Gardening for butterflies

Monarch butterfly. (Photo courtesy of Monarch Butterfly and Pollinators Conservation Fund.)

K-State horticulture instructor shares tips to attract butterflies to the garden

Attracting butterflies to the garden through plant selection has grown in popularity, said Kansas State University horticulture instructor Cynthia Domenghini. Knowing what species of plants butterflies prefer can help gardeners with their selections, she said.

Annual plants that attract butterflies include:

  • Ageratum.
  • Cosmos.
  • French marigold.
  • Petunia.
  • Verbena.
  • Zinnia.

“Group similar species of annuals together to create a planting more likely to attract butterflies,” Domenghini said. “Including a mix of annuals with varying bloom times can lengthen the butterfly season.”

Early blooming perennials that attract butterflies include:

  • Allium.
  • Chives.
  • Forget-me-not.
  • Lilac.

Mid-Season blooming perennials include:

  • Bee balm.
  • Butterfly bush.
  • Black-eyed Susan.
  • Buttonbush.
  • Butterfly weed.
  • Daisy.
  • Daylily.
  • Gaillardia.
  • Lavender.
  • Lily.
  • Mint.
  • Phlox.
  • Privet.
  • Sunflower.
  • Veronica.

Late-Season blooming perennials include:

  • Aster.
  • Glossy.
  • Abelia.
  • Sedum.

“Other features you can incorporate in the garden to appeal to butterflies include areas of full sun. Butterflies are cold-blooded so they seek sunshine for warmth,” Domenghini said. “Shade is also necessary so they can escape from intense sun.”

Water is also important for butterflies and can be provided with a birdbath or water-filled saucer on the ground, Domenghini said.

Domenghini and her colleagues in K-State’s Department of Horticulture and Natural Resources produce a weekly Horticulture Newsletter with tips for maintaining home landscapes and gardens. The newsletter is available to view online or can be delivered by email each week.

Interested persons can also send their garden and yard-related questions to Domenghini at [email protected], or contact your local K-State Research and Extension office.