Butterfly gardens are simply a collection of plants, butterfly friendly methods, and the addition of a few special features. Anyone can have one in any size space. The magic begins when the butterflies discover it and arrive. Make your own butterfly garden, or a corner nook just for these flying visual jewels.
- Description and tips for this garden theme
- Ohio butterflies and the plants they like
- A sample garden plan and plant suggestions
Leave It A Little Wild
Butterfly gardens aren’t perfect gardens… they have some plants that you might otherwise ignore, some with holes in the leaves from being a host plant and having no pesticide barriers.
Butterflies are insects, after all, and the pesticide will not distinguish between insects you love and those you abhor.
In short, a butterfly area is one that is worth making not just for your own delight (and what is more delightful than a butterfly floating upon the air, or delicately sipping from a flower?), but for the general environment as well.
Now, Make A Butterfly-Friendly Environment Happen
Make A Butterfly Garden… and some Monarch Butterfly facts
Because of the wild nature of some of the plants, this type of natural garden would lend itself to a peaceful place of observation and meditation.
Consider making its placement in the further reaches of the yard. Perhaps a neglected corner that now is reached by a path, or the suggestion of a path with a few stepping stones could lead to this wilder area of your yard.
Provide the space with a seat of some type, and natural clumps of butterfly plants surrounded by a small grove of trees or flanked with some shrubs to enclose it. As a result, such a spot would be a cheerful place for enjoying your winged visitors.
Tips for Creating a Butterfly Sanctuary
Did you know that these creatures drink water from shallow puddles of water, rather than larger pools? Consequently make your own, or buy a “puddler” to meet their needs for water. This can be an attractive garden ornament, as well as help for Lepidoptera health.
A Butterfly Puddler
A Few Garden Planning Tips:
- Plant a variety of flowers instead of only one or two species
- The best color combination is yellow, mauve, or lavender flowers with a strong scent
- Note flowers in butterfly photos, like lantana and zinnias, to clue in on favored plants
- Butterflies like to perch on trees and shrubs
- Large rocks provide a resting and sunning spot
You might have some of the following visitors….
As a child I used to collect butterflies, but now that they are so rare in our gardens I don’t do that anymore. I love that people are now “collecting” with their digital cameras and preserving a record of this insect of gossamer and satin winged ornament without cutting short their lives. Some of the favorites were always the swallowtails.
Males are the bright yellow butterflies with black tiger markings that light up my autumn clematis in late August. The females are sometimes darker. They like ‘Buttonbush’, Cephalanthus occidentalis, a shrub native to the US, and willows. 
Deeply colored, with the insets of bright blue on the plush black of the wings, it is reputed to be found only in the Eastern US and extreme southern Ontario. . They eat the Sassafras tree leaves and those of the Lindera benzoin, a very choice native bush which is fragrant. Called ‘Spicebush’, the Lindera benzoin gives its nickname to the butterfly which feeds on it.
The state butterfly of Oklahoma, these love the plants of the carrot family. Their black velvet wings inlaid with stained glass colors of yellow and blue are striking. Grow Queen Anne’s Lace, fennels, dill, and other plants of the Umbelliferae family.
Another favorite is this one and its mimic, the Viceroy.
Ohio usually has a large number of these beautiful and striking orange and black butterflies. That is the icon of butterflies in this part of the world. I love them and keep the weedy milkweeds in the garden just for them. Additionally, I started growing the garden cousin of the common milkweed:Asclepsias tuberosa.
Numerous common Butterflies…
We always have lots of Whites and Sulphurs at our place. I really can’t tell them apart, except for the basic color of bright yellow and whites. The whites are calledÂ “Cabbage Butterflies” which is a tip-off on which plants they love to eat.
We also have the sweet little blue butterflies, the Azures. The one that usually catches my eye is the common Eastern Tailed Blue. It dines on the pea family… “yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis), alfalfa (Medicago sativa); various species of vetch (Vicia), clover (Trifolium), wild pea (Lathyrus), and bush clover (Lespedeza)” all of which grow in abundance in my yard and environs.
Plant those things which attract the different Lepidoptera of your region, create a space for your favorites. Remember to include both nectar and food source for egg, caterpillar and adult stages .
