Thanks to our wonderful Horticulturalists, who made a butterfly garden planting guide. For a PDF version, click here.
Plant your own butterfly
garden at home! Follow these simple suggestions to attract these beautiful and colorful
insects to your own yard.
PICK a sunny spot.
Butterflies need sun to keep their bodies warm enough to fly. Most of their
favorite flowers like lots of sun, too.
CHOOSE bright colors.
Butterflies are more likely to notice and visit brightly colored flowers,
rather than subtler shades.
PLANT in groups. Masses of
the same flower are easier for butterflies to find than single flowers.
SELECT plants that bloom at
different times. Butterflies need food spring through frost, so your garden
should always have something in bloom. Try a mix of annuals (which bloom spring
to frost, but must be replanted each year) and perennials (which have shorter
bloom times, but once planted will return year after year).
INCLUDE both nectar plants,
whose flowers provide nectar, the main food of adult butterflies, and host
plants, which serve as home and food to the caterpillars that grow up to become
PROTECT your butterflies,
birds, and other wildlife by avoiding pesticides in your butterfly garden.
Chemicals that kill insects will harm caterpillars.
Here’s what we plant in the
zoo’s garden to attract butterflies and make them feel at home:
Bloom spring through frost.
Annuals do not survive over the winter and are planted each year.
Grow quickly to give height
and color to the garden.
Hardy root system survives
through the winter.
Are hardy through the winter
and return year after year. Each one may bloom for a few weeks or a few months,
depending on species and variety.
Give permanent height and
structure to the garden. Many have blooms that provide nectar. Many shrubs and
trees are “host plants” for butterflies: butterfly caterpillars use the leaves
as a food source.
* Those marked with an
asterisk are nectar plants when in bloom.
** Those marked with a double
asterisk are host plants for caterpillars.
* ** Those marked with a
triple asterisk are both nectar plants and host plants.
When planning your own
garden, it’s easy to get caught up in the colorful blooms of the nectar plants,
but don’t forget to include HOST PLANTS in your garden too! Female butterflies
will be drawn to them (and therefore, spend more time in your yard), and will
lay their eggs on the leaves. Then you get the great fun of watching the
amazing caterpillars munch away, get bigger and bigger, each form a chrysalis,
and then emerge as adult butterflies! Try some of the following host plants in