10 Great Plants for a Butterfly Garden

Has your client just asked you to include a butterfly garden in their landscape design? Or wondering if you should suggest adding one? Including plants that butterflies flock to is great for businesses like dental offices, banks, and other places where people may have to wait for periods of time, and can distract themselves by gazing out the window.

In fact, my own dentist has a butterfly garden that’s visible when anyone goes in for a teeth cleaning. I find it makes the experience so much more relaxed and painless, being able to sit back and watch as all sorts of different colored butterflies hover just outside the window, landing on flower after flower.

Having butterfly gardens, whether at the entrance to a hospital, in a meditation garden, at a museum, or elsewhere, can bring a calming and peaceful feeling to the clientele, which can in turn make an appointment or general exchange with a customer that much easier. Including a butterfly garden outside a prominent window of a business will not only look beautiful, but may even improve employee and client morale! Below is a list of ten wonderful plants that attract a range of butterflies and can also be an overall great addition to your landscaping designs:


1. Phlox

Phlox are low-maintenance and full of color. They enjoy full sun and grow up to 4 ft tall. The small, five-petal flowers come in red, pink, blue or white, and their enticing scent attracts butterflies near and far. Depending on your need, you can choose either the spring-blooming creeping phlox, which acts as a great ground cover, or the summer-blooming tall phlox.



2. Butterfly Weed

If you love monarch butterflies, then don’t skip this plant. Although called a weed, don’t let that deter you. The bright orange flowers are actually quite stunning, and can act as a great accent color. The butterfly weed normally grows about 3 ft tall and is great as a border plant in your landscape designs. If you do not want the plant to spread, be sure to deadhead the old blossoms before they seed.


3. Purple Coneflower

These sun-loving plants grow to 4 ft tall, depending on the variety, and bloom from June to October. The striking flowers, with purple petals and orange center, attract a whole variety of butterflies. The purple coneflower, also known to some as Echinacea, is also well regarded for its medicinal purposes.




4. Salvia

Salvia plants come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, so take your time choosing which variety will fit your landscape design best –the butterflies will love them all! Another sun-loving plant, the salvia comes in blue purple, red, orange or pink blossoms.




5. Aster

Asters are known for blooming in the late summer and fall. Their star-like, bright flowers come in various shades of purple, blue, pink, red and white. These plants provide both nectar for butterflies and nutrients in their leaves for caterpillars.




6. Anise Hyssop

The anise hyssop is a very drought-tolerant plant that is a favorite among butterflies and bees alike. It is also an edible plant, with the leaves perfectly fine for consumption, whether it be in a salad or dried and used for tea. The stems end in flower spikes that are a few inches long and whose petals are a blue-violet color.



7. South American Verbena

This slender-stemmed plant grows up to 6 ft. tall with scarce leaves on the stems and purple, quarter inch, clustered flowers. Blossoming all summer, the verbena doesn’t mind being cut back, as this will actually help it continue bursting with blooms.



8. Black Eyed Susan

Growing over 3 ft tall, these sunshine-filled yellow blossoms with dark brown centers make great additions in your butterfly garden as well as perfect for a wildflower bouquet. Pair with the purple coneflower for a great color mix!




9. Coreopsis

Another bright yellow flower, the coreopsis grows to a little less than 2 ft tall and has a delicate, ferny foliage. When blossoms begin to fade, cut them back and the plant will jump right back into blossoming. Use in containers, beds, and borders.




10. Butterfly Bush*

There are over 100 species of the butterfly bush, most of which are shrubs. They can grow up to 10 feet tall, so make sure you think about location before planting them. The butterfly bush enjoys full sun and well-drained soil, and is best planted in the spring or fall. The blooms are a compact cluster of small flowers, often in purple, red, pink, yellow or white colors. These fruity scented blossoms attract a gorgeous array of butterflies.


*The butterfly bush is illegal to propagate and sell in Oregon, as it is currently regarded as an invasive plant, and has been deemed an “environmental threat.” There are some seedless varieties that are being cultivated and are legal to buy/sell. I would recommend checking into what varieties might best suit your needs if you choose to purchase and plant a butterfly bush.


Feel free to share with us your own butterfly garden favorites or planting tips below!


Note: not every plant is appropriate for every climate. Please asses your own growing environment and location before selecting which plants will thrive best in your area. 


Featured image by Usually Melancholy via https://www.flickr.com/photos/usually_melancholy/9575047560/

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