What colors attract butterflies?

Where do butterflies get their striking colors?

Butterflies possess some of the most striking color displays found in nature. As they fly from flower to flower gathering nectar, their brightly colored wings seem to shimmer and change colors before your eyes. Pilots flying above the rainforest can see the bright blues of the morpho butterfly of South America up to half a mile away . A butterfly’s rich color can act as camouflage, mate attraction and warning signal.

But what is it that makes the vivid colors of butterfly wings appear to dance? How can they possess such intense hues?


Butterflies actually get their colors from two different sources: ordinary (or pigmented) color and structural color. The ordinary color comes from normal chemical pigments that absorb certain wavelengths of light and reflect others. For example, the pigment chlorophyll colors plants green. The chlorophyll soaks up the blue and red colors of the spectrum, but not the green, which you see when it bounces back to your eye. Most butterflies get their different shades of brown and yellow from melanin, the same pigment that makes you tan in summer and gives some people freckles.

The structural color of butterflies is where things get interesting. This type of color stems from the specific structure of the butterflies’ wings and explains why some of a butterfly’s colors seem to shift and appear so intense. This quality of changing colors as you, the observer, moves is known as iridescence, and it occurs more in nature than you might think. Mother of pearl seashells, fish and peacocks are just a few examples of animals with this quality, but it is most pronounced in the butterfly family. It happens when light passes through a transparent, multilayered surface and is reflected more than once. The multiple reflections compound one another and intensify colors.

Learn how the qualities of iridescence and the structure of a butterfly’s wings join forces to create such awesome effects on the next page.

Do Certain Colors Attract Butterflies and Bees More than Others?

Research Questions:

Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce and create new seeds for more plants. Pollination is when pollen (a very fine fertilizing powder) is transferred form the anther to the stigma of the plant/flower. This is sexual reproduction because genetic material is based from both parents (male and female gametes) to their offspring. Insects help pollinate plants like flowers because when they collect nectar from the flower, they transfer pollen from one flower to another when they hop around. In this experiment, we’ll discover what role color plays in the pollination process. We’ll also incidentally find out if bees and butterflies can tell the difference between artificial and natural flowers!


  • Red roses, Pink roses, Yellow roses
  • White roses (these are going to be artificially dyed with floral dye)
  • Hydrangea in blue and white (going to be dyed)
  • Cymbidium Orchids
  • Floral dye in various colors (the ones you are using the in experiment) You can get this at specialty floral or crafts stores, an example of one brand is “Design Master”
  • Water (hot and room temp)
  • Butterflies (preferably different colored ones so they are easier to identify)
  • Bumblebees

Experimental Procedure:

  1. First, we are going to artificially paint the white-colored flowers to mimic the color of the naturally occurring flower colors used in this experiment.
  2. Floral dye is easy to use and simply requires mixing with hot water and allowing the dye to soak up and through the flower.
  3. Once you have dyed all of the flowers, it is time to experiment.
  4. In a greenhouse, place the flowers in rows based on experimental group and color (i.e. all the natural colors go on one side and the artificials go on the other side).
  5. Let the butterflies and the bees into the greenhouse.
  6. Monitor day by the day the trends of preference for each insect. Where do they tend to surround around or land on most often? You may also video-tape the happenings of the greenhouse as well to more accurately analyze this.
  7. It is most accurate to monitor the patterns for at least two weeks. The longer, the more accurate the results are. Below is a sample chart to help you collect data.


Day 1 Preference

Day 2 Preference

Day 3 Preference

Day 4 Preference



Terms/Concepts: Pollination; Pollen; Fertilization; Sexual Reproduction; Bumblebees; Butterflies

How to Create a Backyard Nature Preserve

Attract Hummingbirds and Butterflies to Your Garden

by Lynn Bremner

Hummingbirds are particularly fond of bright red flowers. Bee Balm and Cardinal Flower are two of the hummingbirds’ favorite nectar sources.

