Monarch butterfly on Black-Eyed Susans

Butterflies are beautiful to watch fluttering about. Ever wonder why they always hang around colorful flowers? Well, flowers, plants and trees provide food for these winged beauties and their young, called caterpillars. You can plant a butterfly garden and attract these "wildflowers with wings" to your own backyard. Here are some tips.

  • Butterflies need sunlight. They are cold-blooded, so they use the sun to warm up their bodies. Pick a sunny spot for your garden and place a few flat stones around so the butterflies can rest while warming up.
  • Butterflies need water just like we do. But, instead of drinking from a faucet, they slurp up moisture from the soil. Butterflies prefer to land on moist dirt or sand on the sides of puddles. Keep a mud puddle damp in your garden, or fill a bucket with sand and enough water to make the sand moist.
  • Don't use pesticides in your garden! Pesticides can harm butterflies, birds and other insects in your garden.
  • Butterflies are attracted to purple, orange, yellow and red flowers, but they are also attracted to plants where they can lay eggs and that will provide food for caterpillars. Monarch butterflies and milkweed are an example of this.
  • Butterflies need shelter from wind and rain, and a place to rest at night. Planting your garden near shrubs and trees will give them the shelter they need.
  • Try to plant a variety of species with different blooming times, colors, and heights. This will create a garden that is interesting to look at and will attract many kinds of butterflies for a longer period of time.

Need some ideas of what to plant? Check out these lists of plants to feed caterpillars and feed butterflies. You might also want to read more about the life of the butterfly. And, finally, we've got some tips for watching butterflies.