While making a garden that attracts a few butterflies from time to time doesn’t take much effort, building one that attracts all kinds of butterflies all the time does take a bit more work.
It is not necessarily hard to do. But even then, butterflies are some of the pickiest insects. If you don’t know how to make them feel at home, you won’t attract them properly. And thus, you’ll never experience a beautiful butterfly garden like those in the movies.
There’s no need to worry, though. We’re going to teach you four different ways on how to make a butterfly garden. Each method has its reasons and way of working. Whatever you decide to follow, be sure it will be a worthwhile endeavor.
Below, you’ll find more butterflies, gardens, and everything in between. Take a look!
Table of Contents
What Do You Need to Build a Butterfly Garden?
Before stepping foot into the nitty-gritty, let’s teach you the basics of a butterfly garden. As you may guess, it is not like a vegetable garden. Its demands are entirely different, mainly because butterflies are picky insects.
In short, to make a butterfly garden, you need to build something butterflies like. So, what do butterflies like? Here’s a set of factors to consider:
Attractive Flowers & Colors
There’s probably nothing more important than flowers and other colorful plants. One of the reasons for this is that butterflies are naturally attracted to colored flowers. They automatically feel attracted because they associate it with a source of nectar or pollen.
If you can add flowers with attractive colors, that’s a recipe for bringing tons of butterflies. Be aware, though, this will also appeal to many other animals and insects. So be sure to keep pests away by hand, if possible.
The main reason butterflies will fly to a garden is because there’s food. And sure enough, their food comes from the nectar flowers and other plants produce. Without this food, you’re likely not to attract a single butterfly.
But it’s important to mention that they don’t like any food. Butterflies prefer sugary food. Nectar is obviously one of them. They also appreciate pears, apples, peaches, and similar fruits.
If flowers or fruits are not an option, you can always bring a feeder (a device with sugary solution butterflies can drink from). A more rudimental option could be a jar with nectar, a sugar-damp sponge, or just fermented fruits and beverages.
Sufficient Water & Humidity
Believe it or not, butterflies also drink water. They need it to stay hydrated and flying for long distances. For that reason, they also appreciate having puddles or ponds around. A place where they can safely take a sip of water is a perfect place for butterflies to thrive.
You can make this with a simple tray, dish, container, a few rocks, or even a large pond or something similar. As long as there some water in the garden for the butterflies to sip from, that should be enough.
Proper Sun Exposure & Air
While insects are often repelled by too much sun, they also like some of it. Butterflies, for example, are cold-blooded animals. For that reason, they depend on consistent sun exposure to keep their bodies warm and functioning. Otherwise, they may go dormant by nature.
At the same time, the area needs to be in the open air. An outdoor butterfly garden won’t be as effective as an outdoor one. Both because of the sun and the wind that also attracts pollinators, including butterflies.
A Shelter & Posing Area
Even though butterflies can fly, they can’t hide from the power of the elements. And that often means hiding from harsh winds and rains. If you can help butterflies feel protected with a shelter or similar area, that would be a boost. They would likely stay around for longer, especially in harsh conditions.
You can do this by building a butterfly house. But you could also just place some stones and slabs around in a way that creates cave-like areas. This will protect butterflies from extreme conditions that could kill them.
A Chemical-Free Area
Apart from all that, it is essential to keep the garden completely organic. Even the slightest sign of chemicals could deter most insects, especially butterflies. They’re incredibly fragile, so even a small amount of pesticide could cause damage and threaten life.
If you don’t want that to happen, then you will ensure an utterly chemical-free garden. Don’t use any pesticide or herbicide for that (choose natural weed killers and pesticides instead).
What Flowers Do Butterflies Like?
The most important factor is an array of colorful flowers. But what flowers are those? Well, there are tons to pick from. Here, we’re going to explain some of them:
Flowers that grow every year and make your garden look as colorful as it can be. Those are the ones that butterflies prefer, especially if they blossom in the right season (and produce nectar!).
Here are some of these perennials to consider:
- Balloon Flower
- Black-Eyed Susan
- Blazing Star
- Creeping Thyme
While colored flowers are ideal for butterflies, it is shrubs that will give your garden some structure. These are ideal for the garden’s edges, so the flowers are not attacked by weeds and other unwanted plants. Still, when these shrubs blossom, they will also bring butterflies around.
