Creating a Butterfly Garden

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A few years ago, one of our clients re-landscaped their house. When they did they added a vegetable garden and around that vegetable garden was a large space of freshly tilled dirt. We were studying plant science so I decided that freshly tilled dirt would make the perfect space for a butterfly garden.

Planting a butterfly garden is a wonderful way to explore plant science and how butterflies interact with the environment.

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Creating a Butterfly Garden

Butterflies have been having a tough time. Their numbers have dropped dramatically over the past decade. We can help them by planting butterfly-friendly plants in our yards. Along the way, there are many lessons we can learn.

Monarch Butterflies
Monarch Butterflies

First, we researched what native plants encouraged butterfly activity. Check out our Research for Kids page for suggestions on how to get the kids researching. We learned that not only do the butterflies enjoy sunny areas, they also need both host plants to lay their eggs and support the caterpillars. When planting your garden try to include plants that nourish both the caterpillars and the adult butterflies.

I had the kids keep a nature journal that included what they had researched.

We made a printable version for you to download.

Printable My Butterfly Garden Book

Once we had researched what plants would attract butterflies in our area I had the kids measure the area and make a map.

Creating a Butterfly Garden

Then it was time to plant! The kids had the most fun with that part of the project. We had the kids read their maps and then lay out the plants before digging. We compared the maps to how the plants looked in their places and adjusted as neccesary.

Here is the list of butterfly friendly plants that we came up with:

Plants that attract butterflies

  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • Bee balm
  • Butterfly bush
  • Calendula
  • Cosmos
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus
  • Fennel
  • Globe thistle
  • Goldenrod
  • Hollyhock
  • Lavender
  • Liatris
  • Marigold
  • Musk mallow
  • Nasturtium
  • Oregano
  • Phlox
  • Purple coneflower
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • Sage
  • Scabiosa
  • Shasta daisy
  • Stonecrop
  • Verbena
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia


Creating a Butterfly Garden

  • Borage
  • Fennel
  • Grasses
  • Hollyhocks
  • Lupine
  • Milkweed
  • Nettle
  • Thistle
  • Willow

Sites with information on what plants to use for a butterfly garden:

Better Homes and Garden

Butterfly Website

Climate Kids

Monarch Butterfly Garden

New Jersey Audobon

 

Creating a Butterfly Garden

If you don’t have a lot of space for a butterfly garden consider a few potted plants that will attract butterflies.

The first year we attracted a lot of moths.  The kids had magically expected droves of butterflies to flood the garden so this activity is also a lesson in patience. It took us 2 years to attract many butterflies. We did attract more hummingbirds into the yard, which is an added bonus for us.

You can raise your own butterflies and release them into the garden. We released lady bugs and praying mantis’ which gave us another opportunity to talk about beneficial insects.

 

Bring more spring into your lives with these nature activities:

A mandala treasure hunt, cooperative game and visual processing activity all in one.
Nature Treasure Hunt Mandala
Forest Wreath Art Activity
Forest Wreath Art Activity
Tissue Paper Cherry Blossom
Tissue Paper Cherry Blossom
Fine Motor Flower Fiesta
Fine Motor Flower Fiesta

Creating a Butterfly Garden

27 Comments






  1. Brilliant. We study butterflies every year (mostly because I love them), but you’ve given me even more great ideas to add this year. Thank you!

    Reply

  2. Oh I’m so ready for spring! We are so fortunate to have a beautiful butterfly bush right outside our window. My toddler loves looking at all the butterflies that come by. I think it might be fun to raise our own this year, and I love the idea of creating his own butterfly book. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  3. Not only would have a variety of plants and flowers be beautiful but so would all the butterflies that would be visiting!

    Reply

  4. This is very cool. My daughter loves butterflies so this is the perfect activity for her when the weather is perfect. The resources are all great! Thank you for such great info!

    Reply

  5. Thanks so much for sharing this. We are still trying to figure out what we want to do with our yard, and I am pretty sure I want to do some kind of garden, a Butterfly Garden would be awesome.

    Reply

  6. We raise Monarch butterflies every year so maybe this year we will add some new flowers to our garden to attract them! Great post.

    Reply

  7. This is so fun! My 5 year old wants to do a study on butterflies this year for school, so we will definitely have to plan a garden to create during that! Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply

  8. My mom has planted a Lot of plants to attract butterflies. They need our help! Thank you for all of the great tips. We will be planting some butterfly specific plants this year!!

    Reply

  9. Thank you so much for writing this post! When I saw Kristen Hewitt had monarchs in her garden, I wanted to do the same but didn’t know how. This is amazing!!!!! Pinning, stumbling and will refer back!

    Reply

  10. How neat that we posted on the same day about butterflies! My daughters would love this idea:)

    Reply

  11. Wow, you guys have patience…two years! I wish I had more of a ‘green thumb’ (is there a word for insects?)! Maybe you can come do this with my kids in the yard?! I wish I was joking by asking that…

    Reply

    1. It was so fun planting the garden and the flowers were beautiful the first season. We just don’t want people expecting droves of butterflies immediately. Really, I have a black thumb, but by choosing native plants, it was much more successful.
      We also find child labor to be quite useful 😉

      Reply

  12. This sounds like a great learning activity. My son wants to plant more this spring, so we’ll have to plant a few of these and see if we can get some butterflies to come to our garden.

    Reply

  13. What an awesome project! I love the list of butterfly friendly plants you created. It would be so fun to see the butterflies flock to their garden.

    Reply

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