Butterfly Gardening Resources

This page was developed when I lived in Tampa, so most of its focus is on creating a butterfly garden in Central Florida. However, much of the content can be adapted to Zones 9 - 11.

I'd also recommend checking out My Butterfly Garden Plant Diary

  1. Location - Attracting butterflies to your garden is incredibly easy. Truly, plant it and they will come. For proof, there is a butterfly garden on the roof gallery of the Florida Aquarium in downtown Tampa. Even in the midst of all the asphalt and concrete, this garden attracts regular butterfly visitors. Where they come from I have no idea.
    • Most plants for the butterfly garden prefer full sun to partial sun, so you will have problems if the only available area for your garden is in moderate to deep shade. Also, butterflies prefer the warmth of the sun and an area that is sheltered from strong winds.
    • A few butterfly plants are tidy and well controlled, but most are aggressive spreaders. So plan on giving your garden plenty of room to expand or expect to spend some time each week weeding and pruning. In addition, since they are aggressive spreaders, butterfly plants don't do well in formal gardens. My approach is to cordon off an area specifically for butterfly plants and then to let them run free within their defined space.
  2. Types - A successful butterfly garden will need to attract butterflies and caterpillars. So you should plant two varieties of plants:
    • Host or Larval Plants - These are plants that attract female butterflies, who then lay their eggs on the leaves and branches. In time caterpillars will emerge and consume the plant. So do not become too attached to larval plants. If you are successful, you will see the plant suddenly disappear in front of your eyes as scores of caterpillars munch away. Don't worry, Nature designed larval plants to survive and they will quickly recover. Examples of larval plants are Passionflower (also called Maypop or Passionvine), Bronze Fennel, and Milkweed (also called Butterfly Weed).
    • Nectar Plants - These are the plants that provide the nutrients for butterflies. Examples: Pentas, Lantana, Sage, Porterweed and Firebush.
  3. Insecticides - It is difficult not to use insecticides somewhere in a Florida garden or around your house. However, try to avoid using insecticides near your butterfly garden, since it will likely kill off the caterpillars. This includes not spraying under the roof and eves where caterpillars often hide in their chrysalis.

Butterfly Garden Diary - A diary of our Butterfly and Hummingbird Garden.

Butterfly Gardening Resources

Butterfly & Caterpillar Identification