How to Attract Butterflies

Attracting butterflies to your yard or garden is easy and will allow you to view nature up close. The best way to attract butterflies is to plant colorful and fragrant flowers.

Butterflies and flowers have a symbiotic relationship - butterflies eat the nectar of flowers and butterflies benefit the flowers by helping to pollinate them.

Butterfly Bushes

monarch butterfly on butterfly bush

black swallowtail butterfly on a purple butterfly bush flower
Photo by Melissa Burovac on Unsplash

One of the best flowers for attracting butterflies to your yard is the butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii). Butterflies seem to flock to these flowers. The monarch butterfly in the top photo on this page is sitting on a pink butterfly bush flower. The second photo shows a black swallow tail butterfly on a purple butterfly bush flower. Butterfly bushes attract a variety of different butterflies.

In the photos, you can see that butterfly bush flowers are elongated and comprised of many tiny flowers. These bloom all summer long, so if you plant one of these you'll attract butterflies to your yard the entire summer.

Butterfly bush flowers come in a variety of colors, but the dark purple flowers attract the most butterflies. The pink flowers also attract a lot of butterflies. I planted a yellow butterfly bush, but for some reason the butterflies did not seem to like the yellow flowers as much as the other colors.

Flowers that Attract Butterflies

butterfly on flower

Butterflies are also attracted to a variety of other flowers. In general, they are attracted to red, purple, yellow, and blue flowers, but will stop to eat at flowers of another color. Here is a list of flowers that are known to attract the most butterflies:

  • phlox
  • zinnia
  • butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • purple coneflower
  • black-eyed susan
  • goldenrod
  • cosmos
  • columbine
  • aster
  • snapdragon
  • dill
  • marigold
  • common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • yarrow
  • bee balm
  • sweet pea
  • sunflower
  • penstemon
  • cardinal flower
  • hollyhock
  • lilac

Any colorful flower will attract butterflies to your yard, but the flowers on the list above are butterfly favorites.

Attract Butterflies with Fruit

butterflies eating citrus fruit

In addition to flower nectar, butterflies enjoy drinking the nectar from fruit. Because butterflies must drink their food in liquid form, overripe fruit is best. You can plant fruit trees in your yard or you can just sit some overripe fruit out for the butterflies.

Fruits that butterflies enjoy include oranges, nectarines, bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, pears, and apples.

Butterflies Need Water Too

Butterflies don't satisfy all of their water needs by drinking nectar - they also need water. Their water must be very shallow because their wings can be damaged if they get wet. You can also attract butterflies to your yard by wetting down a patio or providing some other very shallow water for the butterflies in your yard.