Attracting Butterflies

[with a Butterfly Garden (or a few plants in a pot)]

See some photos of the butterflies we have attracted in our gallery.

Now is the time to think about your garden and what kind of plants would be good to use to attract butterflies. There are probably hundreds of great flowers and plants to use but we are going to discuss plants that we have personally found to be great for attracting butterflies in our area. These plants are ones that we have personally used in our garden with great success.

First of all before getting into the plants, let’s remember that butterflies are insects and that means that we cannot use pesticides or herbicides in our garden or the butterflies that we attract are going to end up dead. There are 187 documented breeding and non-breeding butterflies in British Columbia and at least 12 of those are at risk.

The major threats are believed to be habitat degradation, loss and fragmentation to land development, drainage activities, introduced plant species, insecticides, herbicides and pesticides.

Butterflies are indeed intriguing, they metamorphose through four stages, they add beauty to any garden and they are great for educating children about nature. One thing to remember is not to capture the butterfly, leave them alone to enjoy for if you capture them, they cannot lay eggs to reproduce and we will not have so many beautiful butterflies in the future if we capture them.

A small mud puddle draws butterflies, often they congregate at very shallow mud puddles in large numbers, also some butterflies like over-ripe fruit but this can also attract undesirable creatures as well.

What flowering plants are the best for attracting the adult butterfly to feed on? Here is a short list of the ones that we have found to work for us.



Michaelmas Daisy Aster

Butterfly Bush Buddleia

Dame’s Rocket Hesperis

Summer Phlox Phlox paniculata

Tansy a wildflower that the Skippers love



Geranium Pelargonium




Shrubs and Vines:


Spirea Spiraea

Lilac Syringa

The butterfly lays eggs on a host plant and the eggs will eventually turn into caterpillars. This may cause a problem for anyone that wants a meticulous garden without chewed leaves. If you don’t want this to happen in your garden, you will have to either make sure that you do not have host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on or you will have to forgo the butterfly garden altogether, remember you cannot use pesticides in the garden and have butterflies.

There are many host plants for butterflies to lay their eggs on; too many to go into here but here is a short list of some of the major choices for butterfly host plants. Remember these plants do not have to be in your garden; they can be growing in close proximity to your yard and the butterflies could show up to enjoy the flowering plants that you have for nectar. So, this list conveys two things, first of all they are great if you want the butterflies to actually lay eggs, hatch into ravenous caterpillars (larva), become pupa and eventually emerging from the pupa (chrysalis) as the wonderful butterfly. Secondly, if you want that meticulous, “not chewed garden leaves look” in your garden, then do not plant these plants instead choose flowering plants to feed the adult butterfly.


Lorquin's Admiral Limenitis lorquini

Willows Salix spp.

Poplars and Aspens Populus spp.

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

Common Nettle Urtica dioica

Hop Humulus lupulus

Cabbage White Pieris rapae

Garden Nasturtium Tropaeolum majus

Cabbage Brassica spp.

Comma Polygonia gracilis

Currants Ribes spp.

Meadow Fritillary Boloria bellona

Violets Viola spp.

Mourning Cloak Nymphalis antiopa

Willows Salix spp.

Elms Ulnus spp.

Aspens Populus spp.

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

Hollyhocks Alcea rosea

Sunflower Helianthus spp.

Spring Azure Celastrina ladon

Our own experience is finding the Spring Azure eggs on blades of lawn grass, where they are tended by ants. This poses a problem for the butterfly if the lawn is mowed. We have frequently mowed around small tufts of grass with the butterfly eggs attached in our lawn, with the rewards of pretty blue butterflies flitting around us later on.

Cherry Prunus spp.

Blueberry Vaccinium spp.

Viburnums Viburnum spp. (early blooming)

Skippers (there are a large selection of Skippers) Hesperia Some are endangerd

Rye grass Lolium spp.

Brome grass Bromus spp.

Western Tiger Swallowtail Papilio rutulus

Wild Plums and Cherries Prunus spp.

Willows Salix spp.

Aspens and Poplars Populus spp.

Some of the Butterflies of British Columbia