Butterfly-Friendly Herbs for the Garden

04/12/2024 | Ken Davis Butterflies, Herbs

by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener

Audio by Cast11

With increasing awareness of the risks of certain pesticides to essential pollinators like butterflies and bees, modern gardeners are turning to plant selections that foster these beneficial insects by providing attractive habitats and food sources free from harmful chemicals.

To allure butterflies, gardeners should focus on vibrant blossoms and establish a safe haven where these insects can feed on nectar and find shelter and hydration. Butterflies and bees thrive in organic environments free from toxins, making them excellent indicators of a healthy garden ecosystem.

In addition to various colorful garden flowers, several common herbs lend themselves well to a butterfly garden, adding visual appeal and aromatic fragrance. Here are five essential herbs to consider incorporating into your butterfly-friendly garden space:

Catmint, Nepeta cataria

Catmint, Nepeta cataria, is a perennial herb that demands a strategic planting approach due to its vigorous growth. Beyond its feline appeal, catmint acts as a strong attractant for butterflies. While you may need to protect catnip from enthusiastic feline visitors, this herb comes in various sizes and forms, making it adaptable to different garden landscapes

Chives, Allium schoenoprasum,

Chives, Allium schoenoprasum, are clumping herbs that maintain their position in the garden, gradually expanding over time without invasive tendencies. Bees and butterflies are drawn to the fluffy blossoms of chives, making them a valuable addition to a pollinator garden. Regular division enables chives to thrive and continue attracting beneficial insects.

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare

Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare, stands captivating at 3-4′ feet tall, enticing a myriad of insects, including Monarchs. Caution is advised when harvesting fennel to safeguard Monarch caterpillars, allowing them to develop into butterflies undisturbed. Avoid planting fennel near dill, as it may affect their growth. Consider growing two patches of fennel, one for your use and another left untouched to serve as a sanctuary for butterflies.

Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia

Lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, is known for its aromatic beauty and a favorite among beneficial insects and humans. Lavender is a versatile choice for various garden styles, with numerous varieties ready to plant at the garden center. Apart from its aesthetic value, lavender yields essential oil with healing properties. By cultivating lavender in your garden, you can enjoy its soothing benefits while attracting various insects. Lavender thrives in hot, dry conditions and blooms from early to late in the growing season, making it a vital addition to any butterfly garden.

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Yarrow, Achillea millefolium, stands out as a robust herb in a butterfly garden. It boasts a spicy scent and enduring flowers that persist even under harsh conditions. While known for its medicinal properties, yarrow’s showy blooms sustain butterflies throughout the growing season. Yarrow can spread aggressively in its native form and can be used in various colors and shapes. Ensure adequate drainage to prevent yarrow plants from flopping due to waterlogging.

    Integrating these five herbs into your gardens will attract more butterflies this year. Your garden’s visual appeal is enhanced with beauty and butterflies, a win for everyone. Prioritizing these herbs benefits your garden and contributes to conserving vital insect populations.

    Free Garden Class

    Learn more at a free garden class. The spring class schedule is up, and next week, we will discuss tips, tricks, and local garden hacks, so join the garden fun. Here’s the 2024 Garden Classes lineup and the following few classes.


    We’ll cover the best heirloom varieties to local favorites and highlight soil preparation, best practices, and care. Let’s get ready to plant!

    April 20 @ 9:30 am NEW FLOWER INTRODUCTIONS FOR 2024

    It was a long mountain winter, and we’re all ready for color in the garden! We hand-picked the finest flowers from our favorite farms to grow in your garden. Choose, combine, and create beds bursting with blossoms with exclusive, new annual and perennial flowers in various vibrant varieties.

    Until next week, I’ll be helping local gardeners attract more butterflies here at Watters Garden Center.

    Ken Lain Footer Houseplants