One of the most rewarding experiences of gardening and landscaping is viewing the wildlife that your garden attracts. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, insects, rabbits, squirrels and other wildlife find refuge in backyard gardens. Some seek shade, others hunt for food, and some species make our gardens their homes. While rabbits and squirrels may not be the gardener’s favorite wildlife, the vibrant colors of fluttering butterflies and the graceful dance of hummingbirds feeding on nectar producing flowers add greatly to the beauty of a garden in bloom.

Gardens and landscaping can be purposely designed to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, literally bringing your garden to life. By planting a combination of flowering plants, native grasses and leafy shrubs you can create a beautiful garden with color and balance that is pleasing to the human eye, and also attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.

Many of the same colorful, fragrant, nectar-producing blooms attract butterflies as well as hummingbirds. It’s important to create a host environment for larvae and caterpillars as well, which later transform into those butterflies. Good host plants are leafy and can provide shelter and food for larvae and caterpillars.

A butterfly on a butterfly bush bloom. Butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) is a perennial that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees with its large, fragrant panicles. The butterfly bush should be included in any butterfly or hummingbird garden.

Bring Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterflies are attracted to colorful, fragrant flowers that are shallow and easy to perch on. Food in the form of nectar, or sometimes rotting fruit, sap, or even animal waste will lure butterflies to plants. Nectar is the primary attractor; it feeds both butterflies and hummingbirds. Color and fragrance are also important features that draw butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden.

Hummingbirds Like Red

Hummingbirds are particularly fond of bright red, purple, white, pink, orange and blue. Bee balm and cardinal flower are two of the hummingbirds’ favorite nectar sources. These plants, however, don’t have a long bloom life, so it’s important to add a variety of other nectar-bearing flowers to ensure a longer feeding season.

Designing Your Garden

As you design your garden, take into consideration where you will be when viewing the wildlife that comes there. Vines and crawling plants that grow on trellises or in hanging baskets can be placed near windows and seating areas for indoor viewing.

Butterflies are cold blooded and enjoy sunning themselves. Select a garden area with full sun or at least six hours of full sun. Include some flat rocks or other light colored flat surfaces for basking. Butterflies and hummingbirds also like to be sheltered from the wind, so be sure to give them a protected area.

Attract Birds with a Water Element

A bird bath, pond, re-circulating fountain or other water element adds dimension and activity to any garden. Birds love water in wide, shallow pools that are elevated off the ground approximately three feet or higher. Keep the depth at the center of the bath to a maximum of three inches – shallower at the edges when possible.

A simple and inexpensive idea is to use a plastic or metal garbage can lid. You can elevate the lid on a small table or ledge, or prop it up on a tree stump. You can place a few large rocks in the center to hold the lid in place and to serve as a perch for the birds while bathing. Another solution is to use a couple of shallow pans filled with sand and water to create a shallow puddle that can used as a water source. Be sure to clean any water source frequently though to avoid mosquitoes!

Place your birdbath in view of a window so you can enjoy the birds’ activities from inside your home. Place the bath near a hose so it is easy to fill up. If you create moving water with a fountain, drip or other type of spray mechanism your birdbath will attract more birds.

Remember to plant food sources for larve and caterpillars
as part of your butterfly garden.

Flowers Commonly Used for Attracting Butterflies and Hummingbirds

Below is a list of some of the more common plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Many plants attract both, but each of these species has their favorites. Place groups of plants together; don’t plant single plants standing alone. This pattern is more effective in drawing butterflies and hummingbirds into your garden. Iinclude native grasses and shrubs to act as a food source for larvae and caterpillars. A list of food source plants is also included below for your reference.

Once your garden is in bloom you will begin to enjoy the colorful life that the fragrance and nectar-producing plants attract. Don’t forget to build in a couple of comfortable and convenient wildlife-viewing seating areas where you can relax and enjoy the butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife that venture into your garden!

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma) – long-blooming perennial that has red or purple blooms. Good for zones 4-7.

