Looking for ways to attract more butterflies to your garden? Here are 31 easy-care plants that butterflies love.
Since I’m often asked about plants that attract butterflies, I created a top 10 list of easy-care perennials that they love.
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.
Here’s what you need to know!
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What is Butterfly Gardening and Why Should I 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.
There are many reasons why a gardener might want to create a butterfly garden.
- Conservation: 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.
- Beauty: Butterflies are one of nature’s most beautiful creatures, and watching them flutter around your garden can be a delight. By planting a butterfly garden, you can create a beautiful and tranquil space in your yard.
- Education: 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.
- Low-maintenance: Butterfly gardens can be relatively low-maintenance, as many of the plants that attract butterflies 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 also attracts hummingbirds too.
Because every butterfly garden has bright and beautiful nectar-loving plants that feed both butterflies and caterpillars.
And the more plants for butterflies you grow, the more butterflies you will attract to your garden.
In summary, butterfly gardening is a great way to support butterfly populations, create a beautiful garden, educate yourself and others, and enjoy a low-maintenance gardening experience.
With a little planning and some basic knowledge, anyone can create a butterfly garden in their own backyard.
What is Needed to Make a Butterfly Garden?
Creating a butterfly garden is a fun and rewarding way to attract butterflies to your yard and help support their populations.
Here is what you need to make a butterfly garden.
- Location: Choose a sunny spot in your yard for your butterfly garden, as butterflies love basking in the sun. Ideally, the garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.
- Plants: 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 swallowtails.
- Water: Butterflies need water, but they can’t drink from deep pools. Provide a shallow dish of water filled with sand or stones so that butterflies can land and drink safely.
- Shelter: Butterflies need shelter to escape from predators and harsh weather conditions. Shrubs, trees, and tall grasses provide shelter and roosting spots for butterflies.
- Avoid pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to butterflies and other pollinators. Avoid using pesticides in your butterfly garden and opt for natural pest control methods instead.
- Maintenance: 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.
How Much Sunlight Do Butterfly Gardens Need?
Butterfly gardens need full sun because the 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.
6 Simple Tips for Attracting Butterflies with Plants
- 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.
Read this post for more information about butterfly gardens.
My Top 11 List of Easy Care Plants that Attract Butterflies
In my gardens, butterflies love:
- Bee Balm
- Butterfly Bush
- Butterfly Weed
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Tall Phlox
- Sedum Autumn Joy
- Joe Pye Weed
But there are so many more!
And the best part?
Most of these blooms over the course of a few months, so your garden will bloom from spring through 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 6a New Jersey.
Before planting, check your hardiness zone to be sure these plants will do well in your climate.
Butterflies love bee balm and is high on my list of butterfly-attracting plants.
They cover my monarda flowers when they are in full bloom. And bee balm’s bright colors liven up summer borders.
So if you are interested in growing a colorful garden that’s always in bloom, monarda is a good choice for summer flowers.
Coneflowers are so gorgeous, aren’t they? Each year when they bloom I am just in awe.
Echinacea is another summer-blooming perennial that requires full sun and attracts lots of pollinators.
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.
Monarchs enjoy my echinacea as I see them drop by often.
I’ve been growing coneflowers for years and they can really take over an area.
To keep coneflowers under control, divide them and move them around in spring or fall.
To grow a butterfly bush is to love a butterfly bush.
They bloom all summer long and will be covered with butterflies from summer through fall.
Not to mention, they grow quickly after planting. So if you need a plant that will get some height in a short amount of time that blooms, butterfly bush is a great option.
Butterfly bushes are wonderful butterfly-attracting plants that look so gorgeous and graceful in the garden.
Plus the blooms last a while too.
The care is pretty minimal on them but can be a little invasive in certain areas. So read the label and check with your local cooperative extension before planting.
I just planted Proven Winners Grande Cascade in the garden this year. And I can’t wait to see how it blooms!
I was given this pretty beauty from Walter’s Gardens.
Have you grown butterfly weed before? I realize it doesn’t sound very attractive but the dainty orange flowers are 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.
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 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.
Blazing Star is another one of those easy-care plants for butterflies that are a must-have in a pollinator garden.
I’ve had a love affair with moonbeam coreopsis since I started 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.
Butterflies are attracted to the bright yellow blooms. And it’s one of the prettiest butterfly-attracting plants. I love that bushy growing habit.
Because moonbeam coreopsis is so easy to grow and care for, it makes the perfect plant to grow in a butterfly garden.
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.
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.
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.
Rudbeckia needs full sun, minimal care, and grows about 3 feet tall when in full bloom.
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.
Tall phlox is easy to care for but 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.
Unfortunately, I don’t have either tall phlox or smoketree planted here in my new gardens. I think I need to get some.
Sedum Autumn Joy
Sedum Autumn Joy is one of my favorite perennials because it is a four-season, easy-care, easy to propagate, plant.
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.
Joe Pye Weed
Joe Pye does so well and is super easy to care for. It grows very tall so be sure to grow this butterfly-attracting plant in the back of the border.
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.
It is one of the best plants that attracts butterflies and lots of other pollinators. The butterflies and bees love them. And they are super easy to propagate too.
I have this perennial in almost all of my gardens.
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.
Zinnias are not only beautiful but also easy to care for, making them a popular choice among gardeners.
These colorful annual flowers can tolerate heat and drought and are resistant to disease and pests too.
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.
When Should I Plant My Butterfly Garden?
Spring or fall is the best time to plant a new garden.
So 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.
In addition to my top, 11 tried and true easy-care favorites mentioned above, try planting these flowers too.
- Goldenrod (non-invasive varieties only)
- Bottlebrush Buckeye
- False Indigo
Want More Caterpillars?
To encourage more caterpillars in your garden, plant lots of milkweed and dill that you let go to seed.
How Do You Arrange a Butterfly Garden?
There are a few things to consider when designing a butterfly garden.
- Start a plan that includes the plants you want to grow and types of butterflies you want to attract.
- Garden organically. Avoid synthetic or non-organic pesticides and chemicals in and around the garden.
- Provide food through the plants listed above for both caterpillars and butterflies.
- Create shelter from harsh environmental elements and predators.
- Add a water supply.
- The garden must be sited in a sunny location. Look for an area that receives about 6-8 hours of direct sun.
- Plant in large drifts of color. Butterflies are drawn to bright colors so the more planted together the better.
How Do I Start a Small Butterfly Garden?
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 your plants.
- Plan your 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 water 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.
Starting a small butterfly garden is a fun and easy way to attract these beautiful creatures to your yard while creating a beautiful and vibrant space for you to enjoy.
More Related Posts You May Enjoy
- How to Create a Butterfly Garden
- How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden for Pest Control
- 7 Easy Ways to Deer Proof Your Garden
- Gardening for Hummingbirds
- How to Get Non-Stop Color in the Garden With Annuals
Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like using good-quality garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- This is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use to get underneath roots, loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around different plants and roses from afar.
- I like to use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- You need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?
If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.
Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.
- 5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden
- Easy-Care Cottage Garden Ideas
- Flower Garden Ideas for the Front Porch
- Why and How to Divide Perennials
- Perennials vs Annuals: Which is Better for Your Garden?
- Flowers that Bloom in Midsummer
- Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners
- The Complete Guide to Roses Care
- The Basics of Hydrangea Care
- Everblooming Cottage Garden Design Ideas
- The Secret to Growing an Everblooming Cottage Garden
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Want to learn more about me?
Get the inside scoop about my background, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.
Want to learn more about me?
I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as find ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes too.
Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.