Bring on the Butterflies!



A Black Swallowtail butterfly lands on a Purple Coneflower, enjoying the nectar.

Spring has finally arrived after a long winter! Although cicadas are getting most of the attention right now, we must not forget about the other insects that emerge for the spring season, especially butterflies. Creating a butterfly garden is simple and is sure to bring more joy to your spring season! 

To start, make sure to pick the best location for your garden! Butterflies don’t usually like to be in the shade, so choosing a sunny area will be best. You could use a planter or dedicate an area of your backyard to use as your garden. Butterfly gardens should mimic a natural habitat for a butterfly, so if you are not using a planter, unmowed grass in the garden area is favorable. Having a water dish or other water source nearby is also ideal. Ensure that pesticides are not being used in the area of the garden, as these are harmful to butterflies and larvae. 

Now that you have picked out a spot, it is time to find the perfect plants! In general, butterfly gardens should have a variety of plants: you need leafy host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on and for caterpillars to munch on, as well as flowering plants from which adult butterflies can feed. One host plant that is good for caterpillars is milkweed, which is especially enjoyed by monarchs.  Surprisingly, many herbs serve as good host plants as well. For example, Black Swallowtail caterpillars like parsley, fennel, and dill. Despite their pretty petals, plants with elaborate flowers aren’t good for butterflies because the petals can get in the way of the nectar that butterflies need, making it harder for them to find food. Plants native to our area are best because they will grow well with our climate and soils. 

Here are 8 plants that will attract butterflies: 

⚘ Zinnia 

⚘ Marigold 

⚘ Purple Coneflower 

⚘ Black-Eyed Susan 

⚘ Butterfly Bush 

⚘ Verbena 

⚘ Sunflower 

⚘ Salvia 


Now that your butterfly garden is set up, butterflies are sure to come visit! But, can you identify them? In Montgomery County, Maryland, the eight most common species of butterflies are Monarch, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Buckeye, Painted Lady, Orange Sulphur, Eastern Tailed Blue, Black Swallowtail, and Question Mark (yes, that is the common name for Polygonia interrogationis). 

So give it a try, get planting, and enjoy beautiful butterflies all summer long! If you want more ideas, check out the sources below for more information on how to create the perfect butterfly garden.