If you’re going to start a bee and butterfly attracting garden, you’re going to need to choose the right flowers and plants that will attract them. But there is more than just the food source, they need a habitat and shelter too. Butterflies and bees are beautiful creatures with very short life spans and we need to take actions to help protect our valuable pollinators.
You’ll need a pretty wide variety of flowers that bloom continuously from spring over summer to fall, and provide a lot of nectar. In most cases, butterflies and bees tend to like the same plants; they prefer flowers that are open, flat, cupped or tubular, rather than flowers with big pompons.
Fill your garden space with color and vibrancy.
Be sure to plant larger plants in the back and shorter ones in the front. The taller plants will help block wind from disturbing butterflies and their eggs, and if they’re in the back, they won’t obstruct your view of the butterflies!
There are many shrubs and trees that you can use as windbreaks for your butterfly garden. These shrubs and trees will also attract butterflies and bees with their sweet, nectar-producing blooms. You can try pear trees, plum trees, mock oranges, butterfly bush, hawthorn, blueberry, rose of Sharon, privet hedge, summersweet (clethra), redbud, buttonbush, autumn olive, abelia, and buddleia.
These pretty annual plants attract a lot of attention.
Annuals are especially important for butterfly gardens because of their ability to bloom for most of the summer season. What flowers do butterflies like? Marigolds, zinnias, cosmos, and sunflower are all classic annuals for attracting butterflies. Other beautiful annuals for butterfly gardens include impatiens, nasturtium, Queen Anne’s lace, verbena, and globe amaranth.
What are honey bees favorite flowers around the year?
In spring they are looking for crocus, hyacinth, borage, calendula and wild lilac; in the summer time their favorites are bee balm, cosmos, echinacea, snapdragons foxglove and hosta; in fall they prefer zinnias, sedum, asters, witch hazel and goldenrod. Always prefer native plants for bees that are adapted to your region.
Even the Obama’s are worried about the shrinking bee and butterfly population as they recently created a garden with pollinator friendly plants at the White House.
Wildflowers are great plants for butterflies and bees.
If you want, you can just sprinkle handfuls of wildflower seeds all around an area you wish to cover with them! Sure, some of them will be eaten by birds and other animals, but many will survive and grow.
Good wildflowers for attracting butterflies include coneflowers, milkweed, spearmint, thistles, butterfly weed, ironweed, and New England asters. There are also several wildflowers that are considered too weedy for most gardens, but they are really good at attracting butterflies. These weed-like wildflowers include goldenrod, dogbane, and nettles.
Perennials will bring your garden to life.
Perennials are important for bees as they bloom around the year. This is why it’s important to have a good mix of various varieties of the flowers bees love and butterflies like in your garden.
There are many perennial flowers that are superb for attracting butterflies and providing nectar for them. Aster, coneflower, Shasta daisy, lobelia, passion flower, hibiscus, bee-balm, daylily, goldenrod, chives, sage, mountain mint, false indigo, coreopsis, butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan, phlox, verbena, milkweed (especially for monarchs), dill, fennel and hollyhock are all super varieties of perennials for bee and butterfly gardens. These varieties are all prized for their ability to provide nectar for butterflies, and should be added.
Host plants will provide your future butterflies with delicious leaves.
Host plants are the plants that butterflies like to lay their eggs on. These are the plants that caterpillars feed off of while they’re growing, and may also provide a place for the caterpillars to make their cocoons.
These plants may receive some damage, so be prepared for that. It’s surprising how many people plant these things with the specific purpose of attracting butterflies to lay their eggs there, yet they’re shocked with the caterpillars start to eat the plants!
Caterpillars are small and slow, they can’t travel very far in search of food.
So butterflies generally only lay their eggs on plants where they know the caterpillars can survive. If they lay their eggs on the wrong type of plant, the caterpillars will probably not survive.
You may be a bit disturbed at first to willingly allow “pests” to chomp on your garden plants. If you’re bothered by the sight of plants with holes in them, you might want to locate your host plants in a location that is a bit less visible. Make sure you provide these host plants nearby the nectar-providing plants for bees and butterflies.
If they are located too far away, you will probably end up with fewer butterflies in your garden. Now we’ll take a look at some of the most popular butterflies and which plants you’ll need to have as host plants if you wish to have the chance to have these particular butterflies in your garden.
Having these host plants doesn’t guarantee you’ll have any of these butterflies, but it certainly increases your odds!
Monarch butterflies are one of the most popular and well-known butterflies. If you don’t know what monarch butterflies are, they’re those medium-sized orange and black butterflies. They only lay their eggs on milkweed. If you want monarch butterflies to visit your yard, then you must have milkweed available.
Black swallowtails are those giant yellow and black butterflies. I think everyone in the U.S. has probably seen these! They’re very large and noticeable. They lay their eggs on dill, carrots, parsley, and fennel. You’ll see these around a lot of herb and vegetable gardens. Some herbs you might consider for a fairy garden are fennel, lemon grass, lemon verbena, marjoram, oregano, small lavender, or even a dwarf or Nana sage.
European cabbage butterflies and white cabbage butterflies lay their eggs on cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables. They enjoy cabbage, mustard greens, broccoli, and other cruciferous in the cabbage and mustard families in a vegetable garden.
Eastern tiger swallowtails lay their eggs on sycamore and willow trees. If you have these trees in your yard, you’ve probably seen their fat, green caterpillars. Painted lady butterflies are very popular. They are orange, black, and white, and look a bit like the monarch butterfly. Painted ladies lay their eggs on plants such as thistle, hollyhock, and sunflower.
The spicebush swallowtail is a very interesting butterfly. Its caterpillars are quite scary looking, as they appear to have a large, frightening face! They lay their eggs on spice bushes and sassafras trees. If you want to have these crazy looking little critters in your lawn, be sure to plant some of these spicy trees!
In addition to the flowers in your garden there are other methods that may be used to attract pollinators like butterflies, bees and bumblebees.
One of those methods is by placing pieces of ripe fruit in your garden, as this is treat for butterflies to enjoy and will attract many that may be in the area.
Make sure to leave bare patches of earth. Many bees live underground or use mud for building, so mud not covered with mulch is essential. Many wild bees and bumble bees take shelter in dead trees or branches, abandoned animal burrows, weedy hedgerows, so consider leaving a portion of your yard untended for them.
You should also make sure there is a source of water nearby in order to keep the butterflies well hydrated. They need water just like any other animal. Butterflies often congregate on wet sand and mud to drink water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. You can place a shallow pan with some coarse in the soil of your backyard and make sure to keep the sand moist all summer. Bees prefer to visit a shallow birdbath or other water feature.
How else to help bees in your garden?
You should avoid using any pesticides in a flower garden. It wouldn’t make sense to attract pollinators to your garden only to harm them through the nourishment they receive while paying a visit. Employ eco-friendly organic gardening methods in your bee and butterfly friendly garden for the best results.