Attracting butterflies to your backyard
Butterflies in Your Backyard

Attracting Butterflies to Your Backyard

Attracting butterflies to your backyard is one of the nice perks you get naturally while trying to attract birds. Although there are special plants that attract butterflies more than others, the plants you put out for the birds will be a part of the natural attraction for butterflies as well.



As a general rule, butterflies prefer flat or clustered flowers, such as purple coneflower, phlox, marigolds, impatiens, petunia, Monarch,Beebalm, milkweeds, verbenas, zinnias and many mint family plants.

Shrubs they prefer are butterfly bush (We have a purple butterfly bush in our backyard and there are always butterflies feeding off it), azalea, hibiscus, japanese wisteria and spice bush.

Some very good perenials are violets, daylily, Black-eyed Susan and butterfly weed.

A common tip is to definitely plant milkweed. Butterflies need it as they migrate.

If you have small, unused areas, allowing weeds to grow that are beneficial to them will be a plus. In more ways than one. Like . . . no grass cutting there.

Besides certain plants, basking rocks and a source of water will be a must. Moist sand, earth or mud make great watering holes.

attracting butterfliesOn the left is a photo taken by one of my friends, Pete Sorg. He came home from work, saw this monarch and went into the house and grabbed his digital camera. Guarantee you'll be doing the same thing once you get your plants blooming.

You should avoid using insecticides as butterflies are insects. You worked hard to attract them. Don't kill them off.

Planting a wide variety of plants that bloom from spring to fall will provide a source of nectar for the adult butterflies.

Remember, many of your plants will attract butterflies, but many adults prefer red, yellow, orange and purple flowers.

Place flat rocks throughout your garden in the sunny areas. This will provide a place for them to warm up in the morning before flying. The rocks will provide a basking site for butterflies to raise their body temperature. Butterflies are most active on warm, sunny days.

Provide bird baths or other shallow sources of water so the butterflies can drink.

Check to see what type are most prevalent in your area. Monarchs are found in almost all areas across the U.S., and are the most recognized. Adult Monarch butterflies eat nectar from flowers. Flower nectar consists of about 20% sugar, which gives the Monarchs energy. Flowers that have lots of nectar are, of course, what Monarchs prefer. But you'll see them land on all kinds of flowers to take a sip. The Monarchs butterflies find flowers by site, but they decide if its worth eating through taste receptors that are on their feet! They suck up the nectar through a long tube-like mouth.

Provide the habitat components necessary for each of the four stages of the butterfly life-cycle to insure greater use by butterflies and a complete habitat; include host plants on which to lay eggs and chrysalises, caterpillar food resources, and nectar-producing flowers for adults.

Don't Throw Away That Rotten Fruit:

Flowers are not the only source of food for butterflies. It's a fact that most butterflies get only a small percentage, approximately 20% of their food, from flowers. Butterflies also take nourishment from sap, rotting fruit, and dung. A few will feed on carrion. You can make a simple feeding station for the fruit by placing a 12 inch square of Plexiglas on a post. Change the fruit every few days.

You can also make your own nectar solution with a 5 to 10 percent sugar-water solution. Be careful, a solution of more than 10% is actually harmful to butterflies. Put the solution in a plastic cup with one of those plastic mesh pot “scrubbers” found in the supermarket. Experiment with the color of the cup to see what color attracts them most.

Puddles are also a favorite source of nutrients. Since butterflies can’t swim, feed, or rest on water, they won’t visit ponds or lakes. They need a place to stand while they drink. A small sand pit kept moist in the garden will do. Try lining the puddle with rocks; butterflies enjoy basking on rocks in the sun as the heat from the rocks warms their bodies, enabling them to fly. As the puddle evaporates, nutrients, such as salt and amino acids tend to concentrate in the ground. Males especially need these substances for courtship and mating.

Some caterpillar host plants would be milkweed, thistle, clover, spicebush, goldenrod, butterfly weed, parsley, apple and passion flower. Butterflies frequent wildflowers as well as cultivated annuals and perennials. The three most important floral characteristics that attract butterflies to a flower are a good supply of nectar, a blossom with large petals so that the insect can perch while feeding, and flower color. Butterflies seem to investigate purple flowers first, the yellow, pink and finally white.

Experiment and see what works for you. As I suggest throughout this site, you're planting for yourself as well as for the birds, butterflies and wildlife. If you have a plant you like, plant it. Once you are successfully attracting butterflies, enjoy!