Butterfly gardening involves planning your garden to attract, retain, and encourage butterfly populations. A
sample garden plan is shown in Figure 1, and a list of host plants is given in Table 3 and Table 4. Flowers of
similar colors grouped together are more attractive to both butterflies and the gardener.

You should select a variety of nectar-producing plants with the aim of providing flowers in bloom throughout
the season. This will entice a continuous succession of new visitors to a yard. It is especially important to have
flowers in mid to late summer, when most butterflies are active. Flowers with multiple florets that produce
abundant nectar are ideal.

Annuals are wonderful butterfly plants because they bloom continuously through the season, providing a
steady supply of nectar. Perennial plants, such as coneflowers, lilac, butterfly weed, and asters, are visited
regularly by butterflies. Most plants in the mint family are also good nectar sources for butterflies. Avoid
double flowers because they are often bred for showiness, not nectar production.

You can supplement the garden’s flower nectar with a home-made feeder. Made from an inverted baby food
or other small jar, such a feeder can be attractive to butterflies. Drill a small hole in the center of the lid and
plug it with cotton. Fill the jar with a solution of one part sugar (not honey) to nine parts water. Attach brightly-
colored fabric petals to the lid to make the feeder more appealing to butterflies. Hang your feeder in a tree
near your garden.

For successful butterfly gardening, you need to provide food for more than the adult butterflies. You need to
provide for their caterpillar forms as well. Butterfly caterpillars have a limited host range (See Table 2). Most
caterpillars feed on leaves; although some develop on the reproductive parts of flowers or seeds.
Some supposedly good butterfly plants might not attract butterflies in your garden. It may be that a particular
plant is not the preferred larval food of local butterflies (see Table 2 for preferred plants).

1. Purple coneflower                            
2. Dill
3. Hollyhock
4. Joe-Pye weed
5. Globe centaurea     

6. Peony
7. Turtlehead
8. Swamp milkweed
9. Yarrow
10. Queen Anne’s la
11. Tawny daylily
12. ‘Marine’ heliotrope
13. Gayfeather
14. Butterfly weed
15. Petunia
16. Mountain bluet
17. Annual aster
18. ‘Autumn Joy’ sedum
19. Rock cress
20. French marigold
21. ‘Happy Returns’ daylily
22. Blanket flower
23. Nasturtium
24. Goldenrod


Successful butterfly gardening includes more than providing larval host plants and nectar sources. It includes
planning appropriate habitats for these useful and beautiful creatures. For instance, shelter is important to
butterflies for a number of reasons. Butterflies prefer to feed and lay eggs in sheltered areas, where they will
not be cooled by nor have to fight wind gusts.

A row of shrubs or trees can make a dual purpose windbreak if plants that also provide food for moths or
butterflies are selected. Place tall plants at the back and the sides of the butterfly garden for additional

Consider keeping a bowl of wet sand or creating a mud puddle in your garden to encourage butterfly puddling.

Reduced Use of Pesticides

One of the most important conservation decisions we can make is to avoid the use of broad spectrum
pesticides sprayed all around the yard. Instead, use more benign spot treatments on plants troubled with
pest insects. For pest insects use alternative control methods such as oils, soaps, and microbial insecticides
such as Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Remember that oils and soaps still kill caterpillars if sprayed directly on
them and that they also will die if they feed on plants treated with a Bt formulation that is toxic to them.

Plants for California:

A. Curassavica, "Red Butterfly" (pictures-one and four)
Half-hardy perennial; flowers red and orange; frost tender; height to 3 feet.

A. Curassavica, "Silky Gold" (pictures-two and five)
Half-hardy perennial; floweres gold yellow on strong steams; frost tender; height to 3 feet.

A. Physocarpa, "Blowfish Tree" (pictures three and six)
Half-hardy plant with small white flowers; hugh seed pods like small blowfish; height to 5 feet

Buddleia davidii; "Nano purple"(picture-seven)
semi-deciduous bush, leaves long, pointed green, shrub to 9 feet; purple flower that blooms in summer and

Buddleia davidii; "Pink Delight" (picture-ten )
Semi-deciduous bush, shrub to 9 feet; pink flowers that bloom in summer and fall

Salvia Leucantha; "Mexican Bush Sage" (picture eight)
Evergreen, erect, well-branched shrub to 6 feet, frost tender; sun

Salvia farinacea, "Blue Bedder" (picture eleven)
20" bedding plant with blue and white flowers; sun; well drained soil

Lavender Stoechas, "Spanish Lavender" (picture nine and twelve)
Strongly fragrant, blooms all summer; drought tolerant; height to 2 feet

Lavandula angustifolia, "English lavender" (no pictures)
Three types: 1.) Hidcote Blue-uniform, dwarf 12 inch plants with deep purple flowers 2.) Lavender Lady-
compact free flowering with purple flowers 3.) Munstead-narrow gray-green leaves and purple blooms

California Butterfly Plants PDF


Butterfly Design Word file

California Plants for Butterfly - Las Pilitas

Audubon Butterfly Garden  PDF
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