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Attracting Butterflies to Your Yard

Attracting Butterflies to Your Yard

AUBURN, Ala. – Turning a landscape into a place that butterflies love to visit is easy to do. Planting a variety of colorful bushes and shrubs known to attract the beautiful-winged creatures will create a person’s own personal butterfly garden.

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Butterfly bush, or Budleia davidii, is a popular choice when trying to attract butterflies.

“Butterfly bush can be planted statewide any time of the year,” said Mallory Kelley, a regional agent in home grounds, gardens and home pests with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. “It will flower in late spring and last through the summer. It is a permanent woody shrub that can grow up to 12 feet tall,” she added.

The shrub will lose its leaves in the winter and it can be cut back during the dormant season to keep it small. The shrub also has no serious pest problems.


Some good varieties of butterfly bush include Black Knight, Charming, Lochinch, Nanho Purple and Royal Red. Black Knight has dark purple flowers, while Charming has pink flowers. Lochinch has fragrant, lavender-blue flowers, Nanho Purple has small purple flowers, and Royal Red produces red flowers.


Lantana is another bush that attracts butterflies and is planted in the spring. Although it is smaller and not as hardy as  a butterfly bush, it will flower from late spring through summer. This shrub can have pink, yellow, orange, red or a variety of solid colored blooms. It is mostly recognized for its yellow flowers trimmed in orange. Cultivars of lantana can vary greatly in size from very compact and low growing to cultivars that reach four feet tall or more.

Annuals and Perennials

Planting annuals and perennials will also attract butterflies and complement the shrubs. Annuals such as zinnias, French hybrid marigolds, moss verbena, tithonia and cosmos are good selections and come in a variety of colors.

Perennials, such as thrift (creeping phlox) or purple coneflower provide lots of color for summer gardens and nectar for butterflies and they will die back to the ground in winter and come back in the spring.

Creating a habitat for butterflies is also important. You need to have the blooming plants in your landscape, but don’t forget about the other needs of the butterflies.  Provide a source of water the butterflies can use.  It doesn’t need to be very deep and you must have something for them to perch on when drinking.  Also mud or stones will release minerals in the water which is essential for butterfly health

About Donna Reynolds


  1. I read somewhere that butterfly bushes are invasive. Is this true?

    • There is concern about the potential for butterfly bushes to become invasive here in the Southeast. Some gardeners are seeing plants generate seedling plants in the landscape. However, it is not listed as invasive species in Alabama or I don’t believe in the Southeast. However in both the Northeast and Northwest, it is considered invasive.

  2. We recently saw a presentation at Calloway Gardens about the plight of the Monarch butterflies. We need to plant milkweed! Everyone should have at least one plant!