attracting butterflies to your gardenTo attract the greatest number of butterflies and have them as residents in your yard you will need to have plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly. They need a place to lay eggs, food plants for the larva (caterpillar), a place to form a chrysalis and nectar sources for the adults.

Most adult butterflies live 10 to 20 days but some live no longer than 3 to 4 days. The overwintering monarchs may live 6 months. Over 700 species of butterflies are found in North America. Butterfly tarsi or “feet” possess a sense similar to taste. Contact with sweet liquids such as nectar causes the proboscis to uncoil.


Adults searching for nectar are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink or purple blossoms that are flat topped or clustered flowers or short flower tubes.

Short flower tubes allow the butterfly to reach the nectar with their proboscis. Nectar-producing plants should be grown in open sunny areas as most adults rarely feed on plants in the shade. Your key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Add butterfly nectar sources to the vegetable garden.

Companion plant with dense clusters of small flowers such as zinnias, marigolds, buddleia, milkweeds, verbenas and mint family plants work well

Many caterpillars are picky eaters. They rely on only one or two species of plants. If you don’t grow caterpillars there will be no adults. Bringing caterpillar foods into your garden can greatly increase your chances of attracting unusual and uncommon butterflies while giving you another reason to plant an increasing variety of native plants. Most butterflies do NOT cause the leaf damage we associate with moth caterpillars such as cabbage worms, tent caterpillars or gypsy moths.