Bee Bush (Aloysia gratissima) – can grow to 8 feet high and has white flowers. Attracts butterflies.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii) – a perennial that attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and bees with its large, fragrant panicles. The butterfly bush should be included in any butterfly or hummingbird garden. Butterfly bushes can grow 5 to 12 feet tall with a spread of 4 to 15 feet. The color of the flowers can vary, but the most common are purple, pink, white, or red. Butterfly bushes flower from June/July through fall. Bushes should be cut back in the winter to allow new growth in the spring months. Butterfly bush plants grow well in full sun and well-drained soil. They are also drought-tolerant.

Cardinal Vine (Ipomoea x multifida) – has a red bloom and does well north of zone 6.

Fern Acacia (Acacia angustissima) – attracts butterflies and is a larval plant food. The blooms are white and it is a low-growing shrub with plant heights reaching 1 to 3 feet high. This plant grows well in full sun or partial shade. The hardiness zone for this plant is zone 8.

Fuchsia does well in shaded areas. These flowering plants are popular with hummingbirds. They produce blossoms in orange and pink. The hardiness zones are 9-11 for this plant.

Lantana (Lantana camara), Trailing Lantana (Lantana montevidensis) – attracts all types of butterflies and hummingbirds. Lantana comes in a variety of colors including red, orange, yellow, purple or blue and white florets. Lantanas grow well in zone 8 and higher.

Larkspurs (Delphinium) and Hollyhock (Alcea) – Perennial plants that can grow to 5 feet tall or more. Delphiniums are good for zones 2 – 9 and are available in a variety of flower colors. Hollyhock grows in zone 3 and has white, pink or red flowers.

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) can reach heights of 4 feet, with yellow blooms from September through November. Attracts many butterflies and is one of the best choices for fall nectar flowers.

Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) will reach heights up to 7 feet with red/orange blooms May through October in full sun. This plant attracts swallowtails, sulfurs and some skippers.

Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadense) – perennial, red and yellow flower that droops. Good for zones 2 – 8

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) – With heights of 8 to 10 feet this shrub shows red, pink, blue or white blooms. Zones 5 – 9 are recommended.

Sweet Bush (Bebbia juncea) drought-tolerant, attracts all types and sizes of butterflies. It has yellow blooms spring through fall.

Trumpet Vine (Campsis radicans) – Trumpet vine produces orange colored flowers and is hardy in zones 4-9. It is a climber vine, so if you build a trellis or fence it will climb and create a nice station for hummingbirds and butterflies to perch.

Trumpet or Magnifica Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Magnifica’) has scarlet/red flowers and does well in zones 3 – 9. This vine is a creeper not a climber.

Verbena (Verbena gooddingii) is a native and attracts all types of butterflies. They grow very well in dry, desert climates in zones 5 to 10. They are tolerant of drought.

Silk tree, or Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) is a tree that attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. It has full pink blossoms that are very aromatic. This tree grows well in zones 6 – 9.

Food Sources for Larvae and Caterpillars
Popular caterpillar food plants are the passion vine and senna (Senna covesii, Senna leptocarpa or S. lindheimeriana). Pipevine (Aristolochia microphylla) and milkweed varieties including common milkweed (A. syriaca), pine-leaf (Asclepias linaria), narrowleaf (A. subulata), and butterfly weed (A. tuberosa). Fern acacia, Acacia angustissima (A. hirta) and native mallows like Abutilon, Herrisantia, and Sphaeralcea also make good food plants. Desert hackberry (Celtis pallida) is another larval food plant that also attracts Empress Leilias with sap and rotting fruit. A few others to consider are side oats grama (Bouteloua curtipendula), bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa) and green spangletop (Leptochloa dubia).

Look Up Your Hardiness Zone
Plant Hardiness Zones are a great way to decide what to plant in your garden. All plants come with a suggested zone range for optimal grown and survival. The hardiness zones divide the United States up into 11 zones based on a 10 degree Fahrenheit difference in the average annual minimum temperature.

Free online butterfly garden brochures and plant lists by region http://www.naba.org/pubs/bgh.html

Black-chinned Hummingbird
The Viceroy Butterfly
Showy Milkweed
The Western Admiral Butterfly
Butterflies of Southern New Mexico

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Hummingbirds make wonderful additions to the garden. Hummingbird flowers and hummingbird feeders will help attract them to the garden.

