How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden With a Puddle Club Party

Updated on September 22, 2016

Attract Gorgeous Guests to Your Garden

Swallowtails in Argentina swarm in the mud.
Swallowtails in Argentina swarm in the mud. | Source

A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope, swarm or rabble.

Recently I learned that planting the flowers butterflies like best isn’t the only thing it takes to be a good host to these beautiful garden visitors.

Providing a source of water for them is important, too.

Butterflies avoid spraying or dripping water because it can damage their wings. But many species love mud puddles. In fact, groups of butterflies often congregate on shallow water. It's a beautiful thing to see! There, they sip water as well as ingest nutrients from the wet soil.

If you'd like to host a puddle club party for butterflies in your garden, here are five easy ways to attract lots of gorgeous guests.

Source

Sandy Puddles

In her book Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Backyard, Sally Roth recommends this sand puddle project as a means of providing a relatively long-lasting shallow water source for butterflies:

  • Bury a plastic or metal lid so that a little of the rim is exposed.
  • Fill the lid with half sand, half soil. (Including a bit of manure will make it even more attractive to butterflies.)
  • Smooth out the soil mixture, making a depression in the center that is about two inches deep.
  • Saturate the soil with water.
  • Repeat as needed to keep the material moist.

My Version of the Sandy Puddle

I buried the metal basin of a broken birdbath in a flowerbed and filled it with a few handfuls of sandy soil.
I buried the metal basin of a broken birdbath in a flowerbed and filled it with a few handfuls of sandy soil.
Then I added a few handfuls of composted manure and mixed the two together. I know it sounds gross, but many butterflies eat dung!
Then I added a few handfuls of composted manure and mixed the two together. I know it sounds gross, but many butterflies eat dung!
I arranged some river rocks on the soil to give the butterflies places to perch.
I arranged some river rocks on the soil to give the butterflies places to perch.
Next, I soaked the soil with water.
Next, I soaked the soil with water.
Hopefully soon, with patience, stealth and a little luck, I'll be about to get a good photo of a puddle club.
Hopefully soon, with patience, stealth and a little luck, I'll be about to get a good photo of a puddle club.

Empty Bottle Puddles

Source

When a rabble of butterflies gathers on shallow water, it's called a puddle club.

Another interesting way to provide water for butterflies in your garden is by using empty bottles.

Bury upside-down bottles with large concave bottoms along the edges of your butterfly garden or in other open locations where butterflies can easily land.

Then spray the bottle bottoms with a garden hose. Water will collect in the dimpled bottoms at the perfect depth for a butterfly puddle.

Because I didn't have any equipment with which to cut off the wine and sherry bottles I'd collected, I simply dug a deep hole and buried all but the very tops of the bottles. A rubber mallet was helpful in making the bottle bottoms level.

Source

Some Words for Talking about Butterflies

Term
Definition
Puddle Club
A group of butterflies on a puddle
Puddling
The attraction of butterflies to wet spots
Kaleidoscope
A group of butterflies
Swarm
Another name for a group of butterflies
Rabble
Another common name for a group of butterflies
For more butterfly terminology, visit the Information Center for the Environment (ICE), University of California, Davis at http://butterfly.ucdavis.edu/glossary.

More Snapshots from Our Butterfly Garden

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Butterfly bushZinniaZinnia & shasta daisiesButterfly weedButterfly weedCosmosPurple coneflower
Butterfly bush
Butterfly bush | Source
Zinnia
Zinnia | Source
Zinnia & shasta daisies
Zinnia & shasta daisies | Source
Butterfly weed
Butterfly weed | Source
Butterfly weed
Butterfly weed | Source
Cosmos
Cosmos | Source
Purple coneflower
Purple coneflower | Source

Our Butterfly Garden

We grow a variety of herbs, herbaceous perennials and annuals to attract butterflies to our yard. Here's a partial list:

Do you grow plants to attract butterflies?

See results
  • apple mint
  • bee balm
  • butterfly bush
  • butterfly weed
  • cosmos
  • golden alexanders
  • parsley
  • purple cone flower
  • shasta daisies
  • zinnia

Many of plants listed above are favorites with other pollinators as well, including bees and hummingbirds.

Rocky Water Pot Bottoms

This butterfly water source is super easy to make.

Reapply water as needed to your rocky water pot bottoms.
Reapply water as needed to your rocky water pot bottoms. | Source

Simply fill a flowerpot tray with gravel or pebbles and then add water, leaving the tops of the rocks uncovered so that butterflies can perch on them as they sip.

