how to attract butterflies: what do butterflies like?

Butterflies make people happy and they ask, "How can I attract butterflies to my yard?" You will have happy butterflies in your yard, when they have food, sun, shelter, shade, water and caterpillar host plants.

Butterflies are attracted to bright colored flowers such as red, yellow, orange, pink and purples.

Learn how to attract butterflies to your GraphicMama-team, Pixabay

what do butterflies eat?

The best way to attract the butterflies is with food. Butterflies are just like us, they have to eat.

butterflies eat flower nectar

  • It is so important to provide nectar flowers to invite them to your yard.

Butterflies feed from short flowers. They can't reach deep into a long tubular flower like the hummingbirds.

Butterflies like to have flowers where they can land, so they can feed sitting down.

Daisies or a flat cluster of small flowers give the butterflies a place to land, as well as lots of butterfly food.

Butterflies are attracted to nectar flowers.Butterflies eat flower nectar


Most butterflies eat flower nectar, but the Zebra Longwing and a few other butterflies eat pollen.

The very best way to attract butterflies is to provide the flowers they like!

  • Butterflies only eat in the sun, so plant their flowers in a sunny spot.

Butterflies need flowers spring, summer and fall. Plan on having your flowers blooming throughout the seasons for a continuous supply of butterfly food.

plant some butterfly flowers

what else will attract butterflies?


Butterflies enjoy cut fruit such as oranges, mangoes and watermelon. If you have any rotting fruit, they would enjoy them also.

provide landscape plants

Many of our regular landscape plants attract butterflies. Common Lilac bushes in the north and in the south the Crape Myrtle tree are both enjoyed by beautiful butterflies.

No matter where you live you could use Daylilies, Sedum, Sweet Alyssum, Sunflowers, Lavender and Azaleas.

Butterflies also feed from our vegetable gardens and wildflowers.

Wild plants provide food and cover for the butterflies and caterpillars.

Plants need pollinators and the butterflies need plants for nectar, pollen and caterpillar food. Many of our native plants and butterflies depend on each other.

provide a sunny area

Butterflies don't have the capability of warming their bodies.

Provide a sunny area for butterflies to warm upButterflies like to warm up in the sun.

They need the sun to stay warm. They especially have to warm up in the mornings. In the morning they like to sit on a rock to absorb the sun’s warmth.

Mix a flat rock or two into your butterfly garden where the butterflies can land and sit to warm up.

provide shelter

Butterflies need some shade and protection from bad weather. You probably already have shelter in your yard with trees, shrubs, or hedges.

  • Make sure the butterfly flowers are protected from the wind, so the butterflies don't blow away while they are feeding.

Butterflies use shade to cool themselves down from the hot summer sun.

Provide Water or Damp Soil

Butterflies don’t drink out of open water. They drink from shallow water or moist soil.

Swallowtails puddling to get water and mineralsSwallowtails Getting Water and Minerals

You will see butterflies drinking on the edges of a pond where the soil is wet. This is called puddling.

Don’t have a pond? Dampen a spot of soil for the butterflies to puddle. Fill a potted plant saucer with sand and keep it damp.

provide caterpillar host plants

Butterflies like to lay their eggs on plants their caterpillars will eat. So when you have caterpillar host plants in your garden, the butterflies will come.

  • Black Swallowtails -  dill, parsley, fennel and Queen Anne's lace
  • Giant Swallowtail - prickly ash, citrus, hoptree, gas plant, torchwood
  • Great Spangled Fritillary and Meadow Fritillary - violets
  • Gulf Fritillary - maypops, other passion vines
  • Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweeds.
  • Pearl Crescents - asters
  • Painted Ladies - daisies, hollyhocks and thistles
  • Red Admiral - wild cherries, black oaks, aspens, yellow and black birch
  • Spicebush Swallowtail - sassafras, spicebush
  • Sulphurs - legume plants, clover, alfalfa, peas, vetch, asters
  • Tiger Swallowtail eastern - aspen, ash, sweet bay, cherry, tulip trees
  • Tiger Swallowtail western - willow, plum, alder, sycamore, hoptree, ash
  • Viceroy - willows, cottonwood, aspen
  • Zebra Longwing - passion vines
  • Zebra Swallowtail - pawpaw

Check with your local extension service to find out what butterflies are native to your area. They can tell you which host plants are good for their caterpillars.

Many native plants are also food sources for caterpillars.

No Pesticides

Do not use any pesticides in your butterfly area. We don’t want to kill the butterflies we are attracting.

With these few simple steps you can attract more butterflies to your garden.

the butterflies will be happy to come to your yard!

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  • Flowers for Butterflies

    Butterflies eat flower nectar. So plant some flowers for butterflies to provide butterfly food. Butterfly weed and butterfly bush are favorite butterfly flowers.

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