How to Use Perennial Plants & Flowers to Attract Butterflies

Updated February 21, 2017

Butterflies are among the most beautiful and fascinating summer insects. Filling a garden with flowers and plants that butterflies love is an easy way to enjoy having them nearby, and to help them by providing food for both their larvae and adult forms. Using perennial plants that are attractive to butterflies, you can make a perennial garden that will beautify your landscape and entice butterflies to stick around all season long.

Read about and research the types of butterflies that live in your area, and the food plants they prefer. For example, the spicebush swallowtail butterfly lives throughout eastern North America and likes honeysuckle and spicebush plants, according to The dogface butterfly lives mainly in California and prefers clovers and thistles. When you get to know about the types of butterflies that live where you live, you can attract them with their favourite food plants.

Plant a variety of plants and flowers that are most attractive to the butterflies that live in your region, paying attention to the conditions the plants need for optimal growth. The coneflower, which is attractive to many butterflies, needs plenty of sunlight and well-drained soil. According to, milkweed, a favourite plant of Monarch butterflies, needs full sunlight and light soil in which to grow.

Be sure to properly water and fertilise plants so they get a healthy start in your butterfly garden. After planting your garden, water it deeply at least twice a week for four to six weeks, until plants are established. An all-purpose garden fertiliser that is moderate in nitrogen and phosphorus and is slightly higher in potassium will work as a fertiliser. Follow all package directions.

Add a shallow birdbath to your butterfly garden. According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, butterflies like shallow water to get a drink from. Fill the birdbath with sand or gravel and then with water, stale beer or sugar water. You can also bury a bucket or pan in the ground, up to the rim, and then fill it with sand or gravel and liquid. Surround the birdbath or bucket with butterfly-friendly plants and flowers, so the butterflies will have easy access to both food and water.

Things You'll Need

  • Books or magazines about butterfly gardening
  • Flowers and plants that butterflies like, such as achellia, lilac, butterfly weed, coneflower and snapdragon
  • Shallow bird bath or bucket
  • Sand or gravel
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About the Author

Leslie Lane has been writing professionally since 2007. Her areas of expertise include landscape and garden design; trees, shrubs and perennials; plant care; and plant pests and diseases. An education in landscape horticulture from Lansing Community College is paired with several years experience working for one of Michigan's premier wholesale/retail nurseries and growing farms.