How To: Create a Butterfly Habitat in Your Yard

Monarch butterflies on a zinnia bloom.
Monarch butterflies on a zinnia bloom.

Butterflies add so much to your yard and landscape while bringing it to life. Here are some tips for creating a more butterfly-friendly area in your yard.

Host Plants
Most butterflies and moths are dependent on one or more types of host plants, a plant on which they lay their eggs and caterpillars feed on. There are different host plants for each kind of butterfly. One of the most well-known host plants is milkweed, the plant needed for Monarchs to survive. Other more well-known host plants are dill, parsley and fennel for Black Swallowtails.

Common milkweed.
Common milkweed in my garden.

See other host plants on the chart below, specific to the butterflies of Iowa.

Source: Iowa State University Extension.

Sources for Nectar and Pollen
During their adult phase of life, butterflies and moths need various types of nectar producing plants. Typically native plants will attract more pollinators than non-native plants. See native plants marked with an (N) below. Many of the plants listed below grow best in full sun.

Source: Iowa State University Extension.
Various types of pollinator friendly plants.
Various types of pollinator friendly plants.
Pollinator friendly plants at Heron Haven in Omaha, NE.
Pollinator friendly plants at Heron Haven.
Coneflowers at Heron Haven in Omaha, NE.
Coneflowers at Heron Haven.

Moisture
Butterflies will drink muddy water, water from ponds, shallow pools and other resources. Create a butterfly water source for your yard. I really liked this video from P. Allen Smith.

Rocks
Rocks, retaining walls and mulched flower beds provide a nice spot to bask in the sun. I just watched a Black Swallowtail butterfly land on our retaining wall for periods of rest on Sunday.

Shelter
Trees, fences, dead wood and leafy foliage can provide shelter to butterflies.

Have you created a butterfly-friendly habitat in your yard or garden? Comment with your favorite host or nectar plants, or other experiences below.

Additional Resources
How to Raise Monarch Butterflies
Kaufman Field Guide to Butterflies of North America
Peterson Field Guide to Caterpillars of North America

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