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Attracting Butterflies
Attracting Butterflies

Butterflies are attracted to a garden by flowers that are rich in nectar, the sweet liquid flowers produce to attract insects and birds for pollination. To bring butterflies to your garden, start with the right plantings placed in a sunny, protected area. (Butterflies need the sun to stay warm.) Butterflies need a source of water too. You can provide it with a shallow birdbath, saucer or puddles. While the adult butterflies feed on nectar, their hungry caterpillars will also need food. Sometimes the same plant attracts them both, but not always. If you are trying to encourage a specific type of butterfly to complete its life cycle in your garden, you can find books that will tell you what to plant for that particular variety. For instance, black swallowtails will be attracted to various flowers in your garden, but they will only complete their life cycle there if you are growing dill or parsley for their caterpillars to eat. It is also important to be able to identify the caterpillar stages of butterflies, so you don't accidentally destroy them.

The life cycle of various butterflies will differ, but the basics are the same. First, an egg is laid by an adult on a plant that will be a source of food for the caterpillar. The egg hatches into a larva (we call it a caterpillar). As the larva grows, it can go through several stages before it reaches the pupa stage and forms the pupa case called the chrysalis. After its metamorphosis, the chrysalis splits open and the butterfly emerges. Most varieties stick around for the winter, hibernating in the deep fissures of the bark of trees. Of course there are exceptions: Monarch butterflies actually migrate like birds. The butterfly houses that are available are constructed with narrow slits that only allow butterflies to enter and provide a sheltered place for them to winter or rest.

Butterflies are attracted to a few other sources of food in addition to nectar and water. Plants that produce fruit (that often falls and rots) are a great source of food. Watch carefully, and you may see butterflies feeding on tree sap that is dripping from a cut or break. People can provide food for them too. When you have fruit that is overripe you can put it out in a dish for the butterflies. To encourage fermentation and make the fruit even more attractive, pour beer over the cut surfaces of the fruit. If you do not have beer, a mixture of water, sugar and a little yeast works too.

Plants That Attract Butterflies

Annuals
Ageratum Ageratum
Annual daisy Argyanthemum
Cosmos Cosmos
Dianthus Dianthus
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana
Heliotrope Heliotropium
Impatiens Impatiens
Lantana Lantana
Lobelia Lobelia
Marigold Tagetes
Mexican Sunflower Tithonia
Pentas Penta
Pot Marigold Calendula
Spider Flower Cleome
Sweet Alyssum Lobularia
Sweet William Dianthus
Verbena Verbena
Zinnia Zinnia

Herbs
Borage Borago o.
Chives Allium
Dill Anethum g.
Fennel Foeniculum
Mint Mentha
Oregano Origanum
Parsley Petroselinum
Rue Ruta

Shrubs
Butterfly Bush Buddleia
Clethra Clethra
Lilac Syringia
Mockorange Philadelphus
Potentilla Potentilla
Pussy Willow Salix
Serviceberry Amelanchier
Spirea Spiraea
Wayfaring Bush Viburnum
Weigela Weigela

Perennials
Aster
Astilbe
Autumn Joy Sedum Sedum
Bee Balm Monarda
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Blanket flower Gaillardia
Blazing star Liatris
Butterfly Weed Asclepias t.
Candytuft Iberis
Catmint Nepata
Columbine Aquilegia
Coneflower Echinacea
Coneflower Rudbeckia
Daisy Leucanthemum
Evening primrose Oenothera
Fall Asters Aster
Garden Phlox Phlox
Gayfeather Liatris
Globe Thistle Echinops
Goldenrod Solidago
Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium
Lavender Lavendula
Lilies Lilium
Lupine Lupinus
Masterwort Astrantia
Meadow Sage Salvia
Moonbeam Coreopsis Coreopsis v.
Myosotis
Obedient Plant Physostegia
Ornamental Grasses
Painted daisy Tanacetum
Peony Paeonea
Perennial Sunflower Heliopsis
Pincushion flower Scabiosa
Pinks Dianthus
Rock Cress Arabis
Shasta Daisies Leucanthemum
Sneezeweed Helenium
Swamp Milkweed Asclepias i.
Thrift Armeria
Tickseed Coreopsis
Wind flower Anemone
Yarrow Achillea

Trees
Alder Alnus
Elms Ulmus
Gray Dogwood Cornus
Hawthorne Crataegus
Horse Chestnut Aesculus
Maple Acer
Pagoda Dogwood Cornus
Redbud Cercis
Tree Lilac Syringia
Weeping Willow Salix

Wildflowers
Beggars Ticks Bidens aristosa
Bergamot/Oswego Tea Monarda
Boneset Eupatorium perfol.
Butterfly Weed Asclepias t.
Clover Trifolium
Dandelions Taraxacum
Fall Asters Aster
Goldenrod Solidago
Hawkweed Heracium
Ironweed Vernonia
Joe-Pye Weed Eupatorium
Milkweed Asclepias
Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum
Oxeye Daisy Leucanthemum
Queen Anne's Lace Daucus carota
Thistle Cirsium
Vetch Vicia
Yarrow Achillea millefolium

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