Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden

Attracting Wildlife to Your Garden


A butterfly’s goal in life is to lay more eggs. When they emerge from their chyrsalis they are full grown and only seek food for the energy to fly. Therefore, butterflies are attracted to food sources and host plants suitable for laying their eggs on. Host plants are the ones that the caterpillar will feed on until it is time for it to make it’s chrysalis. Butterflies also like to puddle. They like to land on a muddy area and sip the water and minerals. This can be accomplished by hanging a bucket of water with a small hole in it over a sandy area. Rocks are used by the butterflies as as a place to bask in the sun, their wings need to be warmed to fly. Never use insecticides in your garden.When keeping monarchs indoors for tagging they can be fed 20% honey/water solution, or Juicy-Juice

What to include in a butterfly garden:

  • Nectar plants for food (see list below)
  • Host plants for larva (see list below)
  • Wet sand or mud for puddling
  • Rocks for warming
  • Water – shallow container with pebbles and water

Reference Sources:

  • The Butterflies of Indiana, Ernest M. Shull
  • NK Gardening to Attract Birds and Butterflies, Peggy Henry
  • The Butterfly Book, Donald and Lillian Stokes and Ernest Williams


Provide them with water, shelter, and food and you will have a habitat for birds. Some of the flowers attractive to butterflies are also attractive to hummingbirds. Also, some of the flowers produce seeds which are a food source for Finches. Shrubs and vines will provide nesting and hiding places for many birds. Those that carry berries into the winter provide winter time food sources, such as Japanese barberry, rugosa rose and spirea. Evergreen shrubs, such as junipers, provide nesting. If you are not attracting butterflies to your garden and would like the birds to help eat your garden pests you can provide them with a water source near your plants. The feeder you use for suet in the winter can be used for nesting supplies in the summer, by placing bits of string and yarn inside of it. Leaving leaf litter under bushes provides ground feeders, such as robins, thrushes and sparrows a place to scratch for food  If you want to attract both birds and butterflies to your garden, remember to put the bird’s eating source away from your butterfly area. Birds eat caterpillars!


Making Your Own Sugar Water
1 part sugar
4 parts water

Boil the water first, then add the sugar. The boiling water will ensure that your nectar stays fresh longer and retards fermentation. Add the sugar to the water after it has boiled. Don’t boil the sugar and water together. Doing so will cause some of the water to evaporate and will create nectar that is too concentrated. If the nectar is too sweet it can damage a bird’s liver.

Hang the container in the shade and out of the wind if possible. Clean the container and refill weekly. Clean with soap and water or a 10% bleach solution or 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water.

DO NOT use honey, it causes fungus to grow.
DO NOT use artificial sweeteners.
DO NOT use food coloring.

Continue to feed the hummingbirds until they have all migrated, this could be October or November.
It is a myth that they will stay to eat and miss the migration. They know when to leave and need as much energy as possible to make their journey.Leaving your hummingbird feeder up until October will not prevent hummingbirds from migrating, but will increase your chances of seeing species that you normally don’t see as they are passing through.


In the following list, flowers listed as nectar plants atttract many species of butterflies. Caterpillars are particular about which leaves they eat and so the butterfly is named for the host plants.

