Gardening for the Butterflies

Would you like to be able to watch flocks of butterflies flutter by?
Plan and plant now for the hungry butterflies that will appear in late spring after winter hibernation. There are five simple steps to creating a habitat for them (and you) to enjoy.

1. Plant diversity and variety are important.

To attract many different species, you will need different foods over a long season. While adult butterflies are beautiful, the babies are less so. You will need to provide food for both caterpillars and adults.

Yes, baby butterflies (caterpillars, AKA “worms”) will eat your plants. Be prepared for that.

2. Attract with favorite butterfly colors.

Butterflies have very tiny brains. Highly visible masses of their food plants are needed to attract them to the garden. White, purple, and yellow are their favorite colors. They are less attracted to orange, red, or blue flowering plants. Since individual flowers are relatively small, you will need to plant a cluster of plants for ease of fly-by recognition.

Yellow blooms attract butterflies.

3. Provide a water source.

Every living thing needs water. Butterflies are no exception, and will appreciate a shallow puddle or patch of moist soil. Bury a large plant saucer in the soil and add it to your drip system.

4. Create a butterfly friendly space.

Protection. Butterflies need protection from wind when feeding. Given the large sail area of their wings, they can literally be blown away.

Sun. Butterflies are cold-blooded and need sunlight to warm up and fly. Add a decorative boulder to give them a place sit and warm.

Shade. Butterflies also need to get out of hot summer sun and to rest. Evergreen shrubs provide protection from heat, cold, and wind. An evergreen shrub could even be silver-green, like the low-water woolly butterfly bush (Buddleia marrubifolia).


5. Avoid using pesticides or GMO plants.

The bacteria called Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is deadly to all members of the Lepidoptera, butterflies and moths, both adults and larvae. Bt is now artificially cloned into a number of plants (creating GMO plants) and it kills any Lepidoptera that land on that plant.


Food, water, and shelter are the prime requisites for all living things. If you provide the right kind of food, a little water, and some shelter, you should have some butterflies fluttering into your yard to delight you.

Which Plants?

As for which plants to plant? Too many to even list! You will need to get my new book “Butterfly Gardening for Southern Arizona.” Rillito Nursery has it, and soon Antigone, Tucson Botanical Gardens, and Tohono Chul Park should too – but maybe call before you drive over. If you are civic minded- ask your local Pima County Librarian to buy a copy for the library!


If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures. Look for me at your local Pima County Library branch, Western National Parks Association Store, Tubac Presidio, Tucson Festival of Books and other venues. After each event I will be selling and signing copies of my books, including the latest, “Butterfly Gardening for the Southwest.
© Article is copyright by Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. Republishing an entire blog post or article is prohibited without permission. I receive many requests to reprint my work. My policy is that you may use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit to the author, and must include a link back to the original post on our site. Photos may not be used.

Please follow and like us:

0 thoughts on “Gardening for the Butterflies”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.