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5 Flowers to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterfly On a Zinnia Flower

Butterfly On a Zinnia Flower

How to Build a Butterfly Garden

What is more beautiful than a garden filled with flowers? Well, a garden full of flowers and fluttering butterflies. These winged creatures are one of the most beautiful insects on earth. If you want to build a butterfly garden, they need at least six hours of sunlight, water to drink, and shelter from the wind.

Tips for Attracting Butterflies

Placing rocks in sunny spots throughout the garden will provide beautiful areas for butterflies to rest and sun themselves. If puddles of water do not accumulate naturally in your garden, fill a small shallow bowl of water or place a bucket of sand and fill it with water so that the sand is nice and moist. This way, the butterfly does not need to fly away to get a drink. Finally, plant flowers that attract butterflies.

Which Flowers Attract Butterflies?

  1. Zinnias
  2. Asclepias
  3. Marigolds
  4. Asters
  5. Purple Coneflowers

1. Zinnias

Zinnias attract a broad range of butterflies.

Butterflies Attracted to Zinnias

  • Cloudless Sulfurs
  • Painted Ladies
  • Glassy Wings

Cloudless sulfur is a beautiful yellow butterfly native to all 48 connecting states, Mexico and southern Canada. The painted lady is known for its ornate brown patterns, with splashes of color throughout its wings. These beauties usually only live in tropical places, although they sometimes migrate to warmer areas. Tiny glassy wings are native to all of the 48 connected states of America. Many other butterflies are attracted to zinnias.

How to Plant Zinnias

Zinnias are easy to grow. Their attractiveness to such a broad array of butterflies makes this an ideal flower in your garden. They can bloom until fall until the first frost and longer if protected from the cold.

You will want to plant their seeds in a very sunny area that gets at least six hours of sun a day in the spring. Before planting, the ground should be well tilled and fertilized. Then plant zinnias apart, according to the height of the seed you have bought. There should be a 4-inch spacing for Dwarf Zinnias and two feet spacing for Giant Zinnias.

You will want to deadhead the flowers regularly, which will keep them blooming because once they have begun seeding, they will stop blooming. Also, make sure to water once the soil has dried.

Asclepias Attract Butterflies

Asclepias Attract Butterflies

2. Asclepias

Asclepias is also known as Butterfly Weeds and Butterfly Flowers due to their high attractiveness to butterflies.

Butterflies Attracted to Asclepias

  • Monarchs
  • Cabbage Whites
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtails
  • Great Spangled Fritillaries
  • Pearl Crescents

Monarch butterflies are native to all of North America. Monarchs tend to be migratory, living in the south during the winter, and traveling to the north during the summer. Monarch butterflies also use Asclepias to lay their eggs, making these must-haves in your butterfly garden.

How to Plant Asclepias

Asclepias are easiest to plant from a start rather than a seed. An ideal start will be small with fresh buds or leaves, as they will grow best once transplanted. Spring or summer is the perfect season to begin planting these beautiful flowers, although these hearty flowers can fare okay in the fall.

Choose an area that gets a lot of sun and where the soil drains very well. When planting them, plant them about a foot apart. Once planted, they will need to be thoroughly watered. In the late winter to early spring is when you want to prune away any dead stems. Butterfly weed will begin to grow again in the late spring.

3. Marigolds

With their bright colors and pungent smell, Marigolds attract a large variety of butterflies, which makes them an excellent choice in a butterfly garden.

Butterflies Attracted to Marigolds

  • Eastern Tiger Hayhurst's Scallopwings
  • Red Admirals
  • American Ladies
  • Zabulons
  • Ocola Skippers

Red admirals are beautiful red butterflies that live throughout the entire northern hemisphere.

How to Plant Marigolds

In the early spring, you will want to go to your local nursery and look for flats with developed flowers. Marigolds need a lot of direct sunlight; therefore, a space that receives at least six hours of daylight is ideal for marigolds.

Once the dirt is tilled and loose, plant marigolds apart at a distance dependent on their size. Larger marigolds need an 18-inch spacing, and smaller varieties need 5-inch spacing. Make sure to remove the dead buds before they seed, allowing the flower to remain in bloom.

4. Asters

Asters attract a large number of butterflies.

Butterflies Attracted to Asters

  • Question Marks
  • Common Sulphurs
  • American Painted Ladies
  • American Snouts
  • Black Swallowtails

Question Marks often live in wooded areas, so asters would be a great choice if you live in a wooded area. Many of the others are found throughout North America, as well.

