Getting Butterflies To Live In Your Garden

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They are everywhere, it seems, but sometimes getting butterflies to live in a garden can be challenging. Find out how to get them to live in your yard.

Butterflies remind me of my dad. Thai people believe in reincarnation. Once they’re cremated the body stays in the home for a period of time while the monks come into the home and chant and give the opportunity for the soul to eventually leave the body and reincarnate, perhaps into a butterfly.

The monks stayed in our living room chanting for three days. Nothing could have prepared me for that. My dad wasn’t a man of many words–Thai or English. So, he often neglected to explain customs. Needless to say this was one my siblings and I were completely in the dark about.

Now, many years later, one of the things I welcome most in my patio garden is butterflies. These colorful insects are not only peaceful and beautiful to watch but they’re also good for pollenating flowers.

ButterflyilluminatedIf you want more butterflies in your garden, you have to think about how and what butterflies need to reproduce.

Butterflies “need places to lay eggs, food plants for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nectar sources for adults,” writes the National Wildlife Federation.

If you incorporate the kind of plants that support the butterflies’ ability to reproduce, you’ll have an abundance of them.

Butterfly favorites: yes, butterflies have a preference when it comes to plants. “Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered, and have short flower tubes,” writes the National Wildlife Federation.  Getting butterflies in your garden will be easier if you plant daisy-shaped flowers. They’re part of a large group called composites which have tight clusters of tiny flowers and are surrounded by colorful petals.

Plant native flowering plants: look for plants that are native to your geographical area. These native flowering plants will offer nectar that the butterflies need as caterpillars and later adult butterflies.

Put host plants in your garden: these plants provide the larval (caterpillar) with food and help ensure that butterflies will not just pass through your yard but will reside in your garden.

Continuous bloom: try to keep a variety of blooming plants in your garden this will help to make sure that butterflies have a continuous source of nectar. To be most helpful to butterflies, as one plant stops blooming, you should have another starts blooming in your garden.

Go organic: this might seem obvious but chemicals and pesticides will kill butterflies so stick to organic and natural products for lawn and plant maintenance.

Place stones for a resting spot for butterflies: butterflies can’t regulate their own body temperature so it changes with the environment that they’re in. If it’s cold, they’ll seek out a light colored stone to rest and warm their body temperature so they can fly again. Butterflies need to warm their internal muscles to 80 degrees before they can take flight.

Wet sand for puddling: if it’s very hot, butterflies will do “puddling” to cool down.  “Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat. Make sure to keep the sand moist,” writes the National Wildlife Federation.

Trivia: butterflies can’t hear but they can feel vibrations and they have an excellent sense of smell.

Here are some types of plants you should consider to get more butterflies in your garden:

Plant (common name) Latin Name
Allium Allium
Aster Aster
Bee Balm Monarda
Butterfly bush Buddleia
Catmint Nepeta
Clove Pink Dianthus
Cornflower Centaurea
Daylilly Hemerocallis
False indigo Baptisia
Fleabane Erigeron
Fleabane Erigeron
Floss flower Ageratum
Globe thistle Echinops
Goldenrod Solidago
Helen’s flower Helenium
Hollyhock Alcea
Lavender Lavendula
Liac Syringa

See the full list, Source, The Old Farmer’s Almanac.


Phoebe Chongchua is a multimedia brand journalist who consults and writes on wellness, all things plant-based, fitness, lifestyle, and travel. She is yoga certified and earned her certificate in Whole Food Plant-Based Eating in 2010 through eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation. She's also a top podcaster for her marketing/storytelling podcast, The Brand Journalism Advantage at

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