In order to attract butterflies to your garden you need to provide for them what they need. Generally, butterflies look for two things in a garden, food and host plants where they can lay their eggs. If these two things are present in your garden your chances of attracting butterflies greatly increases.
Keep your garden design simple. Butterflies are attracted to large masses of similarly colored flowers. It has been shown that they prefer pink, purple, red and yellow flowers. Create a garden which will bloom from spring until fall, this way you’ll attract all season long.
A successful butterfly garden provides those flowers which are suited to their eating habits. Since butterflies need to land in order to eat, they prefer flowers with large flat petals or those flowers which are tubular. They also like to warm their wings on cold morning so providing large flat stone in a sunny spot may draw butterflies to the gardens. If fact, as a general rule, butterflies prefer sunny locations.
Some nectar plants include: Aster, Butterfly Weed, Ironweed, Purple Coneflower, Sumacs, Joe-pye-weeds, Milkweeds, Black-eyed Susan, Phlox, Cardinal Flower, Sunflowers, Sweet Pepperbush, Coreopsis, Verbena, Goldenrod, Blazing Stars, Butterfly Bush and Pickerlweed.
Along with food in the garden, butterflies require a place to lay their eggs. While not providing this won’t completely discourage butterflies from visiting your garden, you’ll have more success if you do. The caterpillars which are produced by butterflies need food to survive. Since caterpillars can’t travel far, butterflies will lay their eggs on plants which they will use as food. Most species of caterpillars are particular about the type of plants they can eat. If the egg was laid on a plant which caterpillars can’t eat, the caterpillar hatching from that egg will not survive.
Some host plants include: Queen Anne's Lace, Wild Cherry, Yellow Poplar Spicebush, Sassafras, Birch, Elm, Hollyhock, Artemisia, Snapdragon, Heliotrope, Aspen, Poplar, Aspen, Hollyhock, Rose of Sharon, Blue Lupine, Viburnum and Honeysuckle.
Many native trees and other plants found in and around our yards are host plants for caterpillars. However, there are a variety of plants that can be included in a garden that are excellent host plants.
One issue some gardeners find somewhat troublesome is the fact that though they’re successful in attracting many butterflies, the caterpillars eat the foliage of their garden plants. One solution to this problem is to plant a small separate garden with butterfly attracting species of plants or to place those plants which attract butterflies toward the back of the garden.