Butterfly Garden


The finished garden

If you have a sunny spot in your yard right now that is filled with less-than-desirable plants, consider creating a butterfly garden. Not only are butterflies beneficial to a garden because they help pollinate the surrounding flowers, but there is also a lot of enjoyment in planting a special spot to host such magical creatures.

I decided to tackle an area like this at my daughters’ school. It took a few hours down in the dirt, some minor aches and a major need of a manicure, but the sweat equity was worth it for producing a lovely little habitat. I have to admit, I was pretty proud of the end result. I even gave myself a few dirt-covered pats on the back. Even more than that, it was fun to think of all the kids joyfully spying butterflies for seasons to come.

Here is what I planted, knowing they are native perennials:

Coneflowers, milkweed, foxglove, phlox, lantana, salvia, mint, asters and budlia.  In the existing area there were already two lovely passion fruit vines, which provide wonderful, nectar-rich flowers for the adult butterflies and delicious fruit, so I kept them in place.

Tips for creating your own butterfly garden:

  • Consider a picket fence— a fence will create nice protection for the plants and a perch for the butterflies.
  • Create a path – for this project we used a combination of cement pavers and bark. This way little feet can stay on the path and not squash the seedlings. The pavers will also create a nice resting place for your butterflies to warm up. Warn the kids though to look out for resting butterflies on the path.
  • Choose perennial plants, then you don’t have to be committed to replanting the area every year. Think in terms of drifts- most of the perennials I bought came in six-packs, so I planted them all together in one grouping and then moved on to the next.
  • Try to pick two colors to be your lead palette. I chose hues of orange and purple (are you surprised?) to be my main colors and then added in lavender and peach. Nurseries typically sell multi-color six-packs of flowers, so ask if you can buy flowers individually or single-color six-packs.
  • Select plants that host both the caterpillar as well as the adult butterfly. Certain butterflies will only lay eggs on milkweed, so make sure that’s part of your planting mix.
  • Also, include enough nectar-producing plants whose blooms will provide food the the butterflies throughout the season. Plant flowers that bloom mid-to-late summer, when butterflies are the most active.
  • Choose native species – your local butterflies will appreciate it. There’s no place like home.
before planting

This is what I started with...

planting rows




If you live locally, the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History has the Butterflies Alive! exhibit running now until September 16.

I found this resource for buying caterpillars online.


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2 thoughts on “Butterfly Garden”

On the subject of butterflies. For several years i have known that butterflies lay their eggs on parsley and fennel. I have enjoyed watching the butterflies stop and flutter by the plant and plant the eggs with their abdomen (not sure if that is what the part is called) on the plant. When the eggs hatch they are very small. They grow quickly. When they get larger they usually crawl away from the plant and spin their cacoon. Recently I was at a garden center looking at some dill, and spotted alot of small butterfly catapillers on the plants.
God is so awesome !

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