The Butterfly Herb Garden



A garden for butterflies is also a garden for people. Rewarded by their colorful, gentle animation we are also surrounded by heavenly, fragrant flowers we might not ordinarily grow. 

Diversity is the watchword for butterfly gardening. Published lists of plants butterflies are attracted to are a good place to start, but they will always fall short of the plants butterflies actually enjoy.

Planting a lot of different kinds of plants, will attract the maximum of different kinds of visitors. The Great Spangled Fritillary and the Loquin's Admiral might prefer different nectar bars. Plants of different heights, colors, and different bloom times provide habitats need for resting, hibernating and feeding. 

For instance, butterflies tend to like it warm and planting a diverse habitat will give them places to, not only, spend the night and find moisture, but also to bask. In Rick Mikula's excellent book Garden Butterflies of North America, he writes of the need Butterflies have for basking in the sun. Since their internal muscles must warm to 80 degrees for flight, providing light colored basking areas lets them rev up their engines faster. He suggest a butterfly waterless pond. He makes his in the shape of a butterfly, but any shape will do. You make an indentation in the soil, line it with plastic, add a few similar in size light colored stones or sand and stand back. He adds that if morning dew collects the butterflies will find this moisture when they come to bask.  Of course, the sidewalk will work too, but it is not as much fun.

And, after all, butterflies are all about fun. How much better, if we create a marvelous garden for us both to play in.




Flower Wand of the Dwarf Blue Butterfly Bush

These bushes, sometimes called summer lilacs, are really butterfly airports. Their sweet, honey fragrance attracts butterflies of all kinds. Dwarf Blue is one of the tidier butterfly bushes. However, the title dwarf is misleading because it is the leaves and the flowers that are small and not the overall size of the bush. Because the leaves are smaller the bush tends to grow a little slower and this slow growth creates a better formed shrub. While the other davidii's need yearly or biyearly pruning, this bush can be left alone to fulfill its growth potential.

If you garden in zones 5 or 6 they will probably die back in the winter and you will prune them off to the ground like other butterfly bushes. Dwarf Blue Butterfly Bush is hardy to zone 5, tolerant of blazing hot sun, and able to grow in heavy soil with adequate drainage. Dwarf Blue Butterfly Bush is not really blue either. But, it must have a touch of blue in it because it goes well with pinks. Planted with Magic Carrousel Miniature Pink Roses, it makes a great haven for all of us.

Learn more about the care of Butterfly Bushes.


PURPLE CONE FLOWER (Echinacea purpurea):


All flowers with broad petals provide important resting spots for butterflies. It is not really surprising that Purple Cone Flower is also an excellent source of nectar. After all, it is native to most of the United States. Hardy to zone 3, stands of purple cone flowers are sure to attract many winged friends. In hot summer areas, afternoon shade is a must for obtaining attractive flowers. When it dies back to the ground in winter, it should be cut back. 


HYSSOP (Hyssopus officinalis):


A mid summer bloomer both Pink and Blue Hyssop flower for about a month and provide needed summer nectar.  Where winters are warm, it can be used as an edging plant by shearing it back to about a foot when the bloom is finished.  Where winters are cold it dies to the ground and returns in the spring. It is hardy to about Zone 4.  For a great summer bloom, plant both hyssops with Spotted Bee Balm, Licorice Mint and Catmint.


HOPLEY'S PURPLE OREGANO (Origanum laevigatum):


Ornamental oreganos are lovely in the garden, especially in the heat of summer. Their flowers dry nicely and are a welcome addition to any everlasting bouquet. Not culinary for us, butterflies feast on them. Hopley's has thousands of tiny reddish purple flowers that combine in flower heads for a spectacular display. Hopley's Purple Oregano dies back to the ground in the winter and reemerge larger in diameter each year. It should be sheared to the ground in late fall, or after bloom is finished.


CURLY SPEARMINT (Mentha spicata crispa):


It might seem odd to include a mint in a butterfly collection, but butterflies love the flowers as much as we love the leaves. And since mint flowers a lot and is easy to grow, it is a super way to attract more butterflies. We chose Curly Spearmint because it not only makes a lot of pretty light lilac flowers, but it also has great looking leaves.  Mint is very invasive and should always be confined. Mints like sun and lots of water. Most mints, like Curly Mint, are hardy to zone 5 and will die back to the ground in winter. Cut Curly Mint to the ground in late fall and it will be fresh and crisp in spring.


COLORADO YARROW (Achillea millefolium):


No wonder butterflies like yarrow. It blooms all the time. It is hardy from zone 3 and is fairly drought tolerant. With its blooms it grows to a lanky 18 to 24 inches. Shearing it back to the ground a couple of times a year keeps it producing fresh blossom heads. Colorado Yarrow is a seeded mix that usually provides mostly deep pink flowers but it can also have some creams, golds and lighter pinks. It stands up to intense summer sun better than some pastel varieties. The intensity of color is important in a yarrow because it helps to attract the butterfly from a distance.


As your Butterfly populations grow you may want to provide other comforts. A shallow dish of water and a few host plants for their caterpillars are always welcome. And please don’t spray their garden with chemical pesticides or systemics. Be careful when spraying Bacillus, even this is toxic to them. And, watch the Bug Zappers. They kill night flying moths, but don't do any damage to daytime flies and mosquitoes.

Additional Nectar Plants for the Butterfly Herb Garden: Hollyhock, Licorice Mint, Gaillardia, Rudbeckia, Bee Balm, Lavender, and Rue

Additional Larval Food Plants: Fennel, Dill, Caraway, Parsley, and Hops.


Books to read: 
Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Backyard

Garden Butterflies of North America

The Butterfly Garden
How to Spot a Butterfly

Butterfly Gardening:
Creating Summer Magic

The Butterfly Herb Garden Six Pack contains the six plants in this article.
The Butterfly Herb Garden Kit contains these same six plants and Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds to Your Backyard.
And, for large spaces, try our value priced  36 Pack Butterfly Attractor Assortment.

Substitutions in Herb Garden Six Packs
are made with appropriate plants when necessary.

Herb Garden
Six Pack




Herb Garden Kit




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