Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.      

Nathaniel Hawthorne


Why grow a butterfly garden?

  • Pollination like bees. Butterflies are attracted to brightly colored, fragrant flowers and feed on nectar produced by the flowers.
  • Butterflies are beautiful.
  • There is so much science for your child in one garden, life cycle biology, botany, photosynthesis, local ecosystems, migration, photography, and more.
  • Conservation and Ecology.
  • Encouraging Habitats and Wildlife. 
  •  Environmental Awareness.
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Faust Boys Enjoying Butterflies

You don’t have to have a huge area to attract these beautiful bugs, I’ve seen them done wonderfully in containers.   You just need a sunny spot and a little bit of planning.   Milkweed is the first and easiest plant most butterfly gardeners start with, we have a huge patch in front of our kitchen.  It self seeds and is spreading.  But it’s so nice to daydream and watch the butterflies float around when you are washing dishes.

Butterfly garden milkweed
Milkweed in your Butterfly Garden


Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

A type of milkweed, butterfly weed isn’t picky about growing conditions and once established resists droughts.. Butterflies, bees and other pollinators can’t resist these bright orange blooms.  Milkweed comes in other colors too, if you aren’t partial to orange.  We cut ours down in winter and it always comes back through the soil in late spring, well after other plants are up and at ‘em. It’s a good idea to mark clumps with a stake to avoid early season digging in that spot. Hardy in Zones 3 to 9.

Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed.  In fact, the monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly.”   Many states, mine included will send you free milkweed seeds.   They grow really easy, toss a few in your yard and water daily for two weeks.  



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Swamp Milkweed

The only food source of Monarch caterpillars and a preferred source of nectar for many butterfly species, including the adult Monarch, there are over 100 varieties of milkweeds in North America. Hardy Swamp Milkweed, shown here, is a good choice for Zones 3-8 but prefers moist conditions till well established.


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Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Butterfly bushes are large, fast-growing shrubs whose flowers are irresistible to butterflies. They are easy-care plants, but are very invasive in some areas.  They get very big.


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Phlox is a low-growing, spreading plant that forms a blanket of blooms all summer. Perennial varieties are great for a year-round groundcover.


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Coneflower (Echinacea)

Coneflower is one of the prettiest big flower for attracting butterflies. It adds a unique touch of color to the late summer landscape. Plant echinacea among a low growing perennial bed where showy flowers will stand above the rest.



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Lantana are beautiful dainty small flowers.  They show off clusters of eye-catching blooms in a variety of hues. Typically grown as an annual (ours come back yearly), it’s an excellent low hedge or accent shrub.  It attracts butterflies and tolerates heat.

Our local nature museum has a butterfly garden and I’m sure yours does too, you should go check it out!