Gardeners: Calling All Butterflies!

05/30/2014 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers, In the Garden, Uncategorized

monarch butterfly on purple ramblin petuniaButterflies are some of the most beautiful, interesting creatures in any garden, and considered by many to be God’s greatest gift to gardeners.  Sadly, buildings, roads, parking lots, and strip malls negatively impact the natural habitat of butterflies.  These urban structures are the main reason so many butterflies are attracted to backyard gardens.  These days, more than ever, these beautiful creatures are dependent on our gardens for survival.  There is no mystery to a butterfly garden; it is any area that is attractive to butterflies.  Creating a space of “butterfly bait” not only improves their environment it also attracts more butterflies for our enjoyment.

It is easier than you might imagine to draw these fairy-winged creatures to your garden. Butterfly larvae and caterpillars need plants for food, and adult butterflies need plant nectar.  Consequently, the ideal butterfly garden fulfills both of these requirements. It is simply a matter of choosing the right plants to attract them and to encourage them to stay.

Most inviting to butterflies are gardens with sunny areas sheltered from the wind, areas with garden mulch, rock crevices, brush piles, and yes, even some weeds. With its many different blooming plants a butterfly garden soon becomes a place of beauty.  A window box, part of your landscaped yard, and even a wild untended area on your property all can be planted to attract butterflies.

Gardening for butterflies is not only fun, but is the source of something beautiful and rewarding. Plant a garden for butterflies and sit back and watch them entertain you with their fascinating antics.

Among the plants beguiling to butterflies are:

  • Shasta Daisy – This perennial bloomer produces HUGE white flowers that are shasta daisyirresistible to butterflies.  They cannot stay away! The blossoms of this season-long bloomer have been exceptional this spring.  A bonus characteristic of this popular plant is that rabbits, deer, and pack rats don’t care for this beautiful butterfly magnet.
  • Coreopsis Daisy yellowCoreopsis – The yellow flowers of this lush plant seem to glow in the garden even in the brightest light. This perennial never stops showing color all summer long. Hint: Shear the plant back with hedge clippers after each flush of blooms start to fade; it will spring into bloom all over again several times a year.
  • Phlox – Throughout the summer Phloxits large beautiful clusters of red, pink, and lavender flowers will enhance its surroundings.  Delivering years of perennial enjoyment, the blooms bring their sweet fragrance to entrance butterflies and delight humans.
  • Echinacea - PowWow WildberryEchinacea – If you have a sunny spot that needs planting, there are lots of reasons to grow a purple coneflower. Butterflies of many varieties love sipping its nectar, and it is very heat and drought tolerant. Also, because it blooms all summer long it’s the perfect addition to a cutting garden.
  • Anise Hyssop – Besides drawing butterflies, there are other reasons to grow anise hyssop.  Deer and rabbits leave it alone, it is heat and drought tolerant, and blooms for weeks in late summer.  Also, it’s a good source of cut flowers.
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  • Salvia – There’s a salvia for every garden: some salvias are tall, others are short; some salvias have blue or purple blooms, and others have red, orange, or pink flowers. While you might have trouble choosing your favorite salvia, butterflies won’t.  Rest assured that whichever salvia you plant, masses of butterflies will flock to it every summer.
  • Miss Huff Lantana – Colorful is the definition for the flowers of this lantana.  It blooms all summer long in miss huff lantanaglowing shades of lavender, pink, red, orange, yellow, cream, and white. A versatile plant, it looks perfect in containers, beds, and borders. This lantana is an outstanding butterfly lure for any garden.
  • Pentas – All-around garden champions, pentas bear clusters of star-shaped blooms in bright shades of pink, red, and white.  They love hot conditions, hold up pretty well to drought, and are a sure bet for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds looking for a snack.
  • ZinniaUproarRoseZinnia – Just about everyone loves zinnias, which is why they’re favorites of butterfly gardeners, cottage gardeners, and beginning gardeners. They bloom in an almost endless range of heights and colors and, whether outdoors or in a vase, they look good all summer long.
  • Black-eyed Susan – This tough perennial blooms in late summer.  Its big, yellow, daisy-shaped flowers are as perfect for bouquets as they are tempting to butterflies.
  • Fennel – This is the plant for adding texture to a garden. It’s also a surefire way to attract swallowtail butterflies, as the caterpillars can’t resist the fennel’s ferny foliage.
  • verbenaVerbena – This plant is perfect for cut bouquets because its blossoms will not be depleted. The more you cut the more it blooms, guaranteeing a supply of lavender-purple blooms at the ready for “your” butterflies to enjoy.

The entire list of butterfly-attractor plants will be posted on my Facebook page at, ‘Like’ the page for the updated post.  If you are not a Facebook fan, a one-page hard copy version will be available free for the asking when you visit the garden center this week.

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Tomato_cluster_on_the_-vineGardening Classes begin June 21, 9:30 a.m. at the garden center.  “Everything You Wanted to Know about Tomato Care” is the first topic of the summer classes’ series. Yes, we will go deep into all things tomatoes.  Students will learn about pesky bugs, disease, companion plants, and a bunch of square foot garden advice that will increase our harvests this year.  As ever, the classes are free to my gardening friends.  See the entire class schedule on our website at:

Rich OlsonFree Designer Wednesday begins this week. Sedona landscape designer Rich Olson joins us every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. for two hours of free one-on-one designer help. Creatively challenged with a front entrance, patio, or garden layout?  Bring a digital photo of your garden space and Rich quickly will plug it into his fancy-shmancy 3-D design software and knock out some suitable, creative suggestions for your consideration.  Rich works on a first come first serve basis, but has agreed to get a head start on your problem if you email a photo of your garden project, including dimensions, to his personal address at:  [email protected].

Until next week, I’ll see you in the garden center.

Ken Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Rd in Prescott, or contacted through his web site at or Facebook page