How to grow a butterfly garden

Growing a butterfly garden can be a magical, exciting addition to your yard, and one that lends itself to many beautiful plants and plenty of vibrant colors. Below are some of the best bets to attract butterflies.

  • Phlox (phlox paninculata): With a lovely scent and yummy nectar, it is enticing to nearly every kind of butterfly. Look for disease-resistant varieties, and plant in full sun and well-drained soil. Grow with Purple Coneflower for a striking contrast. Expect plants to reach about 4' tall and 1' wide.
  • Anise Hyssop (agastache foeniculum): This plant blooms for weeks in the summer and is also a great cut flower. Both heat- and drought-tolerant, Anise looks especially beautiful when planted with Black-Eyed Susans. Plants reach about 5' tall and 2' wide.
  • Salvia: There are numerous varieties of this hardy plant, with some growing tall and some staying small. It comes in many colors but all are long blooming and reliably enticing for butterflies. Planted with coreopsis, salvia is a beautiful accent to any butterfly garden. Reaching an estimated size of 3' tall and 1' wide, it will be noticeable without being too dominant in your yard.
  • Lantana: This versatile plant looks great in containers, beds, and borders. It loves full sun and well-drained soil, and maintains its colorful blooms all summer long. Lantanas grow to about 3' tall and 3' wide and are often planted with Zinnias.
  • Pentas: The clusters of these starshaped blossoms come in colors ranging from bright pink to red to white. They are usually an annual but can be so hardy that they outlast the season. Pentas love the heat and direct sun and are fairly drought tolerant. They grow typically about 4' tall and 3' wide, and are often paired with Angelonia.

The greater San Diego area is in ZONE 10, a versatile region for growing many different kinds of plants, which is why a butterfly garden in our area is an easy addition to any yard. Place the annuals near the front and the perennials along the back of your garden area, and feel free to accessorize with a butterfly house or an additional nectar source, to further encourage butterflies in your garden. Don't forget to also plant host plants for the caterpillars (such as milkweed and parsley), as well as the above-mentioned nectar plants for the aduls.