Wild Life Friendly Annuals and Perennials

Common Name Botanical Name Nectar
Host Species Bird Seed Humming
Alyssum, Sweet, A Lobularia maritima N
Anise Hyssop, P Agastache foeniculum N
Ageratum, A Ageratum houstonian N
Aster, P Aster spp. N & H Silvery Checkerspot
Basket of Gold, P Aurinia saxatile N
Bee Balm, P Monarda didyma N YES
Black-eyed Susan, P or A Rudbeckia spp. N YES
Blazing Star, P Liatris N YES
Borage, H Borage officinalis N & H Painted Lady
Butterfly Weed, P Asclepias tuberosa N & H Monarch
Cardinal Flower, P Lobelia cardinalis N YES
Catmint, P Nepeta mussinii N
Clara Curtis Daisy, P Dendranthema zawadskii N
Coreopsis, P Coreopsis spp. N YES
Cosmos, A Cosmos bipinnatus N YES
Daylilly, P Hemerocallis N YES
Delphinium, P Delphinium N YES
Dill, H Anethem graveolens H Black Swallowtail
Evening Primrose, A Oenothera N YES YES
Flowering Tobacco, A Nicotiana spp. N YES
Forget-me-not, P Myosotis Scorpioides N
Forget-me-not, BI Myosotis Sylvatica N
Goldenrod, Hybrid, P Solidago
‘Crown of Rays’
Hollyhock, BI Alcea rosea N & H Checkered Skippers,
Painted Ladies
Hummingbird Mint, P Agastache cana N YES
Joe-Pye weed, P Eupatorium N
Lavender, P or A Lavandula angustifolia N
Lupine, P or A Lupinus spp. H
Mallow, P Malva alcea H Gray Hairstreak
Marigold, A Tagetes spp. H Dainty Sulpher
Milkweed, A Asclepias tuberosa N & H Monarch
Showy Milkweed, A Asclepias speciosa N & H Monarch
Swamp Milkweed, A Asclepias incarnata N & H Monarch
Parsley, H Pestroselinum crispum H Black Swallowtail
Pearly Everlasting, P Anaphalis margaritacea N & H Painted Lady
Penstemon, P Penstemon spp. N YES
Pincushion Flower, P Scabiosa Columbaria N
Purple Coneflower, P Echinacea purpurea N YES
Shasta Daisy, P Chrysanthemum maximum C. x superbum N
Soapwort, P Saponaria officionalis N
Snapdragon, A Antirrhinum spp. N & H Buckeye
Sneezeweed, P Helenium autumnale
N & H Dainty Sulpher
Stokes Aster, P Stokesia laevis N
Stonecrop, P Sedum spectabile N & H Dainty Sulpher
Turtlehead, P Chelone spp. N & H Baltimore,
Wild Ginger, H Asarum H Pipevine Swallowtail
Violet, P Viola spp. H Fritillaries

P=perennial, A=annual, BI=biennial, H=herb

Wild Life Friendly Shrubs and trees

Common Name

Botanical Name

Nectar or Host

Host Species Humming
Other Birds
Food Shelter
Azalea Rhododendron N YES
Beauty Bush Kolkwitzia amabilis N YES
Blue Mist Shrub Caryopteris x clandonensis N & H Io moth
Bottlebrush buckeye Aesculus parviflora N
Butterfly Bush Buddleia davidii N YES YES
Button Bush Cephalanthus occidentalis N & H ?
Chastetree Vitex agnus-castus N
Cotoneaster Cotoneaster spp. N YES YES YES
Crab tree Malus H Striped Hairstreak
Tiger Swallowtail
Dutchman’s pipe Aristolchia durior N & H Pipevine Swallowtail
Glossy Abelia Abelia x grandiflora N
Hackberry tree Celtis, spp. H Hackberry Butterfly,
Tawny Emperor Snout Butterfly,
Mourning Cloak
Hawthorn tree Crataegus H Gray Hairstreak,
Northern Hairstreak, Striped Hairstreak,
Red Spotted Purple
Lilac Syringa spp. N YES YES
Maple trees Acer YES YES
New Jersey Tea Caenothus Americanus N & H Mottled Duskywing
Oak tree Quercus YES YES
Pawpaw tree Asimina triloba H Zebra Swallowtail
Pine trees Pinus YES YES
Serviceberry Amelanchier YES
Spicebush Lindera benzoin H Spicebush swallowtail
Tiger Swallowtail
St. John’s Wart Hypericum ‘Hidcote’ H Gray Hairstreak
Tulip tree Liriodendron H Tiger Swallowtail YES

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