The Best Plants To Attract Butterflies & Birds

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Many plants can be added to a garden to attract butterflies and birds. Birds and butterflies will come to your garden looking for food, shelter, and a place to raise their young. When planning a garden to attract butterflies and birds, spend some time getting to know the different species that live in your area. Once you are familiar with the types of animals that may frequent your garden, you can begin to select plants that are best suited for those animal’s needs. When selecting plants, looks for those plants that will not only provide food, but will also provide a place to build nests and food for the butterfly and birds’ young.

The best plants to attract butterflies and birds to a garden are those plants that are native to your region. Native plants are adapted to the climate, soils and rainfall of a geographic area. Native plants are also adapted to the pollinators in the area and will attract a number of butterflies, birds and beneficial insects. In addition to native plants, there are a number of common landscape plants to attract butterflies and birds that will keep them coming to your garden year after year.

How To Attract Butterflies to the Garden

Butterflies add beauty and function to a garden. The bright colors of the butterfly are enjoyable to watch as they flit around the yard. Butterflies also pollinate garden flowers, fruits and vegetables. To attract butterflies to your garden, a variety of methods are needed to grow a healthy butterfly population: a place for butterflies to lay their eggs, plants for the caterpillars to eat, a place for the cocoons and nectar plants for the adult butterflies.

Here are a few tips on how to attract butterflies:

  • Butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple flowers. Flowers should be flat topped or clustered and have short flower tubes. Plant masses of flowers in a single color to make them easy for butterflies to find.
  • Use a mixture of plants grasses and wildflowers.
  • Plants should be located in a place that receives full sun from mid-morning through mid-afternoon.
  • Provide a food source for caterpillars. Butterfly caterpillars do not cause severe damage because they usually only feed on one type of plant and the leaf damage is short lived.

Here are some common shrubs and trees that attract butterflies:

  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) attracts a large number of different butterflies from monarchs to swallowtails and Red Admirals to Painted Ladies. The butterfly bush is a very common choice for anyone trying to attract butterflies, as noted by its name.
  • Azaleas and Honeysuckle attract several types of swallowtail butterflies.
  • Common Lilac attracts swallowtails and monarchs.
  • Apple, cherry, plum and wild black cherry trees provide a food source for swallowtail, hairstreak, and Spring Azure caterpillars.

Here are some common flowering plants to attract butterflies:

  • Herbs that attract a variety of butterflies and provide food for caterpillars includes anise, lavender, dill, tarragon, oregano, parsley, and sage.
  • Perennials include common milkweed, several varieties of aster, indigo, coreopsis, sweet violet and verbena.
  • Annuals to plant include hollyhock, lantana, snapdragons, nasturtiums and sunflowers.
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How To Attract Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds are very similar to butterflies when it comes to their eating habits. Hummingbirds will also eat small bugs such as spiders and gnats. Here are some easy to grow plants for a hummingbird garden:

  • Trees and shrubs that attract hummingbirds include azalea, butterfly bush, honeysuckle, flowering quince and lantana.
  • Vines to plant include cypress vine, morning glory and scarlet runner bean.
  • Perennials include bee balm, canna, columbine, coral bells, foxglove, hosta, hummingbird mint, lupine and yucca.
  • Annuals include fuchsia, impatiens, petunia, shrimp plant and several varieties of salvia.

Plants To Attract Birds

Birds are a lively addition to a garden. Hours can be spent watching them soar from place to place and listening to their melodies. To provide a safe haven in your garden, use trees to create shelter and protection. Trees give birds a place to get away from predators, provide shelter from winter storms and create a nesting place. Trees also produce bird food in the form of seeds, berries and sap. Seed bearing annuals and perennials are a food source for many songbirds. Birds will eat most any type of fruiting plant and all varieties of berries.

Here are some suggested plants to attract birds:

  • Almost every seed eating bird enjoys black oil sunflower seeds.
  • Fruits and berries that birds enjoy include agarito, beautyberry, persimmon, pyracantha, yaupon, currents and gooseberries.
  • Plants for seed eating birds include coreopsis, big leaf maple, live oak, pine and mesquite.
  • Plants that attract birds and provide a home include asters, calendula, cherry laurel, coralberry, cosmos, cotoneaster, dogwood, portulaca, purple coneflower, viburnum and zinnia.

Providing food to birds on a year-round basis involves planting trees and shrubs that fruit at different times of the year. Here are a few plants that set fruit and seed during the different seasons:

  • During nesting time from the late spring to mid summer, serviceberry, birch, blueberry, strawberry, bee balm and honeysuckle provide food.
  • From late summer through fall, when birds are preparing for winter, dogwood, crabapple, elderberry, viburnum, aster and sunflower are a source of food.
  • Plants that are a food source during the winter include chokeberry, crabapple, hawthorn, holly, bayberry and shrub rose.

Attracting birds and butterflies to your garden can be a very rewarding project. To make the most of your efforts to attract birds and butterflies to your garden, spend some time finding out which birds and butterflies live in your area and which plants will do the best job of attracting these flying jewels to your garden.

Last Updated: March 21, 2012
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About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

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