How to Start a Butterfly Garden

Posted by Arcadia Garden Products on

Who wouldn't love to have a garden aflutter with butterflies?

Here's how to plant a butterfly garden that'll keep those beauties coming back year after year.


We like to think of butterflies as magical little creatures fluttering from flower to flower then disappearing on a gentle breeze. But these insects aren't magic and you don't need fairy dust to attract them.

In fact, by following a few steps, you can attract and keep butterflies in your garden nearly all year!

Read on to find out exactly how you can plant a butterfly garden that will attract these winged beauties and keep them coming back year after year. 



Food is one of the biggest motivators for any member of the animal kingdom and butterflies are no exception.

But not just any old plant will do. Planting a successful butterfly garden requires research.

First, research what butterflies are most common in your area. (It's no use trying to attract a butterfly that only lives on the other side of the country!) Next, select plants that will not only work as butterfly beacons, but will work well within your hardiness zone and gardening aesthetic.


But it isn't just the fully grown butterflies you need to think about. You'll also have to feed their babies!

Butterflies are very finicky about what plants they lay their eggs on because each different species of caterpillar has its own unique diet. Instinct tells them, "If your babies can’t eat these plants, your butterfly line won’t live on."

These types of plants are called "host plants." Monarch butterflies, for example, only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. Others may choose from a selection of plants for their babies to feast on.

If you're hoping to be a "butterfly grandparent," this can be an amazing experience!



To round out their diet (and help cool off in hot weather), butterflies engage in an activity known as "puddling." This involves gathering around a small puddle of water called a butterfly puddler so they can have a sip and partake of any minerals that are left behind when the water evaporates.

Luckily, creating a "hydration station" is incredibly easy. 

Take a shallow container and fill it with sand, gravel, and or flat rocks. You might even consider adding some salt for added minerals. Next, add water until the sand is moist or gravel is nearly covered. Remember, butterflies can't land on open water, so don't add too much.

Our birdbaths are an excellent way to provide water to thirsty visitors while also enhancing your garden's design. Plus, they're also a draw for bees (who will help pollinate those flowers!) and birds.



Depending on what types of flowers you plant, a good rule of thumb is to make sure your garden has access to at least 6 hours of full sun every day.

Not only does this help your flowers grow to their full potential but it allows your butterfly friends a place to bask in the sun.

A good balance of sun and shade will give butterflies plenty of options.

When butterflies emerge from their cocoon, they need to dry their wings. Even after their wings have dried, they still need a place to warm up in the morning after the dew has accumulated on their wings. (Remember, they're cold-blooded!)

Sure, they can do this on a tree or the ground but a better place would be a nice big rock with access to the sun. Rocks naturally warm up in the sun and provide the perfect cozy spot to curl up. 




Those spring and summer months are the perfect time to be outside, watching your winged friends enjoy your garden. But those same months can also be very hot, no matter where you live.

In short: butterflies need a cool place in the shade to hide from predators and  rest at night.

Try to provide them with plenty of cover. A few shade plants or small trees should provide enough leaves and branches. 



We know it can be hard to keep pests out of your garden but any pesticide (yes, even the organic ones) will not only kill the pests but also your beautiful butterflies (and their babies)! (Pesticides can't tell which bugs are "pests" and which are friends.) 

Keep your butterfly garden pesticide free, so you don't accidentally hurt them.

Instead, let nature take its course and deal with infestations as they come up. If you want to be a little more proactive, consider introducing some ladybugs into your garden or include plants that repel unwanted pests.



Once you do the research, maintaining a successful and beautiful butterfly garden is easy.

Equipped with the right flowers, rocks, trees, and game plan for pests, even the "greenest" gardener will be well on your way to a beautiful and lively garden.

Once you’ve picked your plants and determined your layout, it’s time to decorate! At Arcadia Garden Products, we have a wide array of gardening products and decor designed to add beauty, whimsy, and style to your garden.

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