Butterflies are self-propelled flowers. When I first heard that quote, I realized just how true it is. In the middle of summer, when birds are busy feeding young, and there might be less activity, butterflies get busy and fill that quietness. Learn 9 easy steps to welcome butterflies into your garden.
Welcome Butterflies Into Your Garden in 9 Easy Steps
From children to adults, we all seem to gravitate towards the somewhat mysterious butterfly. It’s beautiful, it speaks of freedom, it flies on the wind and brightens our day.
It also speaks volumes to our soul as once being a caterpillar who crawled, it transformed into this pretty creature that flies where it wants. We take that to heart because we too want to fly.
Some people even believe that a visiting butterfly means a loved one who has passed is now visiting them. My mom used to do this after her beloved horse died. Every butterfly was her horse.
Since she passed away last year, every butterfly my dad now sees is her. What a beautiful symbol of love and freedom for so many. And pretty easy to attract to your gardens. Let’s welcome butterflies with these 9 tips!
1. Have a diversity of the butterfly’s favorite flowers
Having nectar flowers will be the top way to welcome butterflies into your yard. Not only are they attracted to their favorite flowers, but they need them for survival.
And we need them too, for they are great pollinators. Traveling from flower to flower spreads the pollen that makes it possible for us to not only see beautiful perennials year to year but to have food to eat. Butterflies also help pollenate our fruit trees and other food sources.
Some of their high-nectar, long-lasting favorites include:
- Garden Phlox
- Joe-Pye Weed
- Swamp & Common Milkweed
- Butterfly Bush
- Blanket flower
- Butterfly Weed
- Purple Coneflower
- New England Aster
- Bee Balm
- Black-eyed Susan
I’ve listed many for you to choose from! For best growing conditions and success of flowers, check out their care tag or research what works best for you and your growing zones.
You’ll welcome butterflies with your butterfly feast in no time!
“Butterflies are self-propelled flowers”R.H. Heinlein
2. Plant some flowers in clumps
I feel that most of us plant flowers in clumps anyway. Not many of us will plant one single bee balm flower and call it good!
Visiting butterflies will appreciate some of their favorite flowers in clumps, too, as they are quite near-sighted.
Their eyesight is pretty good when they are about 10-12 feet away from something. But trying to see the flowers across the yard? Blurry.
Therefore planting some nectar flowers in clumps or masses will benefit the hungry butterfly.
They are also pretty good at seeing colors, so the masses of flowers help in this way.
3. Have bushes and trees for resting and hiding
To welcome butterflies into your flower gardens, make sure you have plenty of nearby resting and hiding places for them.
I feel that most of us do have this, but you’d be surprised. I’ve visited many houses with this random batch of flowers stuck right out in an open area with zero trees or bushes around it.
Granted, this is great because a passing butterfly can dine before it flies off again. But chances are, these butterflies won’t stick around long enough for you to see them.
It takes a lot of energy for butterflies to fly against wind currents, and having a tree or bush to rest in can be a Godsend for them.
Other butterflies may roost in your trees at night or hide in bushes to wait for rain or a storm to stop.
Even flowers planted near a house or deck will help buffer against the wind, but trees and bushes are the best. Plus, a house looks a million times better with trees and bushes in the yard!
4. Make a butterfly puddling pool
This is a fun project that could even be made with any children in your family. A puddling pool will definitely welcome butterflies!
Have you ever drove past a puddle after a rain, or maybe a river or creek, and seen butterflies nearby?
They are not only getting a drink but gathering vital minerals and salt they need to survive. Male butterflies will also pass some of these minerals to the female through their sperm!
Provide them with a puddling pool by simply sinking a dish or bucket into the ground and filling it with sand. Then cover it with water (sand still showing). It’ll dry out quickly, so spray it or check it daily, especially in the hot months.
You could even use a shallow birdbath to make this pool, which I have to do because I have chickens.
If you want, add a few pebbles or gravel so they can stand on it. I recommend placing it where you can easily get to it since you have to refill daily.
Also, keep it out of the wind and in a protected area.
To take it one step further, you can occasionally sprinkle salt lightly on the sand. Or add a small amount of stale beer, broken down manure, or ripe fruit such as oranges or bananas. Just remove the fruit before it starts rotting or molding.
Fun fact, while males are gathering these important minerals, it also helps them create and secret the pheromones necessary to attract females!
“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty”Maya Angelou
5. Place rocks in safe spot for sunbathing
Welcome butterflies into your yard by giving them a safe place to sunbathe, as they absolutely love the sun!
Butterflies are ectotherm, which means they actually regulate their temperature externally. Which is why they love sunbathing, they need to sunbathe!
