Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden to Support Pollinators

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Last year, my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop planted a butterfly garden at the local elementary school. It was a very educational service project and the girls were in charge of every step of the process. They had to do the research on what types of plants to put in their butterfly garden, do the shopping, weed and plant the bed, and then water for a couple of months until it became established. They did a wonderful job and I like to think that they learned a few things along the way while still having plenty of fun! I thought I would share the tips for planting a butterfly garden that we learned as we worked. If you decide to create a butterfly garden, don’t forget the pollinator watering station!

Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden to Save the Pollinators

Why Plant a Butterfly Garden?

As I plan out what plants I want to put in my spring garden, I would like to include a number of flowers that attract butterflies. Climate change, pollution and habitat destruction are causing many species of butterflies to become endangered and even extinct.

It is important that we do everything we can to encourage their continued survival. Not just because they are pretty to look at but because they are a very important pollinator and without the spread of pollen, our food supply is in serious danger.

tips for planting a butterfly garden


I would like to encourage all of you to do a little planting this spring to give butterflies a reason to come to your yard. A butterfly garden does not have to be a complicated project. All they need are a few flowers, a source of water, and NO pesticides.  This is a great environmental project for kids to teach them the importance of pollinators in our food system. Here are a few things to consider when planting your own butterfly garden this year:

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Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden

Plant your butterfly garden in full sun. 

Many of the flowering plants that butterflies enjoy visiting will require full sun to bloom. It is those blooms that will bring both beauty AND butterflies to your yard.

Think strong scents and bold colors. 

Your butterfly garden will be most successful if you plant flowers that come in deep reds, bright yellows, and vibrant purples. If it is pretty to look at and smells good, butterflies will come!


butterfly in garden on dish with fruit

Skip the pesticides. 

While pesticides may kill pests in your yard, you will also be killing beneficial insects as well. And don’t forget, before a butterfly can exist, it must live it’s life as a caterpillar. That caterpillar is going to chew up host plants in order to grow and morph into the beautiful creatures you see flitting from plant to plant.

Killing caterpillars because you don’t want your plants chewed up will also mean you are not going to get any butterflies! Instead of pesticides, plant marigolds, petunias, mint and other herbs that naturally repel pests. Use only organic gardening solutions in your yard and garden.  You can make your own newspaper earwig trap or use salt to kill snails.  there are many natural ways to get rid of garden pests that are safe for pollinators. 

how to attract butterflies to your yard

Include a water/mineral source.

Butterflies need water and a shallow tray in your butterfly garden will be a big attraction. Place some sand in the bottom of the tray to provide trace minerals for your butterflies and include a nearby rock for them to land on and bask in the sun. Create a tiny little ecosystem in your butterfly garden like the one above.

Make sure you include a wide variety of plants with overlapping ‘blooming’ seasons.

You want to encourage butterflies to visit your butterfly garden for as long as possible throughout the spring and summer. You will need ‘host’ plants that will house eggs and provide food for caterpillars as well as bright blooms to provide nectar for butterflies as they emerge. For a nice long list of plants appropriate for your butterfly garden, visit this butterfly conservation website.

butterfly in the garden

Attracting butterflies to your yard isn’t hard if you keep in mind these tips for planting a butterfly garden. And if you are a food gardener, you will have the added bonus of attracting more pollinators to your yard to increase your food harvest as well. Especially since many of these tips will not only attract butterflies but also honey bees to your yard as well.

Remember, one of the most important things to remember is to SKIP THE PESTICIDES! Not only in the butterfly garden but throughout your entire yard.  Consider growing lemongrass to keep mosquitoes away. Have any other tips for planting a butterfly garden?


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Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden


15 thoughts on “Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden to Support Pollinators”

  1. We have a butterfly bush in our front yard. I love it! This year, I want to plant another in the backyard. We don’t use pesticides, but I do add used coffee grounds to the base of my hydrangeas – the color really pops!

  2. Oh I would love to have a butterfly garden! This is a brilliant help for me! A great way for me to get started! Pinning this for after we buy our first house and I can recreate the gardens.

  3. We’re getting honeybees next month, so we plant butterfly bushes, lavender, chamomile, strawberries, blackberries, daisies, echinacea, black-eyed Susans, apple trees, blueberry bushes, vegetables, squash, etc, and more. We’ll also be building a pond in the back yard, because bees need water too.

    • We put in a pretty pond with circulating water by the patio and the birds LOVE it! And it sounds so pretty listening to the water trickle down the stream my husband built for it!

  4. Hi Diane, this is so wonderful! Last year I went to Costa Rica and We went to a Place that was a huge Conservatory of Butterflies and they studied and them and they had a gorgeous place to fly around! It was amazing. Cost Rica is really into preserving nature and the eco system! Thanks Maria your Co Host

  5. This is beautiful and such a great idea for spring. Thanks for sharing on the weekend re-Treat link party. Hope you link up to the party again tomorrow!

    Britni @ Play. Party. Pin.

  6. I have read a few of your posts – thank you! I like that your suggestions are always pesticide free and easy to follow. I do have a question – in a few of the articles (toads – beneficial insects – here about butterflies) you suggest leaving containers of water out – my fear is these create breeding grounds for mosquitoes. I always refresh my birdbaths to lesson the possibility of creating a breeding ground. Any way to encourage the good things while discouraging the mosquitoes? Thank you in advance…

    • I tend to let things dry out occasionally (usually by accident) which seems to have kept the mosquitos at bay. I haven’t seen any in the bird bath, butterfly tray or anywhere else. We do have a whisky barrel pond that we put these little black mosquito fish in. I don’t know their real name but our water garden nursery place sells them and they love eating mosquito larvae. Hope that helps and glad you like the posts!


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