Creating a Butterfly Habitat

The most important things to remember when planning & planting a garden to attract and sustain butterflies:

  • Include nectar flowers for butterflies and larval food for caterpillars
  • Include pebbles or stones for butterflies to stand upon and bask in the sun
  • Dig mud puddles or include shallow dishes filled with mud for puddling
  • Place a bench in the garden for you to enjoy the butterflies

All butterflies go through four distinct life stages: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Everyone is familiar the adult stage, when the insect is the most attractive, but this phase only last two to three weeks. During that brief period, they must find a suitable mate, reproduce, seek out food and shelter, and avoid being eaten – a tall order for most creatures. To meet these high energy demands, adults rely on high energy nectar for fuel.

Good nectar plants include:

Anise Hyssop*Agastache foeniculum
Black-eyed Susan*Rudbeckia hirta & R. fulgida
Blanket Flower*Gaillardia spp.
Blazing Star*Liatris spp.
Blue Mist ShrubCaryopteris x clandonensis
Boneset*Eupatorium perfoliatum
Butterfly BushBuddleia davidii
Butterflyweed*Asclepias tuberosa
Button Bush*Cephalanthus occidentalis
Coreopsis*Coreopsis spp.
Culver’s Root*Veroniacastrum virginicum
Garden Phlox*Phlox paniculata
Garden SageSalvia spp.
Goldenrod*Solidago spp
Iron Weed*Vernonia novaboracensis
Joe-pye Weed*Eupatorium maculatum
Milkweed*Asclepias spp.
Mountain Mint*Pycnanthemum muticum
New England Aster*Aster novae-angliae
Purple Coneflower*Echinacea purpurea
Sneezeweed*Helenium autumnale
Sunflower*Helianthus spp.
Sweet Pepperbush*Clethra alnifolia
Turtlehead*Chelone lyonii or C. glabra
Weeping Lantana Lantana montevidensis
White Meadowsweet*Spiraea alba
Wild Bergamont*Monarda spp.
*These plants are native to the United States

As rapid development continues, butterfly populations are on the decline because their food sources and habitats are being destroyed. Help butterflies survive by avoiding manicured grass lawns, pesticides and foreign species of plants in your yard and garden. If you have room, leave part of your garden become a meadow. Initially you will want to plant in plugs of native wildflowers and native grasses. Mowing is needed only once a year in late November. You may have to remove an occasional unwanted plant. By using native plants, you are providing food sources for the beautiful creatures

It is also important to include larval-host plants. Remember these plants are supposed to be eaten by the caterpillars, so if they show insect damage, don’t reach for the pesticides.

Below is a partial list of good food sources for caterpillars:

Eastern Red Cedar*Juniperus virginiana
FennelFoeniculum vulgare
Hackberry*Celtis occidentalis
Milkweed*Asclepias spp
ParsleyPetroselinum crispum
Pearly EverlastingAnaphalis margaritacea
Sassafras Tree*Sassafras albidum
Spicebush*Lindera benzoin
Willow*Salix spp.
Violets*Viola spp.
Agastache foeniculumAnise Hyssop
Amorpha brachycarpaLead Plant
Aquilegia canadensisWild Columbine
Asclepias incarnataSwamp Milkweed
Asclepias tuberosaButterfly Flower
Aster divaricatrusWhite Wood Aster
Aster nova-angliaeNew England Aster
Cephalanthus occidentalisButton Bush
Chelone glabraWhite Turtlehead
Chelone lyoniiPink Turtlehead
Clethra alnifoliaSweet Pepperbush
Coreopsis verticillataLance-leaf Tickseed
Echinacea purpureaPurple Coneflower
Eupatorium purpureumJoe Pye Weed
Eupatoriutm perfoliatumWhite Boneset
Gaillardia pulchellaBlanketflower
Geranium maculatumWild Cranesbill
Helinium autumnaleSneezeweed
Juniperus virginianaEastern Red Cedar
Kalmia latifoliaMountain Laurel
Liatris spicataBlazing Star
Lindera benzoinSpicebush
Lonicera sempervirensTrumpet Honeysuckle
Magnolia virginianaSweetbay Magnolia
Monarda didymaOswego Tea or Bee Balm
Opuntia humifusaPrickly Pear
Pinus virginianaJersey Pine
Phlox stoloniferaCreeping Phlox
Prunus virginianaChoke Cherry
Pycnanthemum muticumMountain Mint
Rhododendron periclymenoidesPinxter Azalea
Rhododendron viscosumSwamp Azalea
Rudbeckia fulgidaOrange Coneflower
Rudbeckia hirtaBlack-Eyed Susan
Sedum ternatumShale Barrens Sedum
Solidago spp.Goldenrod
Vernonia novaboriensisNew York Ironweed
Yucca filamentosaAdam’s Needle