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How to Plant a Butterfly Garden

There is a garden activity that has been sweeping across the globe in a craze, as it is perfect for adults and children of all ages! What is this activity that has everyone searching and researching for the proper plants, soil, barriers, and more?

Well first let me ask you a couple simple questions! Do you like and enjoy seeing butterflies in their natural habitat? Are you filled with joy when you see the delicate wings of these transformative creatures flapping in the morning sunshine? What if you could see and experience this phenomenon whenever butterflies are around for the season? You can, with your very own butterfly garden.

A butterfly garden is a garden that is designed and grew, purely to attract numerous butterflies of a variety of colors, patterns, and species. Designing and building a butterfly garden can be not only a bonding experience for you and your family but also an informative activity to teach small children a sense of responsibility and a lesson in respecting nature.

What is a Butterfly Garden?

A garden for butterflies is a sanctuary planted specifically for the purpose of providing color to your backyard by planting sections or even planters of vegetation known for attracting butterflies. Depending on the space available, you may be able to plant rows of bright flowers in an already existing garden or you might be able to place some decorative planters in eye-catching locations around your residence (should space be limited).

Generally, a butterfly garden would be ripe with nectar-producing flowers that not only look like a rainbow come to life but will also have a fragrance to match. These gardens are not only visually appealing to all but will also provide a safe haven for butterflies as the season’s progress.

What Will You Need to Plant a Garden for Butterflies?

As with any project that you are willing to tackle, it is duly important to note that some materials may need to be purchased when growing a butterfly garden.
Please ensure that the following is available or purchased before starting your butterfly oasis:

Potting soil

Gardening Tools

Planters or Lumber to make wooden boxes (depending on the style of butterfly garden)

Nectar-producing plants

How to Plant a Butterfly Garden

Once you have all the materials gathered that would help you complete a beautiful and vibrant garden for butterflies, it is necessary to follow the below instructions to ensure success! Make sure you complete ample research on the types of plants you will need, what butterflies are native to your region, and what is the best type of butterfly oasis would suit them, i.e. untamed shrubs, window boxes or a full garden.

Location, Location, Location

As with any type of garden or situation where you are going to grow, plants, shrubs, and vegetables; the location is essential to a successful crop or harvest. There are a few factors to consider when determining the location of your butterfly area:

  1. Exposure to sunlight throughout the day – butterflies love and thrive in the sunlight, so a butterfly garden positioned to make the most of both the morning and evening sun (along with the time in between) is a must.
  2. Lack of exposure to outside chemicals or pesticides – perhaps you supplement your grocery needs each week with home-grown vegetables that are sprayed with an organic pesticide. If so, you do not want to expose butterflies to that, as their genetic makeup leaves them unable to heal from internal damage. If you live on a busy street, it would not be recommended to position your butterfly garden where it can be covered in the exhaust.
  3. Your chosen garden spot should be protected from harsh winds that can damage the flowers providing nectar and safe havens for the butterflies.

Soil & Planting

Plants and flowers need a certain type of soil to grow and flourish in your region. The soil chosen should be rich in nutrients and minerals to encourage healthy growth. The soil will need to be weeded regularly, as certain types of garden weeds can choke out the other plants by cutting off their oxygen and water supply.

Plant flowers and other vegetation in the design you have chosen, making sure to leave room for growth, weeding and watering. It is recommended that you plant both plants and flowers in groups of three, so it is easy for passing butterflies to find their food source. Place “host” plants on the outskirts of your garden to encourage butterflies to lay their larvae in a safe location, away from predators of human and organic origins.

Water Source

As with any type of garden, a consistent water source is an absolute necessity. If your plants are healthy with ample water to drink, the butterflies can draw water from the plants to use for their own means. Make sure that your garden can be easily watered, either through a garden hose or irrigation system. Don’t overwater plants, as this can drown the roots, which causes the plant to suffer; in turn, creating an unsafe haven for the butterflies as there is no food or water source from the plants.

A damp area of wet sand or soil will provide your butterflies with the water it needs in each stage of life, encouraging butterflies to return each year to your location.

Additional Features

By providing butterflies a consistent food source and shelter from the elements, you will encourage current inhabitants of your garden for butterflies to stay in the haven you have provided, and you will also attract other butterflies of different varieties as well. You can purchase actual butterfly houses for your garden and they are simple structures that have slotted openings for quick and easy movement for your butterflies. Provide additional sources of nectar by installing a butterfly feeder (available at your local garden center or nursery) or provide additional sources of water by installing a birdbath in the garden. As butterflies do not drink open water, an old birdbath filled with a wet sand or silt can provide additional sources of water for your butterfly visitors.

Place a few flat rocks in strategic locations to provide a resting place for butterflies, particularly in the mornings and evenings when the temperature is at a lower level than it would be mid-day.

What Plants are Best for a Butterfly Oasis?

Just as certain types of vegetables grow more plentiful in certain climates, there are particular flowers and shrubs that will attract butterflies to your butterfly garden. Butterflies are more attracted to any type of flower that is a nectar-producing variety, as this is what they use for fuel for their bodies but it also important to choose some leafy plants that provide a safe location for egg-laying butterflies. Choose plants and flowers that flourish in each growing season, and if possible, choose flowers that come back year after year for additional nectar. Most gardening sources will recommend a healthy mix of both perennial and annual flowers to not only brighten your garden but will provide a steady source of comfort and fuel for the butterflies.
Some of the plants and flowers that will attract butterflies are, but not limited to:

Milkweed Flowers



Orange Trees

Meadow Flowers


Queen Anne’s Lace



Black-eyed Susan

This is just a small selection of the plants and flowers that would be beneficial to your butterfly garden but most of the plants at your local garden center or nursery should be labeled with “butterfly friendly” or something to that effect. If you are unsure what plants would grow the best in your climate, speak to an expert on what plants native to your region would provide fuel for the butterflies.

Most gardening experts or butterfly enthusiasts would recommend placing the garden near trees or shrubs to provide shelter for the butterflies, or to plant a few flowering shrubs strategically throughout the garden to provide the same.


Now that you know what the wonders of a garden for butterflies would be, and how easy it would be to plant your own butterfly garden; why not take a trip to your local nursery this weekend and purchase some attractive plants to the delicately-winged creatures of the summer? Bonus reward by visiting your local nursery over a commercial retailer: you will be supporting your local gardeners and farmers plus they would be filled with the knowledge of what plants grow sturdy in your climate and what ones could fail due to the changing seasons. They may even know of plants that are attractive and will draw the butterflies of the area to your garden!

If you enjoyed this tutorial and would like to let us know what your plans are for your own butterfly garden, please feel free to comment down below! Or, if you currently have a butterfly garden and would love to offer some tips and ideas for others to improve it, let us know down below! Would love to hear from you!

About The Author

Candace Osmond

Award Winning Designer, Candace Osmond has been in the industry for over a decade. She studied Interior Decorating & Design and is also an accomplished writer and multi-published author. When she's not typing away from the comforts of her desk, Candace can be found travelling to warm destinations, tending to her garden, or enjoying the outdoor haven that is her backyard. Candace currently resides in the breathtaking Maritimes of Eastern Canada with her husband, two beautiful kids and one slobbery bulldog.