How to Plant Asters

Dependent on what kind of aster you buy, it can grow from 8-inches to 8-feet tall. They are best for places that have cool, moist summers. Nursery plants should be planted about one to three feet apart in the spring, depending on how tall they will eventually grow. The taller ones should have a larger spacing than the smaller species. You will want to stake taller varieties to keep the stems healthy and tall.

It is crucial to water asters regularly, especially if you live in drier climates. If you receive less than an inch of rain a week, you'll need to water them. Every 2–3 years, you will want to separate the plants to keep them growing healthy and strong.

5. Purple Coneflowers

The purple coneflower is a great flower to plant if you live in any of the 48 connected states in the United States, except the most southern regions of California, Texas, and Florida.

Butterflies Attracted to Purple Coneflowers

  • Common Wood-Nymphs

The Common Wood-nymph is a beautiful brown butterfly that looks like it has eyes on its wings. Purple Coneflowers also attract other species of butterflies, as well as hummingbirds.

How to Plant the Purple Coneflower

These flowers need full sun for at least six hours a day, so find a beautiful sunny spot. Purple Coneflowers most easily grow if you plant them from starts, at least 18-24 inches apart.

Although they are drought-resistant flowers, you will want to make sure you water them for the first few weeks, which will allow them to settle nicely into the ground.

Practice Patience

Building a butterfly garden can be incredibly rewarding as you see your first fluttering wings. By making a haven for butterflies, you are encouraging many butterflies to make their way to your garden. Be patient for the butterflies to find your garden and continue tending for many years. As the years go by, it will become a butterfly haven.


  • "Butterfly Gardening." Butterfly Gardening - Plants to Attract Butterflies, Hummingbirds, and Wildlife. Accessed February 27, 2018.
  • "How to Plan, Grow and Care for a Butterfly Garden." How to Create a Butterfly Garden - The Garden Helper - Garden Helper, Gardening Questions and Answers. Accessed February 27, 2018.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Angela Michelle Schultz


Bob Ewing from New Brunswick on July 03, 2019:

Including plants native to your region in the garden, will attract native pollinators. Good article.

poetryman6969 on February 06, 2015:

Some great photos. I love the idea of a butterfly garden.

JoyLevine from 3rd Rock from the Sun on December 25, 2014:

Interesting article. I love butterflies. I have a butterfly garden myself and it provides hours and hours of enjoyment. I have monarchs, queens, tiger swallowtails, zebra heliconias, julias (iulia heliconias), yellow cloud sulphurs, and the occasional black phase tiger swallowtail that frequent here. I think the most interesting caterpillar is the tiger swallowtail. It is disguised basically as bird poop! LOL Beautiful article!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 22, 2012:

Thank you!

Barbara Badder from USA on May 22, 2012:

Interesting hub and good job Angela.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 15, 2012:

Thank you very much. I too am growing a butterfly garden this year. I will be taking pictures of butterflies in it as soon as they come.

Karen Lackey from Ohio on May 15, 2012:

I have many of these plants in our gardens already so now I am expecting some awesome butterflies! :) My children love butterflies. I enjoyed the pictures, the information on how to attract as well as how to plant each respective flower. Well done. Up and informative!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 10, 2012:

The Dirt Farmer, with the sand, I think you could probably find some very nice bowls that would not look out of place in a garden as well.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 10, 2012:

Thank you sfs for such a nice compliment. I have a huge butterfly photography collection of my own, you can see part of it in one of my hubs.

Jill Spencer from United States on May 10, 2012:

Will have to try the container of wet sand idea. Sounds easier to maintain than a water bowl. Thanks!

Sophie on May 10, 2012:

Beautiful! I love butterflies...I keep photographing butterflies all the time.. Great pictures and information on this hub.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 09, 2012:

Thank you!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on May 09, 2012:

Butterfly gardens are so lovely. Great hub, and very well done.

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 09, 2012:

teaches12345 - Thank you. I love cone flowers, and when I was researching this, I found another reason to love them!

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 09, 2012:

goodlady, thank you so very much! I really appreciate it!

Dianna Mendez on May 09, 2012:

I have seen many butterflies around the cone flowers. I guess I now know why. Thanks for the informationa and the pretty photos.

Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on May 09, 2012:

Just beautiful. Voting and beautiful

Angela Michelle Schultz (author) from United States on May 09, 2012:

Thanks so much.

Natasha from Hawaii on May 09, 2012:

Great job finding photos - these are really pretty pictures! Butterfly gardens are gorgeous- thanks for the information. Voted beautiful.