We recommend shrubs like:
Most perennials and shrubs will produce flowers with nectar. But some flowers produce more nectar than others. These are the ones you should focus on, as they will keep the butterflies coming back.
Flowers that produce a lot of nectar include:
Tall & Short Flowers
Besides bringing colorful flowers, shrubs, and nectar-rich plants, you should also focus on getting flowers of different sizes. Some butterflies prefer tall ones, while others will go directly to the smallest ones. Mixing the garden this way will be a perfect way to attract different species at once.
Consider a combination of tall flowers like these:
- Desert Candles
- Joe Pye Weed
- Rose Mallow
And also bring short ones like:
- Rock Cress
- Sweet Alyssum
As you can see, pretty much any flower will do the job. But you have to bring as many as possible, mixing different species at once for the most colorful, attractive, and nectar-producing flower bed possible. This should bring more butterflies than a standard, single-flower garden.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the different ways you can make one at home:
1. A Typical Butterfly Garden
The first method is a casual butterfly garden. If you want to make it simple, start with this. It is one of the most effective and still easiest. Here’s how to proceed:
Make sure you know precisely the types of butterflies that hang around in your area. While you may want the largest Monarchs to visit your home, it won’t be possible if you don’t live in a place where they hang. Similarly, you can’t adapt the garden for all kinds of butterflies. You should focus on the right ones.
That’s why we recommend doing proper research and finding out what flowers you should pick for the butterflies that spend time in your area. Once you have that, then you can proceed.
Pick a Place for the Garden
As we explained before, butterflies love decent sun exposure. While they like some wind, it can be wise to find a place that’s decently protected.
A perfect combination would be some shrubs and trees around that protect from the wind, give decent shade, but still don’t block the sun. That would be an ideal place for a butterfly garden.
Bring Rocks & Stones
Once you have the place, grab some stones, rocks, and slabs for the butterflies to lie on. If you leave some space between them with some shade, it could protect butterflies from cold environments, rains, and even the scorching sun.
Create a Puddle
Don’t forget to bring a small container or create a puddle by hand. You could always build a pond as well. Whatever has a bit of water for butterflies to sip from should be enough.
Plant the Flowers
After arranging the rocks and building a puddle, start planting the flowers. Focus on the ones that butterflies in your area prefer, and you’ll be done.
You should have flowering plants within a few months. Then you’ll have butterflies coming around behind.
2. The Feeding-Frenzy Way
Another way to build a butterfly garden is also super-cheap. This one requires a bit more time, though. As you won’t be truly making the butterfly paradise but more of leaving it to build itself, it could take several months to come to fruition. Luckily, it is not too hard either. Here’s what to do:
Get the Plants In
Start by planting species that butterflies can eat. This not only means flowers that provide nectar but also general plants that their caterpillars can feed on. Often, plants with a lot of forage (shrubs) will be more than enough. They don’t have to look pretty if you also have flowers around.
While building a pond or small puddle in a container could get the job done, we recommend leaving some small puddles to form themselves. Just dig a small almost-flat hole in the ground. Pour some water in and let the butterflies visit.
You can add some leaves and fruit to the puddle and make it muddy. This should make it more attractive to butterflies.
Let Everything Compost
To make sure the butterflies and their caterpillars will feed adequately, you should leave some of the leaves and fruits to compost. When they look and smell rotten, that’s when butterflies prefer them. Their caterpillars will also have a great time.
Bring Nectar Plants
Don’t hesitate to also bring flowers with nectar. These are the ones that will attract the most butterflies. Flowers, especially, will make butterflies fly directly into your garden—mix different flower species for a better result.
Ensure Proper Sun
Lastly, as you’ll produce a feeding frenzy in the garden, it is vital to keep proper sun exposure. This will prevent unwanted pests from flowing in as well as keeping everything composting without severe disease. Sure enough, butterflies will also prefer it this way.
3. A Monarch Oasis Garden
If you live in Southern US or in Canada, there’s a high chance you can bring Monarchs to your house. Of course, you’ll have to check whether you’re in the path of Monarchs beforehand. In case you live close to the West Coast, there’s a high chance you can get these.