Place the tray in an open spot where butterflies can easily land. Refresh the water occasionally as it evaporates.

Flat flowers like zinnias make it easy for butterflies to land and sip nectar comfortably.
Flat flowers like zinnias make it easy for butterflies to land and sip nectar comfortably. | Source

In the video below, a puddle club meets on the muddy bank of a stream in India.

Brick & Sidewalk Puddles

Here's an even easier way to create a source of shallow water that will attract a puddle club.

Simply hose down a sunny brick or concrete patio or sidewalk. Then, rather than sweep away the excess water, allow it to puddle on the rough surface.

Source

Mud Puddles & Muddy Ground

Another super simple idea for attracting butterflies?

Water empty spots in your garden to create mud puddles. Not only will the puddles attract puddle clubs, but they'll attract other wildlife as well, including birds and dragonflies.

Questions & Answers

    © 2014 Jill Spencer

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      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        5 months ago from United States

        I don't know, Adriana. Good question! Let me do a little research and get back to you. (: Best, Jill

      • profile image

        Adriana Duarte 

        5 months ago

        I recently watched a video of a puddle made with colored sand. Is it safe for the butterflies?

        Love your article! Thank you :)

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        13 months ago from United States

        Judith, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing information about your novel for fourth graders, BUTTERFLY GARDENS, and for describing your own butterfly garden. It would be great if pictures would attach here, but unfortunately they don't. All the best, Jill

      • profile image

        Judith benson, salmon arm, bc 

        13 months ago

        Since the late nineties when I published an early chapter book called BUTTERFLY GARDENS (4th grade/grade 4 reading level) I've strived to create my own. At last I've succeeded in attracting a variety rather than just sulphurs thanks to planting a thriving butterfly bush. Now I've added a puddling feature, too, thanks to your informative site. If I can figure out how, I'll attach photos of an American Painted Lady on my butterfly bush and my elevated puddling dish (elevated to protect puddlers from curious felines). Thanks for your information and reader comments.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Hi MsLizzy! Your weak fountain sounds perfect for butterflies. They tend to avoid splashing water that damages their wings. Hope some visit your yard soon. They're so pleasant to watch. And so pretty. Thanks for stopping by! Take care, Jill

      • DzyMsLizzy profile image

        Liz Elias 

        3 years ago from Oakley, CA

        Hmmm... Interesting, though we get such hot summers (hotter lately), that I think such shallow water would evaporate several times a day. We are also in a drought & on water use restrictions, so I'm hopeful that my recirculating fountain, which has a few shallow 'steps' to it, and is located next to Hydrangea bushes might suffice. The original pump gave up, and the replacement is from a smaller fountain, and pretty weak, so there's overflow down into the other basins, but very little splash.

        The list of plants is interesting. We have Marigolds, several types of ferns (which of course, don't flower), African Daisies (Agapanthus), and that's about it for flowering plants..oh, and a small rosebush.

        I've really rarely seen butterflies around here.

        Voted up, useful and interesting.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Thanks so much, MG! Appreciate your kind comments.

      • MG Seltzer profile image

        MG Seltzer 

        3 years ago from South Portland, Maine

        Love it! Gonna share this with my daughter, who is really into having buterflies visit the backyard. I can see why this Hub was chosen as an Editor's Choice. The photos are clear and very helpful. Thumbs up!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Hi frogyfish, don't you love butterflies? I only wish we had more! Thanks for your comment. All the best, Jill

      • frogyfish profile image

        frogyfish 

        3 years ago from Central United States of America

        A marvelous hub with fun tips to help those butterflies. Glad you do have a garden for feeding them, as well as those unique puddlers. Simply amazing in word, picture, and deed!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        3 years ago from United States

        Hi tillsontitan! Butterfly weed is in the milkweed family. I have some swamp milkweed seeds and am going to give them a shot. Hope they grow! Thanks for stopping by. -Jill

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        3 years ago from New York

        Nicely done Dirt Farmer. I find the butterflies love the butterfly bush and the cone flowers the most.

        I have read that we need to plant more milkweed because the butterfly population is dwindling.

        Loved your photos.

        Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.

      • pstraubie48 profile image

        Patricia Scott 

        3 years ago from sunny Florida

        Jill This is the coolest. I cannot wait to get started. Butterflies are one of the greatest treats of the summer.

