Butterfly garden basics start with plenty of sun. Provide a shallow place for drinking water such as a birdbath with a raised section in the middle or simply a shallow lid to allow water to puddle. Place a butterfly garden along a fence, against a wall or other place that will provide shelter against wind. Flat stones should be scattered for warm resting areas. Also provide plenty of food for caterpillars including herbs such as dill and parsley, annuals like marigolds, zinnias and salvia and native plants such as milkweed, thistle and goldenrod.
Milkweed is the main source of food for the monarch butterfly because it feeds from caterpillar onto adulthood. Milkweed (Asclepias) is the genus name for a family of herbaceous perennials that secret a milky substance. Milkweeds are native plants often considered weeds by less-experienced gardeners. With clusters of small blooms in a variety of shades, the most popular commercial variety is simply known as "butterfly weed." Monarchs find milkweed plants as they migrate to lay eggs but as adults, they expand their diet to include lavender, goldenrod, purple coneflower and a number of other perennials.
Black swallowtail butterflies lay eggs on herbs such as dill and parsley but their adult pallet include all of the parsley family including Queen Ann's Lace, dill, parsley, fennel and carrots. Black swallowtail caterpillars can decimate herb plants with their constant eating, so place plants intended for their use far from the ones you chose to grow for your own needs.
Buckeye butterfly, with their large eye-like spots, are one of the most beautiful and least picky eaters of the visitors you can have to your garden. Buckeye butterflies prefer snapdragon varieties as well as verbena, coreopsis, milkweed, aster and other heavy nectar plants. Buckeye butterflies prefer open areas with less dense plant-life and open dirt areas.