by K-State Research & Extension

MANHATTAN, Kan. - A butterfly garden is simply one that encourages butterflies to visit in summer by providing the basics those "fluttering flowers" need.
"The only problem in planning one is the fact that different butterfly species prefer different flowers as food," said Ward Upham, horticulturist with Kansas State University Research and Extension.
Gardeners who hope to attract a certain species usually have to do some study on the Web or in the library to learn the best plants to try. They may end up having to experiment a bit, too, Upham said.
Following the rules below, however, can help lure butterflies to any yard:
  • Plant groups of the same plant variety together. Detecting a single plant is hard for butterflies.
  • Choose a variety of plants with bloom times that vary by time of day, as well as time of year.
  • Remember butterflies are cold-blooded. Plan for open areas where they can sun themselves on cool days and shaded zones where they can cool off when the sun is intense.
Upham recommends a simple way for gardeners to maintain a butterfly water supply, without creating a mosquito breeding site: Fill a bucket with gravel and bury it to the rim. As needed, add enough water, sugar water or sweet drinks so that butterflies can land on the gravel, yet also reach the liquid.
"If you´re not fussy about the species who visit, you can just aim for variety or plan your plantings from the lists of known butterfly favorites," the horticulturist added. Those favorites include:
  • Annuals - ageratum, cosmos, French marigold, petunia, verbena and zinnia.
  • Early-blooming perennials and shrubs - allium, chive, forget-me-not and lilac.
  • Mid-season perennials and shrubs - bee balm, butterfly bush, black-eyed Susan, buttonbush, butterfly weed, daisy, daylily, gaillardia, lavender, lily, mint, phlox, privet, sunflower and veronica.
  • Later bloomers - aster, glossy abelia, and sedum.