The Outdoor Campus - East

How to Build a Butterfly Garden

What Does it take to feed butterflies?
It takes both food for the butterflies, as well as food for the caterpillars that will become butterflies!


Host Plants

Black Swallowtail dill, carrot, parsley
Giant Swallowtail prickly ash
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Ash
Cabbage Butterfly cabbage, mustards, cauliflower
Clouded Sulphur clovers
Alfalfa Butterfly alfalfa, clovers
Melissa Blue lupines, alfalfa, wild licorice
Variegated Fritillary violets, pansy
Great Spangled Fritillary violets
Pearl Crescent asters
Mourning Cloak willows, American elm, hackberry
Painted Lady thistles
Viceroy willows
Hackberry Butterfly hackberry trees
monarch milkweed

Nectar Sources for Butterflies in Zones 3 and 4

Alyssum Aster Bee Balm Butterfly Bush
Cosmos Daisies Daylilies Dill
Dogbane Fennel Geranium Goldenrod
Heliotrope Hibiscus Hollyhock Honeysuckle
Impatiens Lantana Lilac Lilies
Marigold Nasturtium Parsley Petunia
Phlox Primrose Pussy Willow Sedum
Snapdragon Spirea Sumac Viburnum
Violets Weigelia Zinnia
Enjoying Butterflies!
Here are some more hints for creating your own butterfly garden!
  • Locate the garden in a sunny area with protection from the wind. Butterflies and most butterfly-attracting plants require bright sunlight.
  • Plant nectar-producing flowers. Butterflies visit flowers in search of nectar; a sugary fluid, to eat. Many native butterflies seem to prefer purple, yellow, orange, and red-colored blossoms. Clusters of short, tubular flowers or flat-topped blossoms provide the idea shapes for butterflies to easily land and feed.
  • Plan for continuous bloom throughout the growing season. Butterflies are active from early spring until late fall. Plant a selection of flowers that will provide nectar throughout the entire growing season.
  • Use large splashes of color and select single rather than double flowers. The nectar of single flowers is more accessible and easier for butterflies to extract than the nectar of double flowers which have more petals per flower. Large splashes of color will attract butterflies. Groups of flowers are easier for butterflies to locate than isolated plants.
  • Include caterpillar host plants in the garden design. Host plants provide food for caterpillars and lure female butterflies into the garden to lay eggs.
  • Provide damp areas or shallow puddles in the garden. Butterflies cannot drink from open water, but prefer damp areas and shallow puddles. Male butterflies will congregate at puddles.
  • Place flat stones in the garden. Butterflies often perch on stones, bare soil or vegetation, spread their wings and bask in the sun. Basking raises their body temperatures so they are able to fly and remain active.
  • Do not use pesticides in or near the garden. Most traditional garden pesticides are toxic to butterflies. Use predatory insects, insecticidal soap or hand remove the pests of problems occur.
  • Become a butterfly watcher. Get to know the colorful butterflies that visit your garden. They are easy to identify with a good field guide.
  • Enjoy your garden!