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Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Happy Spring loverlies!

I don’t know about you, but I am so happy spring is here.  Decent weather has been hit and miss.  We get a few gorgeous days in the 60’s and 70’s, then snow the next day.

Gotta love spring in the Midwest.

I have been trying to take advantage of the nice days to get my garden beds cleared.  I also check the perennials for signs of life.  I try to plant a mix of perennials and annuals in my cottage garden. 

Perennials once established will come back year after year, and get better each year!

Annuals need to be planted every year.

I look for plants that will benefit all pollinators. Butterflies and bees add so much to the environment, and you know how I love my bees! Butterflies fluttering around add an ethereal element, too. 

How do you attract butterflies to your garden?  Add some butterfly-friendly plants.  If you are planning your garden or just looking to add a few plants to attract butterflies, here are some of my favorites.  Plant these beauties in your garden as a loverly way to invite butterflies to your garden.

Butterfly Milkweed

butterfly milkweed & monarch

Farmers considered the butterfly milkweed a nuisance weed, but it this plant is necessary to the monarch life cycle. Monarch caterpillars need milkweed nectar for food, but over 450 insects are known to feed on some portion of the plant.

Common milkweed grows well in average soil, but prefers full sun. Milkweed can grown about 5 feet tall, so make sure to plan their placement accordingly. They feature large leaves with soft pink fragrant flowers that attract the monarch butterflies.

Common milkweed does NOT like to be transplanted. Simply sow seeds by sprinkling on the ground. When the plants go to seed at the end of the season, save them for the following season.

Have you seen my tip to to increase your chances of getting them to sprout the following year?

Swamp Milkweed

swamp milkweed & monarch

Swamp Milkweed is different from the common milkweed. As its name implies, swamp milkweed does best in a damp environment. Pick a place where water collects or creates a rain garden in your yard. You should be able to purchase swamp milkweed from a local garden shop or online.

Purple Coneflower

purple coneflower

Purple coneflowers like well-drained soil and prefer sun or part shade. Not only do butterflies love them, but birds find the seeds quite tasty.

Wild Bergamot

bee balm & butterfly

Wild bergamot is also known as bee balm. If you love the smell of bergamot, then you will LOVE bee balm. Pick off a leaf and crush it to release the oils.

Butterflies of all types LOVE bee balm. The flowers can be pale purple, bright red, pale pink or bright pink. It grows about 4 to 5 feet tall and makes a great back drop for shorter plants. You can purchase plants or grow from seed.

The plant can spread and take over your garden, but you divide it easily and gift it to your friends.

I took the photo in my garden thinking this was a Monarch. Upon closer inspection, it seems it is NOT, I am not sure if it is a painted lady or what type it is. If you can identify it, can you please drop me a note in the comments? I would appreciate it.

Anise Hyssop

anise hyssop

There are a couple of types of hyssop. The above photo is anise hyssop. If you pick the leaves and crush between your fingers, it smells like licorice. Anise hyssop is in the mint family. Instead of taking over a garden as mint does, anise hyssop grows as tall bushes with fragrant showy blooms. They seed easily and are beloved by butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.


garden phlox

Garden phlox grows to be about 2 to 3 feet tall. White, purple, and pink are the most common colors. The are other types of phlox, like creeping phlox [perfect for rock gardens and borders] and woodland phlox has beautiful periwinkle or pink blooms. Another reason I love phlox because it can tolerate full sun or part shade. Garden phlox smells heavenly and will attract butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.



The first time I saw Liatris, I was determined to add some to my garden. It blooms in tall shoots with multiple purple flowers. They almost look like fluffy skinny dusters. They grow in full sun and well-drained soil, spacing the plants 12-15 inches apart. Liatris grows in full sun but will tolerate some light shade. It can tolerate poor soils, but some types will fall over if grown in too rich of a soil.

There are multiple species/colors, so check online or at a local nursery for the ones that are native to your area.

When shopping for pollinator plants, please shop local first. Oh, and PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make sure to check to see if any neonicotinoids were used before purchasing. Please do not buy them, they will kill your butterflies and bees.

I hope you found a couple of new flowers to add to your garden. I did not mean to feature so many purple flowers. These are SOME of my favorites.

Do you have any favorite flowers in your butterfly garden?

My garden is in Illinois, in the suburbs north of Chicago. Make sure to check with local botanical gardens or online resources for the best butterfly and pollinator plants for your area.

Now go grab your tools and get your hands in the dirt!

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  1. I love the flowers you used to attract the butterflies. When is it safe in Illinois to plant them? Thank you.

  2. Thanks for the different kinds of plants to grow…also loved your idea on the Valentine hearts to give…live that idea…tfs

    1. Thank you Gloria, the way I see it is that most people think of giving a bouquet of flowers, but what about seeds that sprout in to flowers that come back year after year?
      The shape of a heart just makes it even more thoughtful – and seed paper hearts can be given year ’round.
      Sow seeds of love <3
      Oh, I have some great tips on propagating garden flowers besides the seeds. I am looking forward to gardening again soon!

  3. There’s some great plants in there – a favourite of mine is hyssop. Buddleia also do well for us, and I have vivid memories of sitting in front of a large bush of it spying the bees flying in and out – they definitely seemed to be enjoying it. Thanks for joining in with #TheGardenYear

    1. I love Hyssop, too. It’s such a great grower and the bushes always seem to be buzzing with activity – from the tinie tiny bees to my favorite fluffy bumble bees.
      A garden is a place of happiness, thank you for having me.

    1. I find butterflies floating around the garden so calming and ethereal. I hope you have lots of butterflies stop by and visit!

  4. I’m so glad I found your site!! You love to share your knowledge, so I’d like to suggest a plant you left out of your list for attracting bees and butterflies: Lantana. Here in Texas, it acts like a perennial and up until our only freeze, since I’ve lived here anyway, it has returned regularly. My Lantana was 15′ across and about 6 ft tall and regularly covered in butterflies. They come in various colors but my favorite is the pink, purple and yellow one. Absolutely gorgeous!!!

    1. I did leave lantana off my list, as my list included MY favorite plants to attract butterflies.
      Lantana is not a favorite of mine.
      First of all, it can easily become an invasive plant.
      It is also toxic to livestock and humans. Simple contact with the leaves and stems can cause skin irritation and a rash.
      I am glad you love to grow it in your garden, it is just not a preference of mine.

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