How can you make Monarchs visit your home, though? Follow these tips:
Plant Tall Milkweed
First and foremost, start by planting a tall milkweed species at home. While most milkweed species will attract Monarchs, the tall species will be a lot more attractive for them. Because these tall milkweeds have more space and flowers to feed on, they prefer them for their eggs and caterpillars.
Create a Structure
Then you can create a structure that attracts the butterflies. Like most species, they appreciate milkweed plants. But not just milkweed in any order. They prefer when accessing the milkweed is easy.
That’s why we recommend creating a structure in your garden to ensure quicker and easier access to the flowers.
If you can make it easy for the butterflies to lay their eggs on the milkweed, you can save a lot of disappointment.
Ensure North-South Access
Once you have a proper structure in the garden that focuses on access to the milkweed, you should leave the North and South areas free. This is where the Monarchs will come from and leave to.
Generally, you just need to prevent tall trees and shrubs that block access to the milkweed. Preferably, a space without buildings or even fences would be ideal. That could be difficult, so focus on leaving the area as open as possible for the Monarchs to visit more easily.
Avoid the Wrong Plants
Lastly, nothing will keep Monarchs coming back to your garden than the right plants. While milkweed is an excellent starting point, you should focus on preventing the wrong ones. This typically means avoiding tropical milkweeds and other non-blossoming and toxic plants.
At the same time, avoid plants that bring butterfly predators like wasps, parasitic flies, and ants.
4. The Fermented Fruit & Shelter Garden
Some types of butterflies don’t like nectar from outdoor flowers too much. Instead, they prefer overripe fruits and enclosed spaces.
That’s why building a fermented fruit oasis, and a shelter for the butterflies to stay in should bring these species. Among butterflies that like these environments, you can find the Hackberry and Painted Lady butterflies to prefer fruit over flowers. Here’s how to make an ideal garden for them:
Build a Shelter
You don’t have to build a wooden or metal shelter. Instead, make something rudimentary that feels more natural for the butterflies, like a small stone house. In fact, something as simple as several flat stones together could be more than enough.
Be aware that leaving some spaces for the butterflies to stay in when the sun is too harsh will also help bring more butterflies.
Use Fermented Food
Once you have the shelter, you can think of the food. Here, we recommend fermented fruit over all others. But if you want to make it simpler, you can use fermented beer. Molasses and sugary products that are already past their edible state will also work.
If you have pears, mangoes, strawberries, plums, cherries, oranges, watermelons, and pineapples at home, you can leave the fruits to ferment in the ground. This should also bring butterflies around.
Ensure Ideal Humidity & Water
Even though you’re using fermented food, and that should be enough, butterflies should also appreciate some water around.
That’s why moist soil, a puddle, or even a container with water enough should be even better. Even a small sandy area sufficiently damped should work.
Create the Feeders
For the fermented fruit, we typically recommend placing a shallow plate with some overripe fruit inside. But you can also go a bit further and create a cage-like basket or pot. The focus is for the fruit to be accessible to the butterflies to feed on.
To make the garden even more attractive, you can also add a nectar feeder. Here, you will need to dissolve about 2 tablespoons of sugar in 4 ounces of water. The water should not be too sugary, but enough for butterflies to sip from it safely. A sponge or towel damp in the solution will also work.
Place Feeders & Clean Them Consistently
Place the feeder close to the shelter and water source. That should be simple yet attractive enough for the butterflies.
But at the same time, try replacing the fruits when it gets wasps and ants. You don’t want the butterflies to get discouraged. More importantly, you don’t want an infested garden with pests that could overtake butterflies quickly.
Your garden can be an oasis for butterflies if you put in the work. Sure, it won’t be 100% certain that butterflies will land on your flowers and stay for days or weeks. But with the right environment, you’ll have a higher chance of making that possible.
Just follow our advice on how to make a butterfly garden, and you’ll be better off than doing it from scratch without an idea of what to do. And if you put any of the different methods above, that should make it even easier.
So, what are you waiting for? Butterflies are soon to come – get your garden ready for them now!