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How to Create a Butterfly Garden

Looking for ways to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden? Learn how to create a butterfly garden in a few easy steps!

(Post Updated March 2022)

When I first designed the front yard cottage garden, I researched butterfly and hummingbird attracting plants to entice them to my yard.

I dreamed of having a garden that was covered with these beautiful creatures.

Thankfully, there are a lot of plants that attract both.

Once I honed my plant list, I considered what plants were deer-resistant because deer are a big problem in my gardening zone 6a New Jersey garden.

While I don’t mind adding plants that have a lower deer resistance rating because I spray them, I prefer to focus more on plants that they tend to avoid.

To learn more about designing a deer-resistant garden, CLICK HERE.

(Posts on stacyling.com may contain affiliate links. Click HERE for full disclosure.)

What Do I Need For a Butterfly Garden?

If you want to start a butterfly garden, it is important to plan ahead.

They are not hard to maintain, and in fact, most plants are pretty easy-care.

Do your research, site and prepare the bed, and include plants that both caterpillars and butterflies enjoy.

To achieve success, be sure to feed butterflies with adult nectar plants and developing caterpillars with host plants.

Butterfly Garden

Location

It is important to plant nectar plants near fences, shrubs, trees and vines to provide shelter from winds and rain.

When designing a butterfly border, there are few things to keep in mind:

  • Plant in a sunny location.
  • Research and select plants that will attract butterflies common to your area.
  • Create a succession of blooms so butterflies visit and want to hang around.
Butterfly Garden
This Monarch LOVES the Echinacea in my garden!

Offer Host Plants

Since butterflies lay eggs on certain plants that feed their caterpillars, butterflies prefer visiting gardens where host plants are nearby.

Examples of host plants include Milkweed, Viburnum, Wisteria, Flowering Dogwoods, Snapdagons, Foxgloves and many others.

For more information about host plants, see Creating Inviting Habitats by the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Butterfly Garden
Butterflies love Bee Balm!

Tip: leave plants that are dying back or defoliated in the borders because they may contain eggs or developing butterflies on them.

I allow my plants to die back naturally and avoid cutting plants back until early spring where possible.

It doesn’t always look great, but it helps keep the butterfly lifecycle going!

Butterfly Garden

Provide Nectar Plants

It is also important to select plants with varying bloom times so butterflies are fed from spring through fall.

Butterflies’ attention is drawn to clusters of like colors so it is important to plant enough of the same flowers together.

Savvy Gardening Tips:

  • 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.
Butterfly Garden

Plants that Attract Butterflies

In my gardens, butterflies love to sample:

  • Bee Balm
  • Echinacea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Liatris
  • Coreopsis
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Tall Phlox
  • Sedum Autumn Joy
  • Joe Pye Weed

If you would like more information regarding pollinators and how to attract them to your garden, see Creating Inviting Habitats by the Virginia Cooperative Extension.

Butterfly Garden

Garden Tour 2019

During the 2019 growing season, I diaried and photographed all of my gardens.

I love to see the gardens grow and change, and since my gardens look different every day, I documented the entire growing season.

Since documenting them here, my gardens have changed dramatically.

To see what they look like now, CLICK HERE.

Here’s what’s blooming and attracting butterflies to my garden.

The Front Yard Cottage Garden

The pollinators are thoroughly enjoying the front garden.

I’ve seen several monarchs and swallowtails, hummingbirds, dragonflies, and tons of bumble bees.

They all seem so peaceful and content zipping from flower to flower to grab some nectar.

To see a video tour of the front garden this week, check out my IGTV video here.

Tall Phlox in Butterfly Garden

Blooms shown are Echinacea, Tall Phlox and Knock Out Roses.

Butterflies love this garden during this time of year.

My echinacea has self sowed so much there’s a lot here to attract them.

Butterfly Garden

This border includes, Coral Bells, Salvia, Bee Balm, Catmint, Echinacea, Dahlias, Marigolds, Euphorbia and Tall Phlox.

Butterfly Garden

White Balloon Flower is prominent in my front yard cottage garden this time of year.

And it adds a casual feel as it flops over the walkway.

Sometimes it flops a little too much so I stake them.

Butterfly Garden

I love the color and texture of these perennials and annuals!

Black Eyed Susan, Sedum, Coneflower, Rose Mallow, Echinacea, and Russian Sage, Pansies and Marigolds combine so well.

Globe Thistle and Bee Balm
Globe Thistle and Bee Balm
Butterfly Garden
Lamb’s Ear, Echinacea varieties, Verbena, Catmint, Marigolds, Euphorbia, Sedum, and Russian Sage.

Let’s Tour the Well Garden

Similar to the front border, the well garden has been laden with pollinators.

This butterfly garden has some Tall Phlox, Orange Daylillies, Coreopsis, Callicarpa, and the annuals are all blooming.

Butterflies are super attracted to the tall phlox right now.

The Zebra Grass is full-grown and adds some much-needed movement to the border while my favorite, Smoketree, continues to stun with its brilliant reddish-purple foliage.

