Host Plants For Butterflies: How To Make A Butterfly Container Garden

Butterfly on Potted Coneflower
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Butterflies are a welcome sight in any garden. They will naturally come to feed on many flowering plants, but by setting out the right flowers in the right style, you can make a butterfly container garden to attract them in droves straight to your patio, window, or anywhere you can fit a container. Keep reading to learn about creating butterfly container gardens.

Butterfly Container Garden Ideas

One of the most important things to think about is choosing the right plants. If you really want to create a butterfly haven, you should arrange a mix of host plants and nectar plants. For butterflies, nectar is a prime food source.

Nectar Plants for Butterflies

Flowers that are especially nectar-rich feature big bloom clusters like the following:

These big, open nectar sources are easily accessible to butterflies’ proboscises. Different species of butterflies are able to feed better off of different flowers though, so plant a variety of nectar plants for butterflies of many varieties.

Host Plants for Butterflies

Host plants for butterflies are not essential, but they’re a great idea. Plant some milkweed, aster, and rose mallow to create a space for mother butterflies to lay their eggs and baby caterpillars to feed. These plants might not be much to look at, but they will encourage much more butterfly activity and might just allow you to witness the making of a chrysalis and the emergence of a new butterfly or two.

A monarch butterfly on a milkweed flower

(Image credit: HildaWeges)

Tips for Creating Butterfly Container Gardens

Butterflies love the sun, so you should make a butterfly container garden in an area that receives at least six hours of sun a day. They have a hard time battling wind though, so make sure your sunny place is protected. Give them a flat, light-colored surface, like a stone, where they can bask in the sun. Give your butterflies a ready water source by placing a plant saucer full of moistened sand among the plants. They don’t need much water and the sand will help to keep them from evaporating.

Different species of butterflies like to feed on plants of different heights. To ensure a large number of butterflies, put out a wide variety. You can fill a single large container with tall, vertical-growing plants in the back, shorter plants in the middle, and long, trailing plants draped over the side– or simply mimic the thriller, filler, spiller effect.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.