Create Your Own Butterfly Garden

Guests frequently ask The Strong museum entomologists how to attract butterflies to home gardens. If you would like to create your own butterfly garden, make sure that you fill your garden with the elements that will help attract butterflies.

Host Plants

Caterpillars eat host plants for food. By providing many host plants for caterpillars to feed on, butterflies will be likely to stay in your garden longer. Adequate numbers of host plants mean butterflies won’t need to leave your garden in search of plant surfaces on which to lay their eggs.

Here are some host plants that you can find in the Upstate New York area:

  • Black cherry
  • Queen Anne’s laceButterfly
  • Common hackberry
  • Common milkweed
  • Elms
  • Pearly everlasting
  • Red clover
  • Stinging nettle
  • Poplars
  • Willows
  • Turtlehead
  • Wild lupine
  • Alfalfa
  • Pawpaw
  • White clover
  • Spicebush
  • Sassafras
  • False nettle
  • Curly parsley

Nectar Plants

Butterflies need plants that produce suitable amounts of nectar. They are especially fond of clusters of flowers or flowers with large, flat petals for them to land on.

Pools of Water

Butterflies frequent muddy pools of water during the summer. This helps to both rehydrate them and provides salts that male butterflies need.

Sunny Spots for Basking

Butterflies cannot control their body temperatures by themselves. To help heat their bodies, butterflies open their wings and bask in the sun. Adding sunny spots to your garden provides a great opportunity to observe butterflies at rest.


Some species of adult butterflies need a place to hide from the elements during the winter. This can be provided in the form of a log pile or a pile of leaf litter not removed from the corner of the garden during fall clean-up.