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Garden Plan to Attract Butterflies

This guide features regional native plants for the Great Lakes that are highly a ttractive to butterflies and are well-suited to small-scale plantings in gardens, on business and school campuses, in urban greenspaces and farm field borders.

You can have a wonderful experience of intermingling butterflies and flowers by planting a butterfly garden. Here are some basic principles for attracting butterflies.

Grow Lots of Nectar Plants

The main food of butterflies is nectar. As they gather nectar, they also inadvertently pollinate flowers. Be sure that your garden offers nectaring flowers throughout the blooming season.

Mass Flowers

When planting flowers, group them together and then they will be more enticing to butterflies. Butterflies usually choose those that are more abundant.

Choose a Sunny Location

This is extremely important for butterflies. Butterflies need the sun to keep their bodies warm. Butterflies are active only when the temperature is between 75 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do NOT Use Pesticides

Pesticides are insects, so pesticides that rid your yard of insect pests will also kill your butterflies

Please see Host Plants Versus Nectar Plants for a listing of both the caterplillar host plants and nectaring plant requirements for 14 butterflies common to Wisconsin.

Bloom Common Name Scientific Name Color Height Light Soil Moisture
EARLY Columbine Aquilegia canadensis Yellow, Red 3 feet L, S D, M
Downy Phlox Phlox pilosa Pink 2 feet L, S D, M, Mo
Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea Purple 1-2 feet C, L, S D, M
MID Smooth Phlox Phlox glaberrima Pink, Purple 4 feet C, L, S M, Mo
Pale Purple Coneflower Echinacea pallida Purple 5 feet C,. L, S D, M
Sullivants' Milkweed Asclepias sullivantii Pink 5 feet C, L M
MID-LATE Bergamot Monarda fistulosa Lavender, Blue 5 feet C, L, S D, M, Mo
Butterflyweed Asclepias tuberosa Orange 3 feet C, L D, M
Smooth Ironweed Vernonia fasciculata Red, Purple 6 feet C, L, S Mo
Orange Coneflower Echinacea fulgida Yellow, Orange 4 feet C, L M
Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpurea Purple 2 feet C, L, S D, M
Stiff Coreopsis Coreopsis palmata Yellow 3 feet L, S D, M
LATE Crooked-Stem Aster Aster prenanthoides Blue, Lavender 3 feet C, L, S M, Mo
Dense Blazing Star Liatris spicata Pink, Purple 6 feet C, L, S M, Mo
Meadow Blazingstar Liatris ligulistylis Pink, Purple 5 feet L D, M, Mo
New England Aster Symphyotrichum
novae-angliae
Purple, Pink, Blue 6 feet C, L, S M, Mo
Ohio Goldenrod Solidago ohioensis Yellow 4 feet C, L, S M, Mo
Prairie Dropseed Sporobolus heterolepis Straw, Gold 4 feet C, L, S M
Sweet Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium purpureum Pink 6 feet C, L, S M
Tall Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium fistulosum Pink, Purple 8 feet C, L, S M, Mo

SOIL: L = Loam   C = Clay   S = Sandy   R = Rocky 
MOISTURE:     D = Dry   M = Medium   Mo = Moist   W = Wet