Attracting butterflies with plants and flowers

Red flower attracting a butterfly in a garden.

Attract butterflies to your garden!

Threatened because their natural habitat is dwindling, and because of pesticides, butterflies can find refuge in our very own gardens, provided we’ve made special space available to them and that their favorite plants are grown.

A little wilderness in the garden

  • Rule Number One: refrain from using chemical products, and keep a few areas where the grass will grow wild, or a flowered prairie field. Special flower seed mixes designed to attract butterflies are available for sale in horticulture stores.

Butterflies are carried away when there’s too much wind and they need sun. Apart from flower beds, they will rejoice in finding countryside field hedges especially in urban spaces where there aren’t any. Include hedges (hawthorn, blackthorn), shrub beds (butterfly bush) and fruit trees. They will also find a shallow water dispenser refreshing.

Plants that attract day butterflies

Plants that attract night moths

Night moths are twenty times more numerous than day butterflies! Some of them can be spotted flying during the daytime, such as the hummingbird hawk-moth which gardeners recognize after seeing it hover in stationary flight to unfurl its long feeding proboscis. Specifically, the antenna are what helps distinguish moths from their daytime cousins.

Unavoidable host plants!

Remember to mark out some space for plants that feed the caterpillars:

  • Nettle for the red admiral, small tortoiseshell, peacock butterfly, anglewing, map
  • Grasses for the marbled white, meadow brown, speckled wood
  • Clover is for the common blue butterfly
  • Marigold and fleawort is for fritillary
  • Thistle to feed cosmopolitain
  • Nasturtium and all sorts of ornamental cabbage for large white

Learn to identify them

The Noé Conservation Charity launched a joint project with the National Museum of Natural History (France) called the “Garden butterfly observatory” that citizens can join. To contribute, simply learn to identify a few of the 28 most common species.

By C. Levesque

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Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
White butterfly (also on social media) by Stefanie under Pixabay license