Gardens that attract butterflies are often full of surprises because they are constantly changing. With a little bit of planning you can make your landscape irresistible to them while creating a colourful environment that is pleasing to you and your family as well.

Planning Suggestions

It is important to stress that if you are trying to entice butterflies (as well as hummingbirds, other insect eating birds, and bats) to your yard, you will need to give up the use of insecticides/ pesticides and many herbicides. The majority of these products are broad spectrum, and will kill unwanted insect pests as well as those you are trying to attract. Herbicides may kill the host plants that butterflies use to lay their eggs. This doesn’t mean that you have to let unwanted insects take over. There are other ways of controlling unwanted insects. See the section on Natural Insect Control for additional information.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you will have to give up perfect looking plants. The caterpillars that will turn into butterflies eat plants and leaves. You may consider this a small price to pay for having beautiful butterflies call your garden home.

The four essential elements that a butterfly garden will have are 1) food for all stages, 2) water, 3) shelter for all stages, and 4)space.

Butterflies are attracted to open, sunlit areas. They enjoy basking in the sun while feeding. The warmth of the sun keeps their body temperature high and allows them to stay active. Simple boulders or flat cut-stones in sunlit areas provide good resting places. A stone wall can offer shelter. Butterflies also need shelter from wind and weather, which can easily be provided with taller shrubs and trees.

A progressive garden with plants maturing and setting seeds at different times throughout the season increases your chance of attracting butterflies. Most butterflies are attracted to colors in shades of pink, red, purple, yellow, and orange. You should arrange your plants in broad masses rather than mixing the colours. Look for flower types with large, flat flower heads or plants with clusters of short tubular flowers. Another thing to keep in mind is that butterflies are not only looking for nectar plants, but host plants on which to lay their eggs.

You may also choose to purchase a butterfly feeder. This can supplement a butterfly’s diet if there are not enough flowers in bloom in your garden. These are available in our garden store.

Plants for Your Butterfly Garden


  • Ageratum
  • Aster
  • Coreopsis, annual variety sometimes called Calliopsis
  • Dahlia
  • Geranium
  • Globe Amaranth
  • Impatiens
  • Lavender
  • Marigold
  • Morning Glory
  • Nasturtium
  • Pansy
  • Snapdragon
  • Verbena
  • Violas
  • Zinnias


  • Achillea, common name Yarrow
  • Alcea, common name Hollyhock
  • Allium, common name Ornamental Onion
  • Anaphalis, common name Pearly Everlasting Daisy
  • Asclepias, common name Milkweed or Butterfly Flower
  • Aster
  • Astilbe, common name False Spirea
  • Bergenia, common name Pigsqueak or Elephant’s Ears
  • Buddleia, common name Butterfly Bush
  • Caprifolianceae, common name Honeysuckle
  • Coreopsis, common name Tickseed
  • Delphinium, common name Larkspur
  • Dianthus
  • Echinacea, common name Coneflower
  • Eupatorium, common name Joe Pye Weed
  • Hererocallis, common name Daylily
  • Leucanthemum, common name Shasta Daisy
  • Liatris, common name Gayfeather or Blazing Star
  • Lupinus, common name Lupine
  • Monarda, common name Bee Balm
  • Nepeta, common name Walker’s Low
  • Origanum, common name Ornamental Oregano
  • Papaver, common name Poppy, Iceland or Oriental variety
  • Phlox
  • Rudbeckia, common name Black-Eyed Susan
  • Salvia, common name Meadow Sage
  • Scabiosa, common name Pincushion Flower
  • Sedum


  • Clethra alnifolia, common name Summersweet, ‘Ruby Spice’ variety
  • Forsythia, sometimes called Golden Bells
  • Fothergilla
  • Rhododendron
  • Spiraea, common name Spirea
  • Syringa, common name Lilac
  • Viburnum
  • Weigela


  • Amelanchier, common name Chokeberry
  • Catalpa
  • Cornus, common name Dogwood
  • Crataegus, common name Hawthorn
  • Malas, common name Crabapple
  • Prunus, common name Cherry or Plum
  • Salix, common name Willow
  • Sorbus, common name Mountain Ash
  • Tilia, common name Linden

Common Butterflies and Their Host Plants

The following is a list of 13 butterflies and moths that can be found in Manitoba and some of their host plants:

  • Monarch Butterfly – Milkweed
  • Mourning Cloak – Willow, Birch, Poplar, and Elm
  • Red Admiral – Nettles
  • Spring Aure – Dogwood, Viburnums, and Spirea
  • Tiger Swallowtail – Willow, Cherry, Linden, and Birch
  • Black Swallowtail – Dill, Carrot, Parsley, and Queen Anne’s Lace
  • Painted Lady – Pearly Everlasting Daisy, and Hollyhock
  • Buckeye – Snapdragon, Plantain, and Stonecrop
  • White-lined Sphinx – Virginia Creeper, and Grape
  • Hummingbird Clearwing – Viburnum, Hawthorn, Honeysuckle, Cherry, and Plum
  • Luna Moth – Hickory, Birch, and Sumac
  • Cecropia Moth – Maple, Cherry, Poplar, and Willow
  • Polyphemus Moth – Oak, Hickory, Elm, Maple