add lots of color to early summer borders. This is my former garden’s butterfly weed mixed with Nepeta ‘walkers low’.

Isn’t that a pretty combination? Not only do the butterflies love butterfly weed, but monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. So be judicious when removing garden debris because they house these beautiful creatures.

Butterfly weed is easy to grow, self-sows easily, and is one of the best plants to attract butterflies.

Butterfly weed and catmint in my jersey garden

Liatris (Blazing Star)

Tall spikes of purple flowers define this perennial, blooming from mid-summer to fall. Gayfeather refers full sun and well-drained soil and is one of those low-maintenance plants that should be in every pollinator garden.

I used to have so much more liatris in my former garden. But through the years, it petered out and disappeared. I recently added it to my new gardens here because blazing star adds a lot of visual interest with it’s spikey blooms. And the butterflies love them all summer long.

Gayfeather comes in a variety of colors and are pretty hardy where I live. They are beautiful in a cottage garden, is one of the must-have plants butterflies like, blooms in the summer, and has lots of charm.

close up of liatris with butterfly and monarda


I’ve had a love affair with moonbeam coreopsis since I started flower gardening. The dainty yellow flowers are so pretty. And these butterfly-attracting plants are very easy to care for. I have Moonbeam Coreopsis in almost every garden because it is so easy to divide.

We’ve got lots of moonbeam coreopsis growing in several front yard beds. Butterflies are attracted to the bright yellow blooms. It’s one of the prettiest butterfly-attracting plants and I love that bushy growing habit.

Since moving to our 1850 farmhouse, I wanted to try new-to-me varieties of plants that attracts butterflies that I’ve grown before.

So new to my garden is ‘Creme Caramel’ coreopsis that looks very similar to moonbeam, but is more peachy in color. It’s in full bloom right now and looks AMAZING in my front porch garden.

close up of moonbeam coreopsis (Tickseed)
close up of moonbeam coreopsis
close up of tickseed or coreopsis 'caramel creme' in my early summer garden tour

Black Eyed Susans (Rudbekia)

Black-eyed susans are one of my favorite summer garden flowers. Rudbeckia is super easy to care for as it is a native plant that needs very little from the home gardener to thrive.

This cheerful perennial showcases golden yellow petals circling a dark brown center. Blooming from June to October, it’s easy-going with full sun and tolerates a range of soil conditions, and grows about 3 feet tall when in full bloom.

It divides easily so you can get more plants for free while growing a healthy garden. Black-eyed susans look gorgeous in the summer garden. And are one of the prettiest summer-blooming plants that butterflies love.

Vibrant Yellow flowers of rudbeckia (black eyed susans)
Rudbeckia Flowers (Black Eyed Susan)
black eyed susans with yellow flowers, sedum autumn joy and vibrant gomphrena flowers in the fall garden
It doesn’t get any easier to grow flowers than black eyed susans, sedum autumn joy and gomphrena.

Sedum Autumn Joy

Sedum Autumn Joy is one of my favorite perennials because it is a four-season, easy-care, easy to propagate, plant. This perennial succulent showcases pink flowers that age to a coppery hue in fall. It blooms late summer to fall, enjoys full sun, and thrives in well-drained soil.

But the best part? It is high on the list of plants for butterflies. So do not overlook sedum autumn joy for your garden if it grows in your hardiness zone because you will thank me for it later.

Because it is a true workhorse in the flower garden as it constantly adds color, texture, and dimension to borders. And the butterflies go crazy for the nectar. Oftentimes, I’ll notice my sedum autumn joy covered with pollinators so they do wonders in both your garden, as well as the environment.

While this plant blooms in fall, you can’t beat the chartreuse flower heads in summer that pair well with other summer blooming favorites like echinacea, bee balm, and black eyed susans. (To learn more about why Sedum Autumn Joy is an underrated plant, watch this video.)

sedum autumn joy
Sedum Autumn Joy as it begins to bloom

Tall Phlox

I’ve been growing tall phlox for several years. They are simply gorgeous plants that butterflies love and are highly attracted to. You simply can’t beat those tall spiky flowers that bloom from summer through fall.

Phlox offers varieties that are annual and perennial, with the perennial type blooming from spring to early fall. It prefers full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

While phlox is easy to care for, it comes with some caveats. Here in my New Jersey garden, they can get afflicted with powdery mildew during midsummer. While you can do nothing and allow them to do their thing, you can also apply an organic fungicide regularly, like neem oil, the tall phlox flowers will last so much longer.

If you decide to apply a fungicide it is very important to only apply it when butterflies and other pollinators are less active, which is usually in the early morning or late in the evening. Do not apply it when butterflies are active or you can wipe them out. Keep in mind that most butterfly gardeners don’t use any pesticides at all, so if you must use them, use them sparingly and wisely while always following the recommended directions on the label.