        I even visit a nearby butterfly garden part of U of F...and the lovelies land right on us. Wow.

        thanks for sharing....voted up+++ pinned and shared

        Know that Angels are once again on the way ps

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi Robin! It was news to me, too. Glad you stopped by. All the best, Jill

      • Robie Benve profile image

        Robie Benve 

        4 years ago from Ohio

        I never knew this magic puddle attraction for butterflies, thanks for sharing the knowledge and the awesome ideas!

      • aviannovice profile image

        Deb Hirt 

        4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

        These are all such fantastic ideas! Who wouldn't want butterflies in the back yard? I might just invest in a butterfly bush, as there have been so few butterflies around this year.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Virginia, you're so lucky to be in the middle of a migration route. How wonderful! Good luck attracting puddle clubs.

        cheeluarv, sounds like the butterflies are already having parties around your pots! It should be easy to attract them to a more "formal" water source. Just think of the cool photos you'll be able to take! All the best, Jill

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Patty, we have very few Monarchs this year, too. Mostly I'm seeing American Ladies and Swallowtails.

      • cheeluarv profile image

        cheeluarv 

        4 years ago from INDIA

        In my terrace garden I have seen one or two butterflies drinking the water seeped out from the pots.Your article has given me a great idea of attracting them more in number,with creating puddles.Thank you for the wonderful ideas.

      • VirginiaLynne profile image

        Virginia Kearney 

        4 years ago from United States

        We have lots of butterflies in our garden, which seems to be across a migration route. I've never tried to attract/help them with mud puddles--I love this idea and will be trying it!

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish MS 

        4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        We're even seeing some monarchs this year, despite the shortage of them and their milkweed habitats.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hi Robert! I have a big box of empty wine bottles for either a bottle tree or the project you described. Unfortunately, my husband doesn't like either idea, so . . . they'll probably keep collecting dust.

        Sallybea, just spotted (I think) a chrysalis on a sunflower. It's so high up, I'm going to have to get a ladder to be sure--and then, if I'm right, my camera. Thanks for stopping by!

        Hey Patty! Butterflies are fantastic creatures. Don't you love having them in your yard? And when they land on you, it's like a blessing. All the best, Jill

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish MS 

        4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        This is a fantastic idea that I never imagined. Thanks for the Hub!

      • sallybea profile image

        Sally Gulbrandsen 

        4 years ago from Norfolk

        The Dirt Farmer,

        This is a great idea and as an amateur macro photographer, I support any ideas which encourage butterflies to our gardens. Thanks for sharing.

        Sally

      • RTalloni profile image

        RTalloni 

        4 years ago from the short journey

        Uh oh--your great ideas here have started me thinking… I love the bottle idea as an edging along a flowering border! Pinning to Gardening: Flowers/... board.

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hey Maren. A broken wok would be ideal! I'm getting some visitors to our "puddles," but butterflies are tough to photograph! Unlike the bees, they find my camera irritating & flutter off. Have fun! --Jill

      • Maren Morgan M-T profile image

        Maren Elizabeth Morgan 

        4 years ago from Pennsylvania

        Yes! I can do this easily -- I have a broken wok. Thanks, Jill!

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Hey, Cat! Glad you enjoyed the hub. Puddle clubs were new to me, too. I'm hoping to catch a few when I've got the camera out. Thanks for commenting! --Jill

      • cat on a soapbox profile image

        Catherine Tally 

        4 years ago from Los Angeles

        I really enjoyed reading this! When visiting Priest Lake, ID years ago, I couldn't figure out why the yellow swallowtails were congregating on the wet beach. Thank you for enlightening me! We do have shallow moisture dishes throughout the garden for bees, but I'm going to try the bottle idea too.

        Take care,

        Cat:)

      • The Dirt Farmer profile imageAUTHOR

        Jill Spencer 

        4 years ago from United States

        Thanks, MsDora. I'm trying to make our yard a place where lots of animals like to hang out, although sometimes they can be destructive. This year, we've had box turtles, several types of snakes, lizards, toads, lots of insects, and of course the usual bunnies, squirrels and deer. I'm particularly thankful for the toads. Seeing them makes me feel good about the ecology of our garden. Thanks for stopping by! --Jill

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        4 years ago from The Caribbean

        This is such an interesting read, and the pictures are gorgeous. What a meaningful activity to create a hangout for butterflies. Voted Up!

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