How to Attract Butterflies To Your Garden

Today, Hillary of Mass Audubon shares tips to help you attract butterflies to your garden:

As if you needed an excuse to get excited for spring and summer, here are two: flowers and butterflies. It just so happens that March 12 is Plant a Flower Day and March 14 is Learn about Butterflies Day. The fact that these are timed so close together is perfect, as butterflies and flowers go together like peanut butter and jelly.

But not just any flowers will do. Different species of butterflies flock to specific flowers. And some, like the Monarch, rely on one species for its existence (one that is showing signs of trouble). Want to bring butterflies to your backyard and help keep populations strong? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Between March and October, over 100 different butterflies can be found in Massachusetts, but not all at the same time. Mourning cloaks are seen mainly early spring, mid summer and fall; swallowtails are present late May to September; and monarchs June to October.
  • Over 60 different insects, including monarch butterflies, need milkweed to complete their life cycle. These insects not only have adapted to potent chemicals in milkweed, but some use them to repel predators.
  • Nothing blooms all season long, but by choosing plants that flower at different times you can attract a constant stream of butterflies.

Wondering what types of flowers to plant? Here are butterfly-attracting flowers by season:


  • Chive Blossoms
  • Bleeding Heart
  • Siberian Wallflower

Early Summer

  • Milkweeds (swamp milkweed, butterflyweed, whorled milkweed, and poke milkweed) 
  • Zinnias
  • Verbena
  • Blazing star
  • Garden Phlox

Late Summer

  • Asters
  • Sunflowers
  • Joe-Pye weed
  • New York Ironweed

Want to learn more about butterflies?

Image credits: 1) US Fish & Wildlife Service (public domain images); 2) Richard Johnson for Mass Audubon