6 Butterfly Garden Design Rules

These are the easiest and most important things you can do to attract butterflies to your garden

Doug Green
Nov 22 · 3 min read
Photo by Justin DoCanto on Unsplash

Do Not Use Pesticides

The first thing to understand is that butterflies are the adult form of caterpillars.

So in order to get the butterflies you have to encourage the first stage of their development — caterpillars. Spraying with chemicals to prevent plant damage will kill caterpillars.

You need to allow the caterpillars to grow and eat freely so they’ll develop enough strength to turn into butterflies.

Butterflies Love Hot Colours

This means you emphasize yellow and red flowers in the butterfly garden.

Plant in Big Clumps

You want to attract butterflies — there’s not much brain power there so you have to give them a really big target. Plan on putting in large clumps of their favorite plants. In this case, bigger really is better. For example, instead of planting a single yellow Marigold or a long line of them, plant in clumps of three to give a larger target.

In other words, put a minimum of three of any one kind of plant in a clump to create a large bloom display.

Full Sun

Butterflies prefer full sun so your garden design efforts should focus on creating that full sun garden for them. The sunnier the better. If you have to choose between morning sun and afternoon sun, go with the morning sun.

But I have a shade garden! Sorry but this isn’t going to be a major butterfly garden.

A second characteristic would be to have the garden protected from high winds. I often watch butterflies tack back and forth in the wind off our island garden and it’s a lot of work for them to make headway. Make it easy if you can.

Add water.

Now this is something most gardeners ignore in their butterfly garden design work.

Adding water is a simple thing because you don’t need a pond. Here’s how you do it.

  • Dig a very shallow, round depression (24-inches across by 6-inches deep) and …
  • Either line it with plastic (garbage bags work well and are inexpensive) or sink a plastic garbage can lid in it (the garbage can lid works really well).
  • Do not puncture it for drainage. The objective is to create an area where it stays very muddy.
  • Put the soil from the excavation back into the depression and water heavily and often. Hint: do not leave standing water, you want the butterflies to land on muddy ground, not on the water.
  • Butterflies will congregate on this very muddy ground regularly to sip up the water.

Important Note About Landscaping Around The Water.

My advice is to leave the area around this mud hole bare — don’t plant tall flowers to make it pretty. This way, you can watch the butterflies sitting on the ground in one spot and the butterflies can see cats and other predators. Put plants for the butterflies and caterpillars in other parts of your garden.

Add Stones

Put some stones around the muddy area so they’re in the morning sun. These stones will heat up and butterflies (which love the radiant heat0 will often be found snoozing and overnighting on these rocks.

Rocks in the afternoon sun heat up too late in the day to get the butterflies moving and will be far less effective.


Check out the other garden solutions on my Amazon ebook list here.

(Note I get a small affiliate payment when you buy my ebooks or use links on this site.)

Doug Green

Written by

Former nurseryman, now writer and curious about what’s over the next hill and how to get there in either my Triumph Spitfire or sailboat.

Doug Greens Garden

A practical organic gardening resource helping you have a better garden

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