wikiHow to Attract Butterflies

Three Parts:Knowing Butterfly PreferencesGrowing a Butterfly GardenAttracting a Preferred Species

Butterflies are a natural ornament you may want to adorn your garden with, or maybe you only want to enjoy watching these delicate and beautiful of creatures while working around your yard. In either case, attracting these pollinating pixies can be done through a knowledge of butterfly tastes and optimal garden planning.

Part 1
Knowing Butterfly Preferences

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    Discover local butterflies. Though you might imagine that one butterfly is like the rest in all but color, species of butterfly differ drastically in terms of size, migration, and diet. Lear, the native species of butterfly in your area and coordinate your efforts at attracting these.[1]
    • The species of butterfly in your area will be specific to your state/region, but among these species you might find the following: Tawny Emperor (Asterocampa clyton), Monarch (Danaus plexippus), California Sister (Adelpha bredowii), Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia), Viceroy (Limenitis archippus), Baltimore (Euphydryas phaeton), Common Mestra (Mestra amymone), Isabella's Heliconian (Eueides isabella), 'Astyanax' Red-spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), American Snout (Libytheana carinenta), Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis), Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa).[2][3][4][5][6][7]
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    Coordinate your colors. Adult butterflies have a palette for specific pigments. These winged wonders appreciate reds, yellows, oranges, pinks, and purples. Blossoms these colors, especially those with flat tops or short flower tubes, are among the butterflies' favorites.[8] Some examples include:
    • Stachytarpheta jamaicensis (blue porterweed)
    • Buddleia davidii ("Miss Molly")
    • Cosmos sulphureus (orange "cosmic" cosmos)[9]
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    Plant your flowers strategically. Butterflies are most likely to frequent nectar sources that receive plenty of sunlight from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Fully matured butterflies tend to avoid feeding in the shade.[10] Choose flowers that enjoy lots of sunshine and plant these where the best light can be received.
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    Stagger bloom cycles. Keeping your garden thickly blooming with the butterfly's favorite colored flowers will improve your chances of appealing to this lovely insect. Nectar is needed throughout an adult butterfly's life cycle.[11]
    • To plot your bloom cycles, note the date you plant your seeds, bulbs, or seedlings on a calendar. Then, using the information on the plant packaging (like on a seed packet), and find the time it takes your flower to bloom and how long it will bloom. Mark this on your calendar, too, and try to keep your bloom dates for various flowers overlapping.
    • If your plant or its seed packet/packaging did not include blooming details, this information can be found easily by doing a general Internet search of the plant name online.
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    Veto chemicals and insecticides. This includes insecticides that are marketed as environmentally friendly. Butterflies, and butterfly caterpillars, are sensitive to many of these. A list of common chemicals to avoid are:
    • Bacillus thuringiensis
    • Diazinon
    • Malathion
    • Sevin[12]
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    Construct a landing strip for a butterfly lounge. You may have seen butterflies in nature resting on branches and twigs, basking in the sunlight. This is because the sun provides orientation and warmth to the wings, helping these colorful friends fly.[13]
    • Flat stones spread throughout your garden in areas that receive good sunlight are excellent places for butterflies to land and rest.
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    Provide ample places for puddling. Mud and wet sand are optimal places for butterflies to suck up water without the danger that accompanies a large body of water, like a stream, fountain, or water feature. Coarse sand in a pan kept moist can provide your colorful little friends a convenient watering hole.[14]

Part 2
Growing a Butterfly Garden

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    Offer protection butterflies can't refuse. Pollinators like butterflies often need a place to hide from predators, and a small tree or shrub can be just the thing to make your garden more accommodating.[15] Some plants to consider:
    • Privet (Ligustrum vulgare)
    • Dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia macrophylla)
    • New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)[16]
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    Prepare a butterfly buffet. Certain plants are more widely popular among the different kinds of butterfly. No plant will appeal to all butterflies - not even butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Some plants to consider to attract more of your brightly colored friends to your garden are:
    • Butterfly Bush (Buddleja officinalis)
    • Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)
    • Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
    • Passionflower (Passiflora)
    • Willow (salix)[17]
    • Don't forget to ask staff at your local nursery any questions you may have about planting and growing any of these flowers. Most of these plants are available at local nurseries at a reasonable cost.
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    Grow native plants. When butterflies try to lay eggs on non-native plants, their offspring have trouble surviving.[18] Maps with a distribution of plants native to your areas can be found at
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    Install butterfly feeders. These tiny structures are similar to hummingbird feeders in that nectar is provided, but the shape is more like that of a bat house. The small slots on the side allow butterflies entrance while deterring predators and providing shelter from the elements.[19]
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    Take notice of butterflies in other people's yards. There are many local factors that might be influencing butterfly populations in your areas, so if you see that a neighbor has a larger than average butterfly population in her garden, you may want inquire what she has planted or how she has her garden set up.

Part 3
Attracting a Preferred Species

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    Determine a specific butterfly you want to attract. Out of the likely many beautiful species in your area, choosing one and catering to it may make sightings more frequent. Do an Internet search for "local butterfly species near me" to find potential candidates, or search by state.[20] Some common species of North American butterfly include:
    • Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
    • Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui)
    • Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)
    • Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)[21][22]
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    Research your preferred butterfly's migratory patterns. Depending on species, your butterfly may migrate hundreds of miles north to south.[23] Now that you know the butterfly you want to attract, you can plan your flower plantings according to migration cycle, thereby increasing the odds of attracting your favorite butterfly.
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    Isolate your butterfly's favorite features. There are certain plants that each species of butterfly prefer, and planting several that your butterfly of choice appreciates will be an open invitation to come visit your garden.[24][25]
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    Look into specialized feeding formulas. There are many different recipes available for you to try on the internet, but to find which works for you, you'll likely have to experiment.[26][27][28] Some formulas are reported to work well in one region, but not another. Don't let a few duds get you down!


  • Out of all butterflies you are going to see, one of the most common is the wood white. Wood white is white with small black dots on the forewings, and you can easily attract them. You can also find them in almost all regions.


  • Don't use any fertilizers or pesticides that are potentially harmful to butterflies.
  • Be careful around bees and other dangerous insects, especially if you are allergic.

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Categories: Butterflies and Moths