To draw more butterflies to the yard, plant a garden of their favorite flowers. Here are a few suggestions.
Sunny mornings or balmy evenings on the porch aren’t complete without a few butterflies to watch. The fragile, colorful visitors make garden chores more pleasant, too. Children, in particular, find butterflies fascinating.
To draw more of these delightful insects, plant a butterfly garden. With their favorite foods close by, they’re more likely to linger instead of just passing through in search of a more inviting habitat.
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Exotic or expensive plants aren’t required. In fact, many of the flowers butterflies love probably look familiar because they’re already growing nearby in gardens and fields. The following flowers are fairly easy to grow in temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and most require no special treatment. Most prefer full sun and average soil.
Sweet alyssum, an annual, low-growing border or container plant, is covered with white, rose, or purple flowers from May through frost, full sun or partial sun. Or try asters, both annual or perennial varieties. Butterflies particularly like China asters (summer bloomers) or aster novi-belgii, a compact perennial type that blooms in the fall.
Common Perennial Choices
Butterfly weed is a perennial, native American plant that looks like common milkweed. Its clusters of bright orange flowers are pollinated by the monarch butterfly. Globe thistle, a tall-growing, hardy perennial, sports spherical blue flowers. Both blooms in July and August.
Catmint, also known as catnip, does best in full sun, but will tolerate some afternoon shade. Sprays of small, lavender-blue flowers appear from June through August.
A word of warning: if there are cats in the neighborhood, plant plenty and either protect it or plant it separate from more tender plants. Most cats find the aromatic gray-green foliage irresistible. They’ll lay in it, roll in it, and eat it. (It’s not poisonous.)
Coreopsis is a long-blooming, short-lived perennial that self-seeds readily. It blooms from June through August. The flowers are white with yellow centers. Sweet rocket has purple, white or mauve flowers. The fragrant, phlox-like flowers bloom on tall, branching stems. It also is short-lived, but reseeds itself readily.
Dianthus (carnations and pinks) bloom in spring and early summer. Summer phlox – very fragrant pink, lavender, red, or white flower, blooms July and August, requires rich, moist, well-drained soil. Lavender, the famous fragrant herb, blooms on 18-inch stalks throughout the summer. It does best in light, sandy soil and should be mulched heavily during winter.
Autumn Joy sedum sports pink flowers on fleshy green foliage in August and September. It is drought-tolerant and even performs well in poor soil. Verbena is a low-growing, drought and heat tolerant annual. It blooms in a variety of colors from June to September. Some varieties are more sweetly scented than others.
Violets are one of the few butterfly flowers that thrive in partial shade. A hardy perennial, violets grow wild in many lawns and are sometimes considered weeds.
The small, fragrant flowers appear in April and May above and amid mounds of heart-shaped leaves. Violets also make an attractive ground cover for partially shaded beds and borders. Cultivated varieties with larger flowers are available through garden centers and mail-order houses.
Flowers that attract night-flying moths include globe thistle, perennial pea, sundrops, soapwort, and tufted pansies. Perennial pea, the long-lived version of the fragrant sweet pea, is a climbing vine that sports pink blooms from July through September. It requires a trellis or fence for support. Or let it sprawl over a rock pile or down a steep bank.
Sundrops, including Ozark Sundrop and Evening Primrose are low-growing, yellow flowers. Soapwort, a late spring bloomer, forms a four-inch creeping mat. In May and June, it is covered with small, starry, pink flowers. The low-growing tufted pansies will bloom from May through September if spent flowers are picked. The apricot flowers appear in tufts among heart-shaped leaves.