How to attract butterflies to your yard

Use these 4 tips to bring the vibrant insects to your garden
How to attract butterflies to your yard
Photograph by

1. Appeal to their nesting instincts.
Adult butterflies will only lay their eggs on certain types of plants, called host plants. Monarchs need milkweed, black swallowtails prefer Queen Anne’s lace and fennel, and painted ladies and zebra longwings are drawn to passion flowers.

2. Create a butterfly buffet.
In addition to host plants, you also need nectar plants. “Keep in mind that just because a plant has beautiful flowers doesn’t necessarily mean it provides much nectar,” says Lisa Cole, manager of the gardens at the Chattahoochee Nature Center. Some of the best native food sources: asters, black-eyed Susans, sunflowers, hibiscus, goldenrod, monarda, yarrow, and mountain mint.

3. Follow the sun.
The size of your garden doesn’t really matter—even a container on a porch or deck will do if you have the right plants—but it’s best to choose a site that gets plenty of sun. “Butterflies have to warm up in order to fly; that’s why you don’t see them as much on cloudy days,” says Cole. Still, most butterflies are found in hot, dry regions, so “the plants that they like are generally going to be adaptable to the same kind of climate.”

4. Nix the chemicals.
Fertilizers are okay for the most part, but make sure your garden is a pesticide-free zone. “Many pesticides are nonspecific, meaning they don’t just kill off the bad insects; they can kill off the good ones, too,” says Cole.

Check it out: Enter the butterfly tent, grab a nectar stick, and wait for the monarchs to say hi at the Chattahoochee Nature Center’s Flying Colors Butterfly Festival on June 4-5. You can also stock up the on host and nectar plants for sale.

This article originally appeared in our June 2016 issue.