When you create a butterfly garden, you are landscaping your yard to attract, retain and encourage butterfly populations. Because different butterfly species prefer different types of nectar, the type of garden that you plant will be the determining factor for the types of butterflies that you attract. In addition to flowers for nectar, you also need to provide food plants for caterpillars as well as water and shelter for the insects. Landscaping even a small area will create a habitat for butterflies.
Choose a location in your garden that is sheltered from wind and receives at least six hours of sunlight daily.
Select diverse collections of flower species for your garden. You will attract a wider range of butterflies if there is some type of flower in bloom all season long. Flowers that vary in color, shape and size will attract different types of butterflies. Good examples of flowers that butterflies prefer include purple coneflower, daylilies, Black-eyed Susan, hibiscus, asters, oxeye dasies, goldenrod, marigolds, aster, redbud trees, rosemary and butterfly bush.
Add plants that caterpillars like to eat to the garden. Caterpillars like many types of herbs including dill and parsley. Caterpillars also like trees including aspen, cherry and birch.
Locate your butterfly garden near adequate shelter. Do not depend on a butterfly house or hibernation box for shelter. According to the magazine Birds and Blooms, although these structures are delicate and interesting features for a butterfly garden, butterflies rarely use them. Instead, provide butterflies with shrubs, broad-leafed trees and log piles.
Provide places for butterflies to sunbathe such as large rocks or garden features such as sundials. Butterflies need thermal heat and will rely on landing pads in open, sunny spots to sunbathe.
Add a water source such as a birdbath to your water garden. Butterflies rely on the water source for drinking water. Another way you can provide water is to bury a bucket so that the lip is at ground level. Then fill the bucket with a mix of 1 part sand and 1 part soil. Keep this sand and soil mixture saturated with water for the best results.