I love the fuschia colored tall phlox in my former garden bed. And while I don’t recall the variety, it always looked so beautiful when it bloomed in my garden with purple smoketree foliage.

pink tall phlox flowers up close with yellow daylillies
Gorgeous cottage garden in the backyard in front of a garden shed with sedum autumn joy and wood picket fence with dahlias and zinniasin front of garden shed in backyard garden - My cut flower garden in front of the shed in the backyard with a wood picket fence and sedum autumn joy - How to Save Money at the Garden Nursery
Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners

Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye does so well and is super easy to care for. It is a tall perennial with fluffy pink or purple flowers blooming in late summer to fall that prefers full sun to partial shade and moist soil.

It grows very tall so be sure to grow this butterfly-attracting plant in the back of the border. Because Joe Pye Weed blooms in late summer through fall, it helps the garden transition between the seasons. And the butterflies cover them while they bloom and as the flowers fade. It is spectacular to watch them.

Joe Pye Weed is another must-have flower that adds lots of visual interest to the garden and requires minimal care. They are super easy to propagate too and I have this perennial in almost all of my gardens.

Woodland Garden Ideas with close up of joe pye weed flowers
close up of Joe Pye Weed


Essential for monarch butterflies, this perennial blooms in summer with pink, orange, or white flowers. It enjoys full sun and well-drained soil.

Milkweed is a native plant that is considered to be a host plant for monarch butterflies as they lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. Plant milkweed in the garden for summer blooms and an easy care plant that butterflies like.

Easy to care for, Milkweed grows roughly 3 feet tall and has beautiful white dainty flowers. They can attract aphids too, so be sure not to use any pesticides to remove aphids from the plant. Grab a garden hose and knock them off with a strong spray of water only so you don’t risk killing off monarch butterfly eggs.

close up of milkweed against a green garden fence


Zinnias are not only beautiful but also easy to care for, making them a popular choice among gardeners. They are an easy-to-grow annual that blooms with a rainbow of colorful flowers from summer to frost. Zinnias are easy to start from seed and thrive in full sun and well-drained soil.

These colorful annual flowers can tolerate heat and drought and are resistant to disease and pests too. This means that they require minimal care and attention to thrive in the garden. They are amazing additions to the cut flower garden too as they look incredible in bouquets.

But the best part? Zinnias are loved by butterflies and other pollinators for their nectar-rich blooms.

Their bright, showy flowers are easy for pollinators to spot, and the wide variety of colors and shapes of zinnia blooms make them irresistible to many species of butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Zinnias also produce pollen and nectar throughout the growing season, providing a consistent food source for pollinators. Overall, zinnias are a win-win for gardeners and pollinators alike, providing vibrant beauty and crucial nourishment to our gardens and landscapes.

close up of monarch on a zinnia in the garden
Monarch butterfly on Senorita Zinnias

Yarrow (Achillea)

This perennial is admired for its flat clusters of pink, red, yellow, or white flowers, blooming from early summer to fall. It’s drought-tolerant, loves full sun, and thrives in well-drained soil.

I didn’t grow much of it for most of my gardening life but since moving to our home a few years ago, I’ve loaded my flower beds with it and love the texture it adds to the gardens. Yarrow also makes a great vase filler for bouquets in a cut flower garden.

pretty pink achillea flowers

Nepeta (Catmint)

Featuring a sea of lavender-blue flowers, catmint is a perennial that blooms from late spring to early fall. It’s drought-tolerant, loves full sun, and adapts to a variety of soils. Nepeta is a pollinator magnet when it flowers and if you cut it back halfway after the first set of blooms, you can get a second flush of flowers.

I’ve been growing nepeta for most of my gardening life and let me tell you, it is crazy easy to care for and looks gorgeous in any garden setting.

close up of nepeta 'walkers low' - catmint are great flowers for deadheading when the blooms fade
Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’


Asters are the stars of the fall garden, with their daisy-like flowers offering a burst of color in shades of blue, purple, white, and pink. These perennials typically bloom from late summer to fall, providing a crucial late-season nectar source for butterflies.

Asters thrive in full sun but can tolerate partial shade, especially in hot climates. They prefer moist, well-drained soil but are quite adaptable and can tolerate less ideal conditions once established. To keep them from getting leggy and blooming too soon, cut them back until July 4

Their bloom time extends right up until the first frost, making them an invaluable addition to any garden looking to extend its flowering season and support pollinators.

asters in my jersey garden


With their iconic large, yellow blooms, sunflowers are annuals that grow best in full sun and well-drained soil, blooming in summer. They attract lots of pollinators like bees and butterflies when they bloom.

Start them from seed outdoors after all danger of frost passes. After they germinate, it’s a good idea to use a wire cloche to protect young seedlings from early rabbit and chipmunk damage.

Sunflower close up with bee - makes a great companion plant

What Other Plants Attract Butterflies the Most?

