Butterflies are a beautiful reminder of natures variation and pure brilliance. They are perfect, gorgeous, delicate creatures that can brighten any day. My two year old son calls the “pretty flowlers”, in his little toddler mind he already understands their brilliance and thinks they are flying flowers!
Butterflies aren’t just a beautiful addition to a bright summer day, they are also polinators helping propagate different crops and flowers. Unfortunately, with our mono-culture farming practices and love of the bland green lawn they are becoming endangered. Monarch butterfly numbers are dwindling at a rapid rate because people mow the weeds in ditches like milkweed where monarchs lay their eggs. Because we love butterflies, and we love pollinators, I wanted to share with you some beautiful flowers you can plant as a butterfly garden to help support and draw in these beautiful flying flowers.
The USDA has temperature zones in the US that help gardeners know what to plant for each zone. What grows in the desert of Arizona might have a difficult time growing in the cold coastal areas of Maine. There are three main ranges of zones including 3-5, 6-7, and 8-9 and the plants in those zones attract different types of butterflies.
Butterflies pollinate plants and flowers and they are attracted to specific flowering plants and trees in each zone. Different butterflies prefer different nectar from flowers in both color and taste. By planting a variety of flowering plants you are able to bring many different types of butterflies to your garden. Adding different heights and layers to your garden is a great way to add eye pleasing texture to your garden. Even picking plants that bloom at different times of the day and year help to build a beautiful butterfly garden.
Here is a Butterfly Garden Guide for the Top 3 Zone ranges and ideas for what to plant to attract butterflies to your garden.
Note, on the name of the plant I have linked to my affiliate Amazon, where you can purchase these great Non-GMO seeds quickly and easily. By clicking on my affiliate links I make a small commission and you get great products at no extra cost to you. This is one way I am able to support my blog and I appreciate your support.
In the colder Zones 3-5
Butterfly Weed – “Asclepias tuberosa is a species of milkweed native to eastern North America. It is a perennial plant growing to 0.3–1 metre (1 ft 0 in–3 ft 3 in) tall, with clustered orange or yellow flowers from early summer to early fall.”- Source
Lilacs – Syringa vulgaris (lilac or common lilac) is a species of flowering plant which grows into a large shrubby bush. They grow quickly and do best when planted as a cutting or bare root stead of by tree. The flowers bloom in the spring and are AMAZING. Butterflies love them and I love to take the flowers and make a delicious infused scented oil.
Violets – or Viola odorata (really any viola species) are a beautiful herbaceous perennial with heart shaped leaves and dark purple or while blooms. They are beautifully aromatic and my favorite harbinger of spring. They flower int he spring and in the fall but the leaves are medicinally beneficial year round. Mama rosemary has a great materia medica of violet here. The Nerdy Farmwife has several violet recipes as well including violet leaf balm, violet vinegar, and violet leaf & honey cough syrup.
Marigolds – Marigolds are a beautiful yellow orange annual you can find at pretty much any garden center. There are many different varieties. They are a great form of natural pest control AND attract pollinators. Its a win win plant!
Calendula – Calendula officinalis or pot marigold is one of my all time favorite herbs. It is easy to grow and a gentle but powerful medicinal ally. It blooms from early summer to the first deep freeze and is the plant that just keeps on giving. It is an annual but is a prolific seeder. Bonus for calendula is it is super easy to grow.
Purple Cornflower (echinacea) – Echinacea purpurea or purple cone flower is a well known antiviral and antibiotic herb. Traditionally it was used for insect stings, snake bites, tooth pain and skin infections now it is used widely and medicinally You can find out all about Echinacea in Natural Herbal Living e-zine’s December 2013 issue HERE. It grows as a perrenial so once you get it started it should live for years. I love it in my herb garden in the front yard that doesn’t get much water but this hearty plant does just fine.
Petunias – Petunias are a blend of beautiful summer blooming flowers that you can find in just about any nursery. Be careful buying in a nursery though! Companies like Home Depot and Lowes spray their flowers in a nasty insecticide that kills our helpful bees and butterfiles! Be sure if you buy life plants they are not sprayed with any insecticides.
Butterflies also love to hang out on overripe fruit like blueberries and wild blackberry (both edible). In these colder zones, don’t plant annuals until after all danger of frost has passed which is generally Mother’s Day. Butterflies are also attracted to flowering trees including aspen which is found through Zones 1-3.
