Plants for a Butterfly Garden

Plant a butterfly garden and you'll add an entirely new dimension to the landscape. Even a small patch of ground can provide enough space to grow the beautiful, colorful flowers that will attract a variety of butterflies. To begin your butterfly garden, plant a variety of nectar-rich plants that will bloom from spring until fall.

Virginia Bluebell

Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) is a spring blooming perennial with small purple flowers that will attract a variety of butterflies. A woodland plant, Virginia bluebells will grow well in fertile soil and partial shade. The Virginia bluebell often grows wild and prefers the cooler climates in USDA zones 3 to 8. A 1- to 2-inch layer of mulch such as shredded bark or pine needles will keep the roots cool and comfortable.

Bee Balm

Bee balm (Monarda didyma) is a perennial flower that will attract butterflies to the garden with its colorful blooms all summer. Common visitors to the bee balm plant include painted ladies, mourning cloaks and eastern tiger swallowtails. Bee balm is often seen growing wild in meadows and along roadsides, but isn't difficult to grow in the home landscape. The plant thrives in full sunlight and moist soil, and is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 9.

Forget Me Not

Forget me not (Myosotis sylvatica), is a prolific, fragrant summer bloomer that is sturdy enough to grow in nearly any soil. Forget me nots are unusual because the blooms stay tightly closed during the day, opening in late afternoon when the temperature begins to drop. The trumpet-shaped blooms are available in a variety of vivid colors, including pink, red, yellow, orange and white. Forget me not is hardy in USDA zones 8 to 11.


If you're hoping to attract skipper, copper, sulphur or hairstreak butterflies to your garden, yarrow (Achillea) is a good plant. Yarrow is so adaptable that it will grow in hot weather and average quality, dry soil. Plant yarrow in full sunlight, and the plant will produce tiny white flowers from summer until fall. Yarrow is hardy in USDA zones 4 to 8.

Purple Coneflower

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is a sturdy perennial that will produce colorful blooms in summer and fall, attracting such stunners as tiger swallowtails, blues, hairstreaks, skippers and viceroy butterflies. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-8, purple coneflower requires a bit of attention when it's first planted, but once established, will grow with very little attention.

Keywords: butterfly garden, attract butterflies, plants for butterflies

About this Author

M.H. Dyer is a long-time writer, editor and proofreader. She has been a contributor to the East-Oregonian Newspaper and See Jane Run magazine, and is author of a memoir, “The Tumbleweed Chronicles, a Sideways Look at Life." She holds an Master of Fine Arts from National University, San Diego.