Make Your Yard Their Destination
Plants to plant:
|Lindera benzoin, shrub||native to USA||Variety; Spicebush swallowtail, spring azure|
|Buttonbush, shrub||native to USA||Variety; Spicebush swallowtail|
|Butterfly bush, shrub||Buddleia is a butterfly magnet; several species and colors|
|Asclepsias, herbaceous perennial||A. tuberosa, excellent orange garden plant||monarch, red admiral, swallowtails, skippers|
|Monardas, herbaceous perennial||Bee Balm is a showy herb garden plant||Variety; painted lady, cabbage, mourning cloak, eastern tiger swallowtail|
|Liatris, herbaceous perennial||Blazing Stars are prairie plants||Painted lady, fritillaries, skippers, sulphurs, coppers, checkerspots|
|Solidago, herbaceous perennial||Goldenrods are weeds or garden plants… situate carefully.||Sulphurs, whites, coppers, monarch, hairstreaks, viceroy, painted lady|
|Geranium maculatum, herbaceous perennial||Beloved garden plant||Skippers, eastern tailed blue|
|Mertensia virginica, herbaceous perennial||wild garden plant, shade, native to USA||variety|
|Achilleas, herbaceous perennial||Yarrows are water conserving plants||coppers, hairstreaks, skippers, sulphurs|
|Rudbeckia hirta, herbaceous perennial||Black-eyed Susans, widely used for gardens||Whites, sulphurs, brushfoots, skippers, blues|
|Violets, herbaceous perennial||good for larvae||variety|
|Asters, herbaceous perennial||now named ”||ed admiral, painted lady, monarch, pearl crescent, whites, sulphurs|
|Stokesia laevis, herbaceous perennial||not native||great spangled fritillary|
|Chelone obliqua, wildflower||Turtlehead is a good garden flower, native.||common buckeye and possibly Monarch|
|Claytonia virginica, wildflower||Spring Beauties naturalize in woodsy places.||Skippers,Blues,Whites|
|Echinacea purpurea, herbaceous perennial||Prairie flower||Variety,eastern tiger swallowtail,skippers,great spangled fritillary|
|Eupatorium coelestinum, herbaceous perennial||Blue Mist flower||many types|
|Baptisia australis||prairie plant, native||cloudless sulphur,Eastern tailed-blue,frosted elfin|
|Amelanchier, tree||Fine ornamental||spring azure,hesselâ€™s|
|Crataegus, tree||Hawthorns attract birds, too||juvenalâ€™s duskywing, Henryâ€™s elfin|
|Aristolochia macrophylla, vine||Dutchman’s pipe||Pipevine swallowtail|
|Schizachyrium,grass||Little bluestem good prairie grass||common wood nymph,|
Suggested Garden Plan
Sample Garden Plans
For small yard or a specific area of a larger one.
Sunny Garden, Sunny Spot
This plan would be appropriate for a sunny spot.
Center the garden plan with a landing station, perhaps a bubbler fountain within some large pebbles. Use smooth flattened rocks, like river pebbles. A space with a spectators bench, nearby.
Surround with a flower bed rimmed at its edge with Phlox divaricata, Stokesia laevis and Oenethera speciosa. Mid height plants of Rudbeckia, Monarda, Sedum spectibilis, and Echinacea purpurea.Â Backed with tall New England Asters and Buddleiabushes.
Site a nice large rock or two within the front of the border (preferably with a small depression to hold water), certain to attract winged guests.
More About the plants
Idea for shady spots:
Dogwoods, wild cherry, and redbud trees are good tree choices to surround your butterfly area.
Focal point of a large flat rock with depression to catch and hold water. Lindera benzoin shrub, surrounded with Chelone (Turtlehead), Lobelia cardinalis, and Aruncus dioicus. Underplant with violets, and Mertensia (Virginia bluebells).
Regular moisture is imperative for most of these plants.
Or these professional plans with pictures and plantlists!
D-I-Y Bubbler Fountain: Directions for the moderately experienced. You can make your own water feature that is ideal for visiting butterflies.
*Resource for plants, PDF infosheet of butterflies and moths