To see a video tour of the well garden this week, check out my first IGTV video here.

Callicarpa, Coreopsis, Tall Phlox, Peonies, Petunias, Marigolds, Euphorbia, Smoketree and Zebra Grass.
Butterfly Garden

I love the movement and fluidity that Zebra Grass adds to this border.

Moonbeam Coreopsis is still blooming strong together with Petunias and Tall Phlox.

And I tucked in my girls’ old tricycle.

I love how it looks with all the flowers and it reminds me of them when they were little zipping up and down the block.

Zebra Grass
Zebra Grass
Callicarpa

I love the beautiful branches of Callicarpa.

This deciduous shrub is a must have because it has year round interest with summer blooms, the leaves turn an autumnal color in fall and then produce bright purple berries in late fall/early winter.

If it is hardy to your zone, give it a try!

I’ve heard it can be invasive in some areas, so be sure it is not invasive in yours before planting.

Butterfly Weed

These are Milk Weed seed heads.

They will eventually dry out, break open and release cottonous seeds that reseed in the garden.

This is the reason I have it growing in different gardens throughout my front yard.

Perennial Garden

Bodie likes to follow me around while I stroll gardens.

Every now and then, he just sits there and enjoys the view for a while.

Mailbox Garden Tour

The mailbox garden is in full bloom.

I love the colors the annuals add to this tiny garden.

Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed that the Clematis cover the mailbox like it normally does.

But, it was a a struggle to train this year and I’m thankful it is alive and thriving.

Mailbox Perennial Garden
Jackmanii Clematis, Petunias, Euphorbia, Margolds and Red Daylillies.

The Side Yard Gardens Tour

Since weeding them a few weeks ago, the side gardens are still looking great!

Speaking of the side gardens, I love the ferns my friend gave me several years ago.

Every time I go out there, I think of her!

That’s one of the things I love about gardening.

Every plant that has been shared with me reminds me of the person that shared it.

It’s as if a piece of them is here in the borders and I just love that!

Woodland Garden

The woodland garden on the western side of the house is looking very lush.

Featured in this garden are Ferns, Cranesbill, Joe Pye Weed, Tall Phlox, Oak Leaf Hydrangea, Rhododendron, Astilbes, and Bleeding Hearts that are yellowing and dying back.

Side Garden

This garden is located on the other side of the house near the entrance to the backyard.

It is directly behind the fire pit area and contains Forsythia, Hostas and

Backyard Garden Tour

The backyard gardens are doing well.

I need to finish weeding the back border but it has been too hot to get out there. We’ve had a serious heatwave here where the heat index was about 108!

The resident groundhog is still making his mark in the gardens.

I caught him trying to climb up my deck to snack on my containers while I was sitting there!

Backyard Perennial Garden

When I took my camera out to take a pic of him, he ran back to his entrance under my shed.

I’m not thrilled with the amount of damage he’s causing to the yard and wish he would find food elsewhere.

This garden needs to be weeded well.

Joe Pye Weed

Why You Should Keep Hosta Flowers

The Hostas are fully blooming. Some are not fans of the flowers, but I enjoy them.

And I’ve seen some hummingbirds drop by for a taste of some nectar, so if you enjoy hummingbirds, keep those flowers.

Plants include: Hostas, Bee Balm, Dark Horse Wiegela, Joe Pye Weed and Plume Poppies.

Joe Pye Weed is starting to bloom.

I love this plant!

It’s so easy-care, butterflies love them and they make a statement in the garden.

Rose of Sharon
White Chiffon Rose of Sharon
Backyard Garden
View of the berry gardens and play area from the fire pit.
Backyard Perennial and Flowering Shrub Garden

The Fire Pit garden sits outside the vegetable beds and contain Sedum Autumn Joy, Catmint, Bearded Iris, Joe Pye Weed, Ornamental Grass, Hostas, Solomon Seal, Mugo Pine, Knockout Rose, Variegated Dogwood and Double Flowering Impatiens.

This garden looks so much different from when I first took these photos back in 2019.

CLICK HERE to see the Garden Shed Makeover.

And CLICK HERE to see how I changed this over to a cut flower garden.

I moved the vegetable garden from outside the shed and grew plants in these AWESOME raised garden beds.

Hostas

My Hostas are in full bloom!

I just sprayed all of my Hostas again to insure the deer leave them alone!

CLICK HERE to see my latest method for controlling deer.

It’s very effective!

Backyard Gardens

After taking this picture, I noticed the Reblooming Lilac is starting to get buds on them again.

Yippee!

More to come next week!

Final Thoughts

Since growing my butterfly garden, it has been a real thrill to see them stop by and enjoy the flowers. I love walking out the front door and watching nature do its thing!

If you missed a few tours or want to see how the garden has progressed, you can see them here:

Do you have a butterfly garden or love to garden too?

I would love to hear about it and see some photos of your gardens, no matter how big or small!

Your comments mean so much to me and make my day.

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