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question, I’d be a very rich woman! There are so many plants that butterflies love. It’s really a matter of preference designing a garden that you love that they will also enjoy. Here are some more easy flowers to grow that attract butterflies.

  • Lantana
  • Amsonia
  • Calendula
  • Heliotrope
  • Lavender
  • Agapanthus
  • Salvia
  • Eryngium
  • Hollyhocks
  • Goldenrod (non-invasive varieties only)
  • Allium
  • Cosmos
  • Verbena
  • Bottlebrush Buckeye
  • False Indigo
  • Snapdragon
cut flower garden in nj in late summer

Designing a Butterfly Garden with Spring-to-Fall Blooms

One of the most important things you can do to maintain a butterfly habitat is to give butterflies that food source all season long. To do this, you’ll want to design a garden that’s always in bloom from spring through fall. Here is a great list of examples of what to plant to attract butterflies spring through fall.


  • False Indigo
  • Salvia
  • Nepeta
  • Allium


  • Zinnias
  • Bottlebrush Buckey
  • Coneflowers
  • Coreopsis


  • Sedum Autumn Joy
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Asters
goldenrod in the cottage garden

Garden Supplies I Use for My Butterfly Garden

Since I’ve been gardening for well over twenty-five years, I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. Here are some of my favorites that I use in no particular order.

dahlia kogane fubuki in the potager garden

Click here to shop my favorite garden supplies!

front porch garden view by stone wall with hostas, superwave petunia, larkspur, snapdragons, superwave petunia latte, echinacea, yarrow, tickseed, nepeta and zinnias by stone wall in my early summer garden tour

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achillea and coneflowers pink

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Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed
Gorgeous container garden with ranunculas and pansies in front of flowering crabapple trees in spring with lenten rose -Gardening 101: Container gardening basics for beginners
7 Lessons I Learned From Growing a Flower Patch
rudbekia and limelight hyrdrangea flowers with rudbekia -gardening zone 6a summer flowers
Fall garden in front of vintage farmhouse with rudbeckia, hostas, sedum autumn joy and hardy hibiscus on a sunny day
close up of limelight hydrangea, zinnia and rudbekia flowers that are great butterfly garden plants
close up of butterfly garden plants -10 Easy Care Plants that Butterflies Love
close up of Moonbeam coreopsis plants butterflies love
Backyard cottage garden in front of garden shed -cut flower garden in my gardening zone 6a backyard border. This is my favorite cottage garden in the landscape in front of the garden shed
Flowering hostas, monarda and joe pye weed flowers -Shade Garden in the back border
close up of monarch butterfly on echinacea flowers in Butterfly Garden
Monarch butterfly enjoys my coneflowers on a sunny day.
echinacea, bee balm and liatris in cottage garden in early summer garden tour with green garden fence

close up of tall phlox and limelight hydrangea blooms that are easy care plants that butterflies love
Swallowtail butterfly on mondarda in myButterfly Garden
Sedum autumn and rudbekia flowers up close -Preparing the Flower Garden For Fall Plantings
Liatris close up
I used to have Liatris in my cottage garden but had to pull it when it was invaded by dodder a few years ago. I need to replant this!
hostas, joe pye weed and wood picket fence panel ingarden nj shade garden
Small Butterfly Garden with petunias, tall phlox and red flyer bicycle with zebra grass
Butterfly Bush close up
Small Garden Flowers that Butterlies Love with pink tall phlox, zebra grass and red flyer tricycle
Monarch butterfly landing on echinacea flower in aButterfly Garden
close up of monarch butterfly on joe pye weed
Sedum Autumn Joy and zinniaz up close - are great late blooming summer flowers
Rudbekia, tall pholx and echinacea in butterfly garden - Summer Garden Flowers that Butterflies Love
Black-Eyed Susans and Tall Phox
Cottage Garden with tall phlox that is pink and white balloon flower -My gardening zone 6a summer flowers
liatris close up for butterfly garden - Summer Garden Flowers that Butterflies Love
Liatris ‘Kobold Orginal’ from Walter’s Gardens.
Summer Flower Arrangement with orange daylillies in farmhouse kitchen with white cabinets painted with chalk paint on kitchen island with granite
Moonbeam coreposis in a fresh cut flower arrangement.
Close up of echinops with echinacea and rose flowers in a cottage garden -dividing perennials - echinops, echinacea and monarda
Echinops mixed with echinacea
Butterfly Bush close up
Photo by Walters Gardens
Monarch butterfly enjoying nectar from echinacea flowers in Butterfly Garden

When I started my flower garden, it was really important to me to attract pollinators.

Before planting, I researched butterfly and hummingbird attracting plants that grow well in my area to entice them to my yard.

Thankfully, there are lots of gorgeous flowers that attract both so this list is a great start to growing a pollinator garden.

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  2. Love this post and I have several of these plants and enjoy the butterflies! I’ll share a link on my Sunday post.

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