On cooler days, you’ll see a butterfly perched on a safe place with wings extended. They are warming up their body temperatures and flight muscles as they can’t fly below 55° F.
If you have a few large rocks, consider placing them in safe, sunny spots in your flower garden. Make these spots out of the wind, and you’ll be sure to see butterflies sunning themselves on them!
6. Have host plants for caterpillars
Nothing like having a complete life cycle available in your yard to welcome butterflies! And any true butterfly garden will definitely incorporate plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on.
For this reason, milkweed is a must! Not only is it a fantastic draw to pollinators with its nectar-rich flowers, but it’s the only plant the caterpillar will eat. Common milkweed is amazing, but if you’re afraid of spreading, try Swamp Milkweed or even Butterfly weed. (check your area for the variety that is native for you!)
Other host plants include:
- Dill, fennel, parsley, rue
- False nettle
- Black-eyed Susan
- Shasta Daisy
- Wild Petunia
- Blue Vervain
- Wild Blue Indigo
- Spice bush
- Oak, Aspen, Elm, Prickly Ash, Pawpaw, Sassafras, Willow trees
There are many more you can choose from! A quick internet search will give you plenty more, I’m sure.
Just be aware that, of course, they will make holes in your leaves, it’s how they grow and become butterflies, so you must be at one with their life cycle and look past that.
Just know you are making a difference in their lives by providing host plants. And you’ll have so much beauty in your yard when you welcome butterflies and make them happy!
“Butterflies are nature’s angels. They remind us what a gift it is to be alive.”Robyn Nola
7. Leave the leaves in the fall!
I see people raking and blowing all of their leaves till there is nothing left. And that’s just it. There’s nothing left. This will never welcome butterflies into your yard for the long haul!
Many different species of butterflies, moths, and caterpillars will use the leaves as insulation to make it through the winter. Even the tough Midwest winters!
They hibernate in the leaves that you so wonderfully leave for them by going through a state of diapause. Most notably is the Isabella tiger moth, which we call the woolly bear. This is why you see them on a warm day, they are moving to the next spot to hide!
If you can’t stand leaving all the leaves, consider raking most of them into a couple of different piles. The life that is sustained in a blanket of leaves for the winter is incredible, and this includes these “flying flowers” we love!
Butterflies and caterpillars will also hide out in loose bark, woodpiles, and piles of brush. So don’t be in too much of a hurry to remove all of that before winter. The butterflies will thank you!
Along with welcoming butterflies, leaves are natural protection for your plants and trees. Once the leaves decompose, you’ll have the best natural fertilizer.
Leave the leaves. Please. 🙂
8. Keep bird feeders away from butterfly gardens
I love my birds just as much as I love my butterflies. I am the ultimate bird watcher, and they are all welcome to my property.
As a matter of fact, the more birds I see here, the happier I am. But I still keep the feeders in the front yard, while the largest amount of flowers are in the back yard.
I have plenty of gourds and nest boxes all throughout my yard, so I know there are probably plenty of caterpillars used to feed hungry young. This is fine as it’s a complete circle and I love my birds.
I allow nature to be nature, and am happy to be a diverse yard for all nature. But I don’t encourage it by placing my feeders in my flower gardens.
9. Absolutely no pesticides
I know this one seems obvious. But you’d be surprised how many well-meaning people kill off not only caterpillars but beneficial insects by applying pesticides on a nearby plant.
Last year I had 5-6 Black Swallowtail caterpillars in a habitat outside. Unknowingly, my husband sprayed wasp killer in a barbecue that was nearby. The wind carried the droplets of pesticides, and gone were my poor little caterpillars. I was so sad! It was an accident, of course, but one that could have been prevented.
Thankfully I have an understanding husband, as no pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides, or any other “killers” are allowed on our property. As far as the wasp spray, he always asks me first to make sure nothing is near. He’s great.
It’s amazing how I actually have less annoying pests since I’ve allowed nature to take care of nature!
But back to caterpillars. They have soft skin and are very susceptible to nearby pesticides. They are also very good at hiding, so if you think you’ve checked before you apply, think again.
Also, pesticide residue stays on leaves for longer than you think, even going into the root system. A plant likely carries it for a very long time, and a caterpillar to feeding on it may die or have growth issues, and may not turn into a butterfly.
There are many organic and natural ways to take care of unwanted pests. Please choose that route instead, especially if you want to welcome butterflies and other beneficial insects onto your property!
A little bit of work and a lot of love can make your yard an oasis to welcome butterflies, birds, and other fun nature stuff into your gardens and make your heart smile. 🙂
“May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun and find your shoulder to light on, to bring you luck, happiness and riches today, tomorrow and beyond.”Irish Blessing
What else do you do to welcome butterflies into your yard? Please share with me by leaving a comment below! Thank you!