How to Make Your Own Butterfly Planters

You can attract butterflies even if you only have a balcony or patio. Learn how to make butterfly planters for your favorite pollinators.

pentas flowers and monarch butterflyCourtesy Thomas Stanmore
Monarch on pentas flowers

Good butterfly gardeners know it takes both nectar plants for adults and host plants for caterpillars to draw the most butterflies to your yard. The wider the variety of host plants you have, the wider the variety of butterfly species you’ll attract. However, it doesn’t take a lot of space to bring in the butterflies. Even if you only have a space for a few pots on an apartment balcony or condo back porch, you can create butterfly planters that give pollinators everything they’re looking for all in one place. Try these container recipes and learn how to make an all-in-one butterfly garden planter.

Monarch Butterfly Planters

Narrow leaf milkweed plant starters for the garden butterflysBarbara Rich/Getty Images
Narrowleaf milkweed plants starting in containers
  • Host plant: milkweed. Choose a variety that is native and available in your area.
  • Nectar plants: red and white pentas. In some areas of the country, this planter will also draw queen butterflies.

 Black Swallowtail Planter

black swallowtail butterfly plantersJill Staake

  • Host plant: parsley
  • Nectar plants: Salvia farinacea (Mealy blue sage) and pink pentas

Get more tips to attract black swallowtail butterflies to your yard.

Giant Swallowtail

Giant swallowtail butterfly laying eggsCourtesy Jennifer Toll
A giant swallowtail butterfly laying eggs on a host plant.
  • Host plant: dwarf Meyer lemon tree
  • Nectar plant:  ‘Gold Mound’ lantana (eastern and southwestern U.S.)

Learn how to identify a giant swallowtail butterfly.

Painted Lady

april birth flowerCourtesy Michelle Baker
Painted lady butterfly on daisies
  • Host plant: hollyhocks
  • Nectar plants: pink zinnias and purple verbena

Find out how you can support the painted lady butterfly life cycle.

Whites (Checkered, Cabbage, etc.)

Cabbage white butterflyCourtesy Mynette Jones
Cabbage white butterfly
  • Host plant: Spiderflower (cleome)
  • Nectar plants: purple and white sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), yellow marigolds

Great Spangled Fritillary

A great spangled fritillary butterfly sits on Joe Pye weed.Courtesy Peggy Yaeger
A great spangled fritillary butterfly sits on Joe Pye weed.
  • Host plant: violets
  • Nectar plants: dwarf butterfly bush (Buddleia) and cosmos (any regions except deep south and southwest)

Meet the gorgeous great spangled fritillary butterfly.

Now that you have a general idea of how to create butterfly planters, do some research and learn which species of butterflies are found in your area. Then get creative and design your own combination. Remember that a wide variety of nectar plants can be used to benefit butterflies. Substitute those that are available at your local garden center and grow well in your area.

Next, check out the best monarch butterfly flowers you should grow.

Jill Staake
Jill Staake's lifelong love of nature turned into a career during the years she spent working with native Florida butterflies, caterpillars, and other wildlife at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, Florida. During this time, she helped to maintain 30+ acres of gardens and backwoods, all carefully cultivated to support the more than 20 species of butterflies displayed indoors and out. She now writes for a variety of publications and sites on topics like gardening and birding, among others.