5 Easy Ways to Attract and Help Butterflies

Attract more butterflies to your backyard with a few simple steps. Plus learn tips to help butterflies by growing their favorite plants.

Grow Host Plants to Attract Butterflies

Bnbbyc17 Danna Miner 1
Purple passionflower is a host plant for gulf fritillary and zebra longwing butterflies 

We just can’t stress enough how important it is to have host plants in your garden plan to attract and help butterflies. Milkweed is important for monarchs, but don’t stop there.

Check out our top 10 butterfly host plants.

Add Native Plants

309513926 1 Terry Brunholtz Bnb Pc 2022Courtesy Terry Brunholtz
Variegated fritillary on ironweed

Native plants are naturally better for birds, bees and butterflies. If you’re overwhelmed about where to start, look up a good native plant source in your area. Then ask them what they recommend.

How does a butterfly survive winter?

Eliminate Pesticides

The coloration on a Gulf fritillary caterpillar is similar to the adult's.Courtesy Steve Shattles
Gulf fritillary caterpillar

A caterpillar isn’t going to make it to the butterfly stage if you’re using pesticides in your yard. While it’s tempting to have weed-free, green lawns, to help butterflies it’s best to say no to yard chemicals.

Transform your yard into a butterfly migration hotspot.

Pick Flowering Plants with Long Blooming Time

common buckeye, flowers with seed podsCourtesy Christine Mccluskey
Common buckeye butterfly on purple coneflower

Butterflies are active as early as February and as late as November in many areas. (Of course, if you live in a warmer climate, you get an even longer butterfly season.) To help butterflies, offer plants with early and late season bloom times, so they always have something to eat. You can’t go wrong with this logic. It works great for attracting beneficial bees, too!

Here’s 16 long-blooming flowers for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.

Watch the Butterflies That You Attract

275833531 1 Donald Turner Bnb Bypc 2021 1Courtesy Donald Turner
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on lilac bush

One of the best ways to discover which plants butterflies like is to watch them! Butterfly watching is best done in the heat of the day. You can learn a lot by observing the plants they visit most. If you don’t have a lot of butterfly activity in your own yard, go to a local park or botanical garden.

Check out the best monarch butterfly flowers you should grow

Secrets to Growing Milkweed for Butterflies

254008011 1 Jennifer Quam Bnb Bypc2020Courtesy Jennifer Quam
Monarch on a butterfly weed plant
  1. More milkweed is better to attract monarch butterflies. Milkweed can be surprisingly hard to get started, so overseed to increase your chance of success.
  2. If you can’t get milkweed seeds started, buy plants. Native gardening groups can point you in the right direction for suppliers.
  3. Look for variety. With more than 100 species of milkweed, what works for some might not work for others. Don’t be afraid to try a few.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.