Monarch butterfly in garden

How to Beautify Your Garden with Butterflies

Butterflies on aster

Do you dream of a beautiful garden that welcomes butterflies?

Are you wondering what types of flowers attract butterflies?

Have you ever been to a butterfly garden? There’s a beautiful enclosed butterfly garden in my home state of Michigan, on Mackinac Island.

When you go in, you are surrounded by butterflies of all colors flitting around. It’s a magical experience for anyone of any age. There are so many butterflies; they land on your head, shoulders, and outstretched hands.

Now, imagine yourself sitting in your garden, drinking lemonade while butterflies dance all around you. Your guests and family members will be enchanted and want to come back to your house over and over.

Does this sound too good to be true?

It’s not. You can plant certain flowers to bring butterflies to you. Today, we will take a look at how butterflies live and different ways to attract them to your garden.

Butterflies in indoor garden on Mackinac Island

Butterfly Life Cycle

You probably know this, but by the time you see a butterfly, it has completed almost its entire life cycle and is on the hunt for a mate to reproduce.

Butterflies need to breed quickly, because they only have about two weeks, on average, to reproduce before their life spans are over.

Female butterflies need to find the right kind of leaves on which to plant her eggs because those tiny baby caterpillars need to start eating leaves as soon as they hatch.

Their essential job is to grow big as fast as they can.

Male butterflies need to look for females to fertilize, and often wait around outside of a female still in her chrysalis to fertilize her either before, or just after she emerges. You can read up about this fascinating process at How Stuff Works.

Butterflies are just amazing! They use pheromones to identify each other and also to protect their young by disguising them in plain sight.

Butterfly Threats

Butterflies are extremely vulnerable.

Fungus and rot can destroy the eggs, which they often lay on the underside of leaves if the humidity levels aren’t right.

Predators like bats and birds like to eat them in their caterpillar stage, and they are subject to diseases and parasites at all stages of their development.

All of this is why butterflies need to have the right kind of sanctuary to complete the crucial mating part of their life cycle.

Caterpillars want to have the correct type of leaf to eat, and adult butterflies need a continuous supply of nectar to fuel their romantic escapades.

How to Start Attracting and Protecting Butterflies

If you build a butterfly sanctuary in your garden, not only will you be helping the butterflies in your area, you will also reap the benefits by getting to be around their loveliness for the whole season.

Butterfly on butterfly bush

Butterfly on butterfly bush

4 Steps to Create a Butterfly Garden

Here are four steps to take to make this dream a reality:

Provide Flowering Plants & Host Plants

To bring butterflies to your garden, it’s crucial to plant native flowering plants and native host plants.

Butterflies love nectar, but what else do we know about butterflies now?

Their young can’t travel far at all. So if you want butterflies completing as much of their life cycle in your yard as possible, you want them to have access to host plants for their young, and flowering plants for the adults. These native plants tend to be different for every region.

There is so much information you can find on the internet about which plants to plant in your region, and it does vary by region.

Learn About Nature, although geared toward children, has a wealth of information in the form of lists.

You can find which species of butterflies have been sighted in your area, as well as which plants you should plant for their thriving.

If you find that you are starting to enjoy identifying butterflies and moths that you attract, you can check out and add to that database. Plus, it has tons of gorgeous pictures.

Provide the Best Flower Colors to Attract Butterflies

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the best colors to attract adult butterflies are:

  • Orange
  • Yellow
  • Red
  • Pink
  • Purple

The good thing is, these are some of the best colors to plant anyway for a beautiful garden.

Butterfly on sedum plant

Butterfly on sedum flower

Shrubs and Perennials that Attract Butterflies

According to the University of Michigan, favorite shrubs and perennials of butterflies include:

  • The Butterfly Bush
  • Lilacs
  • Blueberries
  • Asters
  • Bee Balm
  • Coreopsis
  • Phlox
  • Sedum
  • Yarrow
  • Purple Coneflowers
Butterfly on zinnia flower

Butterfly on zinnia flower

Annuals that attract butterflies include:

  • Cosmos
  • Marigolds
  • Nasturtiums
  • Petunias
  • Sunflowers
  • Verbena
  • Zinnias 

Do Not Use Insecticides

Take care, and do not use insecticides.

While killing pesky insects, insecticides will also destroy your butterflies. The National Wildlife Federation recommends that you do not even have insecticides on your property.

Provide Food for Caterpillars

Provide your caterpillars with a feast.

Caterpillars need to eat a lot, and the plants need to be available for the adult females to lay their eggs on. These types of caterpillars do not leave holes in the leaves of your plants like tent caterpillars, gypsy moths, and bagworms.

Provide Nonstop Blooming

During a butterfly’s adult phase in life, they need nectar.

One way to keep butterflies in your garden is to plant your flowers to bloom at different times throughout the season for never-ending blossoms.

This will provide your butterflies with the nectar they need to stay around. Butterfly bush and butterfly weed are very popular for this purpose, but any plants that flower in mid to late summer work well.

In my yard, I have an abundance of regional wildflowers, and I always know they are going to be at peak bloom at the end of August and early September.

Marigolds, purple coneflower, aster, milkweed, and oregano are just a few of the plants that work well for many species of butterflies.


Bringing butterflies to your garden is a dream that can become a reality with the know-how.

Do you have any proven tips to bring and attract butterflies in your garden? We would love to hear them. Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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