How to Make a Butterfly Garden? – The Step-By-Step Guide

make a butterfly garden

How about you add some beauty and life to your garden with the inclusion of plants and flowers that attract butterflies? Colorful butterflies in your garden will surely make it multiple times attractive and zestful, you know that! Butterflies indeed are some of the most interesting and beautiful creatures on Earth for no doubt. But how do you attract them? How to make a butterfly garden? That’s the burning question, right?

Well, this practical and step-by-step guide is aimed to give you a work-plan to attract butterflies to your garden. To have plenty of butterflies in your garden you need to -

  • Research common butterflies in your area.
  • Choose ‘Host’ and ‘Nectar’ plants according to your native butterflies.
  • Document your garden plan.
  • ​Take action, put the plants in your garden and take care in the right way.
  • Sit back and enjoy colorful and charming butterflies in your garden!

Now you need details on every step? Keep going through.

Research First:

First things first, do research. You need to do some serious research at the starting of your butterfly garden to learn which kinds of butterflies are native to your area. For different type of butterflies you need different type of host and nectar plants, which is very important to match, so you better do your research first on your native butterflies to keep the process smooth.

So, first know which butterflies are familiar in your area. An awesome guide to find that list which is categorized by states of USA, and some other countries as well, is right here.

Now, make a list of the native butterflies of your area, see their pictures on the internet and research a little about them, decide which ones you’d love to see in your garden. Then, learn about which flowers and plants your picked ones both feed on and lay eggs on (these are the plants known as host plants).

So, the important research process, in a nutshell, is,

  • Listing familiar butterflies in your area (Link to guide for doing that is added above)
  • Research a bit on them and picking the ones you’d love to see in your garden
  • ​Research host and nectar plants for your winners. (Process discussed later in this piece)
  • Double checking that you can easily grow those plants in your garden (Another little research)

Choose The Right Plants to Grow:

Butterflies do get attracted to your garden by what? By the plants they love. And, different butterflies love different plants. So, you need to grow the right plants for your beloved butterflies. More specifically, right ‘Host’ & ‘Nectar’ plants. Let’s see what they are.

Host Plants

Host plants are the ones that the butterflies lay eggs on and that acts as the food source for caterpillar(larvae). Tiny caterpillars can’t travel far to look for food, that’s why the female butterflies locate and lays their eggs on only the type of plant that the caterpillar can use as food.

Now, this is a very selective thing. Most species of caterpillars are very particular about the type of plants they can collect food from. So, if the egg was not placed on the correct plant, the caterpillar hatching from that egg will not get food from that and ultimately won’t survive. So picking the right host plants is a very important thing for you butterfly garden to succeed. If you do not provide right host plants, you will see fewer butterflies.

But how do you know which is the right host plant for your preferred butterfly? Well, a list of common butterflies and their preferred host plants can be found here.

If your favorite butterfly isn’t listed, then just google about their host plants. You’ll certainly find the answer. Don’t forget to list ‘em down.

Nectar Plants

Nectar plants are those ones that provide food to grown-up butterflies. This is an obvious thing to encourage butterfly population to visit your garden. When choosing, you should select a variety of nectar-producing plants with the goal of providing flowers in bloom throughout the season. This will ensure that there are flowers in your garden throughout the whole season providing food for butterfly population. Thus it will encourage a continuous succession of new visitors to your butterfly garden.

One thing that is needed to mention especially is you need to have flowers in mid to late summer, as most butterflies stay active in that time.

Flowers that have multiple florets which produce abundant nectar are ideal. Butterfly Bush and Butterfly Weed are some of the most popular nectar plants (flowers) used by butterfly gardeners. Some other great nectar plants are - Swamp Milkweed, Joe Pye Weed, Aster, Bee Balm, Zinnia, Pentas, Heliotrope etc.

If you want a great guide that will tell about the right nectar plants for almost every butterfly that you can dream having off in your garden, then that guide is right here.

Document Your Garden Plan:

To help yourself with the process, plan the garden on paper. Remember all you are doing is just growing the right plants that will attract butterflies. So you need to make sure these plants grow well, which needs a plan, like all other gardens. If you already have a garden, decide where it’ll best to add these suggestions keeping their full grown size in your mind and making sure they’ll get their needed light and water.

Another thing to remember is never to plant is never to plants host plants too far away from your nectar plants. The best thing to do is to mix them or place them right next to each other. The butterflies prefer to lay their eggs closer to the plants that their young will feed on. Also, it’s not a good practice to use insecticides on your butterfly garden as butterflies are an insect species and these chemicals may kill them.


-take a piece of paper, draw a plan for your new butterfly garden,

-or decide where to add the extra plants to attract butterflies making sure they get their need elements to grow (in case of existing gardens),

-note the process to grow these plants well,

-note the to-do’s, also the not-to-do’s

and now you have a plan that will help you throughout the journey.

Action Time:

Okay, now you have a plan, so it’s execution time, it’s time to watch your desired plants grow. Now, forget the butterfly garden thing, act like a normal gardener what wants plants to grow in his garden. Do all those things needed to grow plants well, like preparing the soil, buying good seeds, watering, mulching and all other needed things. Here'a definitive guide I wrote about gardening, this may help.

You’ve done a good job with research, don’t let that go in vain. Execute the plans well and make sure your desired plants grow.

Sit Back and Enjoy Butterflies in Your Garden:

You’ve done enough work, pat yourself on the back. It’s time to relax and enjoy your work. If you have done the right research, and you’ve been able to grow the desired host and nectar plants in your garden, butterflies will definitely come visiting your garden. Enjoy the charming scenes!

Before finishing, if you wanna visualize what I said above, here's a nice video clip that you may enjoy.

Got any questions? Don’t hesitate to shoot’em in the comment box!

Patricia J. Moore

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