Zones 6-7 are in the center of the country and tend to have a milder winter with warm summers. The seasons aren’t overly long and the butterfly gardens have a chance to grow and mature which attract butterflies for several months. In this zone, plant:
Asters – Asters are a beautiful, easy to grow, annual flower that can add a splash of color to any garden. They are not edible or medicinal, but bees, butterflies, and birds (the three B’s) love them.
Black-Eyed Susans – produce a beautiful yellow flower with a black middle like the purple cone flower and bloom late summer/early fall. It is a biennial plant means it survives for two seasons, seeding in the second season.
Daylilies – are a perennial flower that blooms year after year and propagates by bulb. The bright yellow flowers are some of the first you will see popping up in spring.
Goldrenrods – Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are a beautiful feathered cascade of flowers on top of a golden stock. It is a wonderful addition to any wildflower mix. You can get several different species to get different heights too. Goldenrod is wonderful for urinary tract issues, allergies, muscle aches and pains and more! Here is a great materia medica for it.
Lavender – There is nothing more wonderful than walking past a lovely field of lavender. The relaxing aromatic brilliance of lavender in bloom will help quiet the mind and lift the spirit. I love lavender near my front door and walkway to bring peace into my house whenever the door is opened. Lavender is a perennial and once it is established, is pretty easy to grow but getting the seeds started can some times be tricky. Here is a great materia medica for lavender.
Verbena – another beautiful flowering medicinal herb. Verbena spp. & Glandularia spp. also known as blue vervain and by many other names is a favorite of butterflies and humming birds alike. You can find out its medicinal benefits from this great materia medica.
Butterfly Bush – See above
Lilacs – See above
Marigolds – See above
Calendula – See above
To attract female butterflies to lay her eggs in your garden also plant daisies, milkweed, snapdragons, and violets. They also love willow and elm trees in this zone.
Zones 8-9 are the hottest zones and are found in the southern states. There are many types of butterflies that love it a little bit hotter! You can find them enjoying the nectar from:
Coreopsis – there are many varieties of this beautiful flower. IT does well in full sun and can deal with drought pretty well. Its a great warm weather flower that bees, birds, and butterflies love.
Hibiscus – Growing up in AZ I always loved it when the hibiscus bloomed. These large beautiful flowers always bring a smile to my face. Hibiscus is a perennial shrub and comes in many different colors. The flowers are high in vitamin C and make a tasty addition to teas. Red hibiscus adds a great red color to teas which tricks kids into thinking they are drinking koolaid when they are really drinking delicious herbal goodies. Here is a great materia medica for hibiscus.
Rosemary – Rosemary is one of my favorite culinary herbs but it is a potent medicinal too. It is a wonderful woody perennial herb with light blue to purple flowers that does well in warm climates that don’t have cold winters. I have to keep mine in a pot because it dies in the winters here, but my parents have a rosemary bush that is 3 feet tall and shaped like a chicken (they like chickens). You can learn more about the medicinal benefits of Rosemary from the Natural Herbal Living Magazine September issue HERE.
Hollyhocks – Hollyhocks are a beautiful tall perrenial flower that reach up into the sky with their stocks full of beautiful flowers that draw pollinators in. This summer cottage plant is beautiful against a fense or the side of the house with mid-height and shorter flowers in front of it adding different appealing height to your garden plot.
Snapdragons – Snapdragons are a fun readily seeding annual plant that bloom from spring to fall and bring in all sorts of fun little bugs and birds. When I was a kid we used to squeeze the sides of the plant or put our fingers on the top and bottom and make them talk like a puppet. These beautiful flowers are full of fun.
Butterfly Bush – See above
Daylilies – See above
Marigolds – See above
Calendula – See above
Purple Cornflower – See above
Verbena – See above
Butterflies are especially attracted to the sweet scent of citrus trees. Just remember a grouping of the same type plant is easier for butterflies to see than one single plant – so plant a lot of one type.
Butterflies also enjoy puddles of water. The males form puddle clubs around the water and can be found from enjoying rain puddles to a water fountain, to even a bucket of water left in the yard. Once they have had their fun in the puddle clubs the males will chase away other males trying to attract females and become territorial. The females have elaborate routines as well, but mostly for choosing where to lay their eggs.
Butterflies are cold-blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature. They hang out in the sun when it is warm out, but are seldom seen on cloudy days. Butterflies enjoy shady areas like trees or shrubs to hide in when it is too hot. When creating your butterfly garden, think of the whole life cycle of the butterfly and you will be rewarded with beautiful butterflies wanting to call your yard home, no matter what zone you live in.
Wondering what Annuals and Perennials are? See my post Annuals vs. Perennials Whats The Difference?
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