Planning Your Butterfly Garden

By Lisa Steele | June 24, 2015
by Lisa Steele
June 24, 2015

Our wednesday gardening guest blogger series continues this week with Lisa of Fresh Eggs Daily who is here to help you plan your butterfly garden!  Lisa Steele is a chicken keeper, aspiring herbalist and author of the best-selling book ‘Fresh Eggs Daily: Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally‘ and is currently working on a second book. Her writing can also been found on her blog ‘Fresh Eggs Daily’, which was named one of the Top Ten Best Gardening Blogs of 2014 by Better Homes & Gardens magazine. She regularly contributes to Chickens, Backyard Poultry and Hobby Farm magazines as well as She has also appeared on P. Allen Smith’s radio and television shows and will appear in the new reality show Coop Dreams. In her spare time she enjoys knitting, reading and baking with delicious fresh eggs from her backyard chicken coop. You can find her blog at and on Facebook at

caterpillar-host-plant Attracting butterflies to your yard can be as easy as adding some colorful blooming flowers, but to really attract a wide variety of butterflies and to entice them to stick around long enough to lay their eggs, you need to plant a mix of ‘nectar’ plants that the adult butterflies love, plus ‘food’ or host plants for the caterpillars to eat once they hatch and to give them enough energy to spin their chrysalis so they can eventually emerge as the next generation of butterflies.

Planning your Butterfly Garden

Butterflies love sunlight, so you will want to pick a nice, sunny spot for your butterfly garden. Stones in the garden not only are visually pleasing, they provide a nice path for you to walk on as you stroll through your garden, and also provide a nice, warm place for the butterflies to land and sunbathe.

A water source isn’t absolutely necessary because butterflies don’t actually drink much water instead getting their liquid from plant nectar, but a small bird bath makes a pretty addition to any garden and the butterflies still might appreciate the easy access to fresh drinking water. Just be sure to clean and refill it as needed, since stagnant, standing water will attract mosquitoes – not butterflies!

And be sure not to use any pesticides or chemical fertilizers in your garden … butterflies don’t like them – and they’re not good for your family either.

Butterflies don’t actually eat, instead they suck liquids through a thin tube called a proboscis. They are particularly attracted to red, orange, yellow, pink and purple flowers, but also like tree sap, pollen and wet leaves. The following choices for your butterfly garden are especially nice because they are all edible for humans as well. Letting your herbs go to flower will help to attract the butterflies, and are very pleasing to the eye, creating a visually stunning edible gardenscape.

Lifecycle of a Butterfly (metamorphosis)
– the female butterfly lays her eggs on the leaf or stalk of a host plant.
– in just a few days, the eggs will hatch and the caterpillars emerge and begin to eat the leaves of the plant on which they hatched. The caterpillars continue to eat for several weeks until fully grown.
– once full-grown, the caterpillar stops eating, hangs from the underside of a branch or leaf and encloses itself in a pupa or chrysalis.
– depending on the type of butterfly, the metamorphosis can take days, weeks or even months before the caterpillar emerges from the cocoon as a butterfly. She will now get her energy from the nectar of various flowers. She begins to look for a mate, so she can breed and lay eggs
– to begin the cycle all over again. Most adult butterflies only live several weeks.
butterfly-on-marigolds Butterfly Nectar Plants
  • Basil
  • Bee Balm
  • Echinacea
  • Hyssop
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marigold
  • Marjoram
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Sunflower
Non-edible (for humans)
Nectar Plants
  • Beauty Bush
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Lilac
  • Purple Coneflower
  • Snapdragon
  • Zinnia

Since caterpillars can’t travel far or very fast, butterflies need to lay their eggs on plants that the caterpillars can eat once they hatch in order to grow quickly. These plants are favorites of caterpillars and should encourage butterflies to remain in your garden to lay their eggs.

caterpillarsonparsley Caterpillar Host/Food Plants
  • Borage
  • Carrots
  • Daisy
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Nasturtium
  • Parsley
  • Peas
  • Violets

Why not create your own butterfly garden this year to see if you can attract some butterflies? They are pretty to look at, relaxing to watch and wonderful pollinators. As an added bonus, your butterfly garden will likely attract some bees and hummingbirds as well – also both pollinators and extremely beneficial additions to your yard and garden.

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