How to Start a Butterfly Garden


You can create a natural, colorful garden space that attracts butterflies and beneficial insects by choosing plants that host these creatures and their larvae. Native plants attract native insects and birds, so if you grow plants that occur naturally in your part of the world you'll be creating an easy-to-care-for, compatible environment for plants, insects and animals. Many flowering plants attract butterflies, so by starting a butterfly garden, you'll also be enhancing the appearance of your property.

Step 1

Research the types of butterflies that are native to your region by browsing Internet sites, visiting your library or a local bookstore and talking to the staff at a local nursery. Make a list of the ones you would like to attract and then research the plants they like to eat.

Step 2

Prepare garden beds in the fall by first weeding the area and then digging compost and other organic materials into the soil at a ratio of one part compost to four parts soil.

Step 3

Purchase plants and seeds of annual and perennial plants that attract the types of butterflies you want in your garden. Scatter wildflower seeds in your garden beds in the fall---if they are well suited to the conditions in your yard, they will sprout during winter or early spring. Wait until after your final spring frost to set bedding plants into the ground.

Step 4

Water your seeded areas throughout the winter if rains are insufficient. Keep the soil moist but not too wet. Water newly planted bedding plants after you set them in the ground and keep the soil moist until they are established. Many wildflowers are drought tolerant in the summer, so learn about the needs of the plants you are growing to ensure that you give them the correct conditions.

Step 5

Fertilize many of the plants that attract butterflies once in the spring. Use a balanced fertilizer, such as one with an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10. To encourage more flowers, use a low-nitrogen, or "blossom booster," fertilizer, such as one with an N-P-K ratio of 0-10-10, when flower buds begin to appear later in the season.

Step 6

Allow caterpillars to eat your plants because they will turn into butterflies.

Step 7

Install a butterfly house or a butterfly feeder to encourage more butterflies to visit your garden and increase your landscape's interest and attractiveness.

Tips and Warnings

  • Butterflies begin their lives as caterpillars, which can eat the foliage of your plants. Plant more than one of each type of host plant to increase the possibility that butterfly larvae will have enough to eat and you'll have enough flowers and foliage left to enjoy.

Things You'll Need

  • Plants and seeds
  • Compost
  • Shovel
  • Trowel


  • The Butterfly Site: Butterfly Gardening by Area
  • The Butterfly Site: Butterfly Nectar Plants
  • The Butterfly Site: Butterfly Host Plants
  • Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: Native Plants Database

Who Can Help

  • Butterfly Gifts: Butterfly Houses and Feeders
Keywords: butterfly garden, attracting insects, host nectar plants

About this Author

Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens," and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to Big Island Weekly, Ke Ola magazine, GardenGuides and eHow. She earned her B.A. at UCSB and her M.A. from San Jose State University.