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How to Build a Butterfly Garden

By Tammy Lee Morris ; Updated September 21, 2017
Build a butterfly garden to encourage winged visitors to your yard.

Creating a butterfly garden in your home landscape not only provides beautiful and fragrant flowers but also draws in beneficial insects that are a delight to watch. A butterfly garden can be a unique and eye-catching focal point in any yard. Creating a haven for butterflies promotes the conservation of various species of these winged creatures and provides a natural habit for other wildlife that will visit or even stay in your yard or area.

Choose the proper location for your butterfly garden. Location is everything when it comes to butterfly gardens. Butterflies prefer sunny areas where they can warm themselves to retain heat. Most plants that attract butterflies also prefer full sun. Choose a sunny spot with well-drained soil.

Select a combination of nectar plants. Nectar plants are needed in any butterfly garden. Nectar plants provide food for visiting butterflies; they draw them in for a snack and keep them coming back for more. Planting an assortment of perennials, annuals, wildflowers, herbs and bushes or trees in a butterfly garden will provide a variety for each species native to your area. Great starter choices for a small butterfly garden are coneflower, sedum, petunia, dill, Queen Anne's lace, milkweed, lilac, butterfly bush and willow tree.

Choose host plants for your butterfly garden. Host plants attract butterflies for reasons other than feeding. Butterflies seek out host plants upon which they can lay eggs. The young caterpillars feed upon the host plants after hatching and continue to feed until they pupate and eventually become adult butterflies. Check with your state's Department of Natural Resources for information about butterflies that are found in your area. You will be able to discover the host plants for those specific butterflies and plant accordingly. As an example, milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies. If you wish to attract monarchs, plant milkweed not only as a nectar plant but also as a host plant.

Provide a water source for the butterflies. Butterflies "puddle" in shallow water sources like mud puddles, wet sand and even pet urine. They do this to absorb moisture and minerals. Provide a water source by adding a birdbath lined with sand and rocks and filled with enough water to cover the sand. An alternative would be to dig a shallow hole in your butterfly garden, line it with decorative rocks and sand and then fill it with enough water to cover the sand. The butterflies will alight upon the rocks to get close to the water.

Use overripe fruit to attract butterflies. Place the rotting fruit on a pan or a birdbath, where the scent will draw them in.


Things You Will Need

  • Nectar plants
  • Host plants
  • Water source
  • Overripe fruit


  • Place a bench or seat somewhere within the butterfly garden so that you can sit and observe your visitors.


  • Never use pesticides or herbicides in or near your butterfly garden.

About the Author


Tammy Lee Morris is a writer living in southern Illinois. She has been writing professionally for print publications since 1992 and contributing to online publications since 2006. Now writing a column for "The Weekly Review," she has also contributed to "Woman's World," "Countryside Magazine," Asylum.com and the Woman's Day website. Morris studied journalism at John A. Logan College.