How To Attract Butterflies To Your Garden

  • Written by: Killingsworth Environmental
  • July 02, 2019

Top Tips To Help You Attract Butterflies To Your Garden This Summer

Ah, summer. Is there anything better than a sunny day, a light breeze, and a garden in full bloom, filled with one of nature’s most delicate, graceful and colorful creatures? 

The warmer months signal the arrival of butterflies in the Carolinas. These brightly colored insects can be a great addition to your garden, not only for their beauty, but also for their usefulness in pollinating flowers.

Butterflies are known as beneficials, similar to other insects such as ladybugs. This means that they help your lawn or garden flourish, unlike harmful pests such as aphids and termites

For those who enjoy butterfly watching, the summer is a fantastic time to attract butterflies to your garden. But attracting butterflies is more than just planting flowers! If you want butterflies in your lawn and garden, follow these helpful tips below. Before you know it, your garden will be fluttering with these breathtaking insects! 

Attract Butterflies To Your Garden With These 8 Tips 

Ready to learn what it takes to get your garden butterfly ready? Let’s get started!

1. Grow a variety of butterfly-attracting plants. 

To attract butterflies to your garden, you need a variety of plants butterflies love. These should include flowering plants that are native to your area as well as a variety of nectar plants that will provide food throughout different butterfly-active seasons. 

Different types of butterflies depend on different plants to survive and reproduce. So be sure your plants are compatible with the needs of the butterflies in your area. 

Just like us, butterflies have a few favorite foods. Here are some of the most common types of butterflies and the plants they enjoy the most:

  • Acmon Blue: buckwheat, lupines, milkvetch
  • American Painted Lady: cudweed, everlast
  • Black Swallowtail: parsley, dill, fennel common rue
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail: wild black cherry, ash, tulip tree, willow, sweetbay, basswood 
  • Gray Comma: gooseberry, azalea, elm
  • Great Spangled Fritillary: milkweed, thistle, ironweed, red clover, verbena, vetch 
  • Monarch: milkweeds
  • Painted Lady: thistles, mallows, nuevitas, yellow fiddleneck 
  • Pygmy Blue: saltbush, lamb’s quarters, pigweed
  • Silver-Spotted Skipper: locusts, wisteria, other legumes
  • Spicebush Swallowtail: sassafras, spicebush
  • Variegated Fritillary: passion flower, maypop, violets, stonecrop, purslane
  • Viceroy: willows, cottonwood, aspen
  • Zebra Swallowtail: pawpaw 

While gardening, remember to include these natural flavors and treats in your garden to attract butterflies!

2. Pay attention to plant type and color. 

Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, purple, pink and orange flower blossoms. Flowers that have flat tops or are clustered and have short flower tubes allow easy access to the good stuff, too. 

Butterflies don’t have mouths, only a long, straw-like tongue called a Proboscis. As they flit from flower to flower, they use their tongue to suck every bit of nectar from the inside of the flower, which is why it’s important to choose flowers with short nectar tubes. The easier it is for butterflies to drink the nectar, the more frequently they will return for more!

3. Plant nectar sources in full sun areas.

Butterflies like to enjoy the warmth of the sun, too—especially when they’re eating. Generally, the adult butterfly prefers to feed in the sun, so plants that are key nectar sources should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. 

Keep in mind that not every plant will be able to receive this much sun! Choose plants that are labeled full sun or full sun to partial shade for the sunniest areas of your lawn or garden. 

4. Don’t use pesticides. 

If you’re looking to attract butterflies to your garden, steer clear of pesticides! Certain pesticides such as malathion, sevin, and diazinon will kill butterflies. While these types of pesticides may be useful in deterring other harmful insects, there are environmentally friendly ways to thwart pests while protecting beneficial insects like butterflies.

We believe that pest control should always be safe and eco-friendly. To learn more about organic pest control, read our blog, Organic Pest Control: Techniques To Use Indoors and Out

5. Create a place for butterflies to rest. 

After a hearty feast of nectar, butterflies need a little R&R. Place flat stones in your garden to give the butterflies a place to rest and bask in the sun. Butterflies need the sun to warm their wings for flight. 

While simple garden stones will do, decorating butterfly stones can be a fun activity for the whole family! Decorated stones will not only add more color to your garden, but also provide the perfect resting place for butterflies. 

6. Give them a place for puddling. 

Butterflies use wet sand and mud for drinking water and extracting minerals, which is called puddling. Creating a place for butterflies to puddle is easy, and will help attract butterflies to your garden. 

Here are four steps to creating your own butterfly puddler:

  1. Find a shallow pan. You can place the pan on a stand, or simply lay it down in your garden (preferably in a sunny area).
  2. Add sand and small stones. The stones will give butterflies a place to land when drinking.
  3. Add water. You don’t want to flood the pan with water, but add just enough to keep the sand damp. 
  4. Refresh when needed. Check in on the pan to make sure there is enough water for the butterflies to drink.

However, if you don’t have the time to create your own butterfly puddler, there are plenty of options online you can purchase!

7. Don’t forget the caterpillars. 

Butterflies will not lay their eggs if there are no host plants for caterpillars to eat. Caterpillars strictly eat plants, known as host plants, while adult butterflies drink solely from nectar plants. 

Many caterpillar species will only eat certain plants—if the plant is not available to them, they will die. Additionally, you don’t want caterpillars snacking on your other plants, so be sure to grow specific host plants for caterpillars to feed on. To attract butterflies to your garden, you need to give them a safe and caterpillar-friendly place to reproduce. 

8. Eliminate butterfly-deterring pests.

Keep in mind that certain pests can deter butterflies from entering your yard. Wasps, ants, birds, snakes, dragonflies, and parasitic flies are all a threat to butterflies. 

Be sure to keep an eye out for these insects, and contact your local pest control expert to effectively remove these pests from your lawn and garden!

Successfully Attracted Butterflies To Your Garden? Here’s How To Make Them Stick Around

Once you’ve established your butterfly sanctuary using the tips above, it’s important to keep it properly maintained! Use these techniques to keep your garden fluttering with butterflies all season long. 

Keep your wilted plants around. 

Don’t trim off any dead flower heads or dead foliage—you may accidentally remove butterfly eggs or pupating butterflies. 

If you feel the need to trim, designate one or two host plants that will remain untouched. 

Do your best to leave the butterfly nectar plants and caterpillar host plants alone. Remove and relocate any caterpillars that have found a home elsewhere to these plants. 

Let Mother Nature do what she does best. 

The best butterfly gardens are those that are allowed to grow naturally. Let your plants grow and bloom without interference. 

Attract Butterflies To Your Garden With Killingsworth’s Expert Help

Ready to make your garden a butterfly destination? Great! With a little bit of work and maintenance, you’ll be seeing butterflies in no time. And remember, if you need help preparing your lawn or garden for beneficial insects like butterflies, we can help

While renowned for their beauty, butterflies, like bees, are key to pollinating and maintaining our ecosystem. By attracting butterflies to your garden, you’re doing your part to positively impact our environment! Here at Killingsworth, we value our environment which is why we take pride in offering organic lawn and pest services that protect you and your family. When it comes to keeping harmful pests at bay, trust our team of experts to get the job done in the safest possible way!

For more tips to help you attract butterflies while keeping unwanted pests out, read our Pest Encyclopedia! This guide will help you identify, prevent, and treat pest invasions—download your free copy of our Killingsworth Pest Encyclopedia today! 

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Content was originally published on July 26, 2018. Content was refreshed on July 2, 2019.

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