Here’s How To Start A Butterfly Garden From Scratch In Your Backyard

by Rebecca Endicott
Becca is a writer and aspirational dog owner living in NYC.

If you love butterflies, you probably can’t wait for them to start arriving in droves this summer!

But did you know you can create your very own butterfly garden to help nourish and protect these beautiful creatures?

It’s actually pretty simple to create a gorgeous garden that attracts butterflies. As long as you have a little patch of garden, you should be able to find all sorts of native plants in your area that naturally entice butterflies and encourage them to come in for a landing.

If you’re careful about your plant arrangement, you might even be able to create an awesome garden that fosters caterpillars and chrysalises too. And, with some luck, you’ll get to watch some of the baby caterpillars go through their full metamorphosis!

It’s just a matter of picking the right plants for your environment and grouping them together just-so, to provide for caterpillars and butterflies throughout their whole life cycle.

Scroll down to learn how to can make your very own butterfly garden from scratch!

First, you’ll want to learn which butterfly species are native to your area, and when they’re likely to make an appearance.

For example, monarch butterflies are famously migratory. They usually start their spring migration in Mexico, where they’ve been for the winter, and then fly north.

That means Alabama and Georgia might get monarchs as early as May, while Maine and New Hampshire might not see them until July or August.

Next, you want to consider and find a collection of plants that are native to your area and will attract lots of happy butterflies.

For example, butterfly bush, or buddleia, is beautiful and very appealing to butterflies, but it’s an invasive species in the U.S. If you plant it in your garden, you’re wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem, so you should steer clear.

These invasive flowers are actually aggressors in the American garden, and cause serious damage to your other plants by competing for resources.

Some plants are totally fine in the U.S. but actually very dangerous to the ecosystem in other parts of the world.

For example, goldenrod is a popular wildflower in America that butterflies and other pollinators love. Here, it’s an important part of the ecosystem.

In Europe, it’s another story; goldenrod is actually responsible for killing off a lot of the butterfly population.

All this is to say: Be careful what you plant, and where.

Butterflies of all kinds adore Lupine, which is a beautiful native plant in North America and in Europe, making it a great option for your garden.

Gardeners in the U.S. can pull from our shortlist of native plants that make butterflies happy:

  • Goldenrod
  • Delphinium
  • Daylily
  • Yarrow
  • Alyssum

And that’s just for starters. Pretty much any native plant with small, lacy flowers will appeal to butterflies!

You may also want to encourage butterflies to lay their eggs in your garden.

The caterpillars that hatch will go through their metamorphosis not far from where their egg originally hatched. Many species also return to where they spawned in order to lay their own eggs!

Plants that foster caterpillars include:

  • Milkweed
  • Yarrow
  • Native thistle
  • Willow
  • Lupine

Be careful introducing thistle, however: The wrong strain can become invasive if introduced outside of its range.

Meanwhile, you can also supplement your butterfly gardens with sweet, nectar-rich treats that are sure to lure in pollinators.

Put sliced fruit and sugar water out in your garden to encourage butterflies to come in and visit. But be warned: This tactic will also invite in bees, hummingbirds, ants, and rodents, so be careful about where you place fruit and how accessible it is.

Your butterfly garden will only attract the butterflies and caterpillars that are native to your region, but the world is just full of these gorgeous insects — in a million stunning varieties!

If you want to see more of these beautiful creatures, you can find them in butterfly gardens around the world (like the one at the Changi Airport in Singapore, pictured above) or visit butterfly rooms at local zoos and natural history museums!

Do you get butterflies in your garden? Tell us about them in the comments below and don’t forget to SHARE this idea for fellow nature-lovers!