Butterfly Gardens

Source(s): Stephen D Pettis

There are many species of butterflies but one thing about all of them is true; they are all lovely. Most folks despise most insects but few people do not welcome these insects into their gardens. Many gardeners actually plant flowers and flowering trees and shrubs to attract these summer time friends.


The key to successful butterfly gardening is to select a variety of flowering plants so butterflies are attracted to the food source all summer long. Plant annuals, perennials, and flowering trees and shrubs to attract a variety of butterflies consistently. Utilize plants of different colors as well. Plants such as daisies, Queen Ann’s lace, yarrow, alyssum, golden rod, alfalfa, clovers, and vetches will attract beneficial insects. Keeping your plants flowering for as long as possible is another key to having a consistent variety of butterfly attracting plants. Annuals and perennials benefit from ‘deadheading’ or removing spent flowers. Pinching off old flowers stimulates herbaceous plants to produce more blooms for longer periods of time. Be sure however to leave the very last set of flowers if you wish to collect seed.

Flowering trees and shrubs benefit from pruning at the appropriate time. Plants such as hydrangea and forsythia should be pruned in early summer after flowering. Shrubs such as hollies and butterfly bushes benefit from an early spring pruning to stimulate new shoot growth. Proper fertility keeps plants growing vigorously and provides new shoots, flowers, and fruit with the extra nutrients they need to really put on a show. Irrigate in a timely manner.

Water sources attract butterflies. Birdbaths, temporary puddles, small dishes of water, and dripping water can be easily installed in any garden. Remember to replace your water every few days to avoid mosquitoes and to keep it attractive. Place small ‘perches’ in water sources so that insects can access the water. The final way to encourage butterflies is to provide them shelter. Areas that are left undisturbed benefit insects. Allow forest edges to grow wild and do not mow open areas unnecessarily. Plant perennial flowerbeds that will flower all season by staggering different species throughout the bed. Hedgerows also provide beneficial insects with shelter.

Plants for a Butterfly Garden Plant type Flowering time Favored Soil Situation Sun or Shade
Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea Shrub Late May-July persisting Moist loam Partial shade
Callicarpa Americana, American Beautyberry Shrub June Dry loam Partial shade
Lilium longiflorum,

Easter Lily

Perennial April-May Moist loam Full Sun
Hemracolis spp., Daylily Perennial May-July Dry loam/clay Full Sun
Achillea filipendulina, Yarrow Perennial May-August Dry clay Full Sun
Iris xiphium, Dutch Iris Perennial April Dry clay Full Sun
Rudbeckia hirta, Black-eyed Susan Perennial June-August Dry clay Full Sun
Ageratum eupatorium, Floss Flower Perennial May-October Moist loam Full Sun
Centaurea cyanus,Corn Flowers Annual March-May Moist loam Full Sun
Lantana camara, Lantana Shrub June –September Dry clay Full Sun
Buddleia davidii, Butterfly Bush Shrub June-September Dry Clay Full Sun
Milkweed Asclepias spp. Annual Mid June Moist loam Full Sun
Sunflower Annual June-August Moist loam Full Sun
Ilex verticillata, Winterberry Shrub December-


Moist loam Full Sun
Cleome hasslerana, Cleome Annual May-September Summer to early fall Full Sun
Cosmos spp., Cosmos Annual May- September Spring to early fall Full Sun
Lunaria annua, Money Plant Biennial April- May Spring to mid summer Full Sun
Delphinium spp., Larkspur Annual April- May Spring Full Sun

Resource(s): Flowering Perennials for Georgia Gardens

Center Publication Number: 110

Steve Pettis
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