But, there are plants like these 15 we can call the hummingbird favorite flowers. The presence of birds, especially the hummingbirds, is a beautiful thing that we all want to see in our surrounding. Their humming sounds bring the feeling of serenity and relaxation that is soothing to our ears.

Hummingbirds derived their name from the humming noise they make by flapping their wings. They are considered the tiniest birds; measuring 3 inches long. They primarily feed on nectar, pollen and tree sap, and thus are attracted to flowers.

There are many hummingbird species that could visit your garden for a shot of nectar and a dance around flowers.

Some of them include:

  • Ruby-throated hummingbird
  • Black-chinned hummingbird
  • Broad-billed hummingbird
  • Costa hummingbird
  • Rufous hummingbird

If you want to make create a hummingbird garden, consider growing these flowering hummingbird plants.

Here are some flowers that attract hummingbirds below.


This soaring treasure makes bold statements when planted in a container, or at the back of a mixed border. They blossom in dozens on each stem, and this gives the hummingbirds a lot of nectar sources that they can share with butterflies and other bugs as well.

Delphinium plants are blue in color and come in several varieties. Choose the varieties that thrive well in your region as some do well in areas with high temperatures while other in low-temperate regions.

Bonus tip: Try the Blue Mirror Cultivar if you are looking for a heat tolerant variety.

Delphinium variegato – Wikimedia.org


If you want to add a vertical accent to your midsummer garden, you can consider Gayfeather. They have purple, white, and lavender spires that resemble an inverted 3-foot-tall exclamation mark.

Gayfeather are flowers hummingbirds like and they’re sun-loving perennials.

Gayfeather – Wikimedia.org

Chilean Glory Flower

The hummingbirds are overly attracted to these trumpet-shaped flowers. The irresistible Chilean Glory Flower is evergreen and grows very fast. They offer a plethora of orange-red flowers that have a yellow tipping.

They grow from late spring to fall. The leaves have a light green color and are boldly veined on this climbing plant.

Chilean Glory Flower – Eccremocarpus saber – wikimedia.org

Cardinal Flower

Also called Lobelia, this flower is an ideal choice for attracting the hummingbirds. It has long stalks of flowers that can grow to a height of 48 inches.

Cardinal Lobelia flower thrives in moist, good well-drained soil. The rich red blossoms are delicately shaped and are attractive both to the birds and landscaping, and add interest and visual height to the leveled flowerbeds.

Consider growing them in a container in a moist setting, and make sure to water them frequently. They start blooming at the beginning of mid-summer up to the first frost. Move them indoors during the winter season.

Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis – wikimedia.org

Butterfly Bush

True to its name, butterflies and hummingbirds are overly attracted to the Buddleia butterfly bush plant. It produces thick lengthened bunches of flowers that come in purple and pink shades. The flowers repeatedly blossom from the mid-summer through the fall.

It thrives well in full sunlight and develops into a luxurious shrub after that. It’s a drought tolerant plant. Grow them in crowded plantings in butterfly gardens and cottage gardens, and use in border plantings.

They not only draw butterflies but hummingbirds as well.

Butterfly Bush – wikimedia.org

Flowering Tobacco

This is an annual plant, also known as Nicotiana alata and works well when planted in containers.

Its scented flowers blossoms in colors of white and pink, from late spring through to early fall. Hummingbirds and butterflies love this plant because of its fragrant flowers.

Flowering Tobacco – Nicotiana alata – wikimedia.org


Weigela florida is its scientific name, and it has pink, yellow, white, or lavender blooms which depend on the cultivar. The flowers blossom in mid through to late spring.

Some cultivars of Weigela plants have maroon or purplish leaves while others feature variegated foliage.

This deciduous shrub is native plant to Korea and Northern China, and can grow to a height of 9 feet.

However, there are compact varieties that don’t attain that height and aren’t very broad. It thrives well in full sun and borders. It’s loved by hummingbirds.

Weigela florida – wikimedia.org


The foxglove plant does well in acidic soil. The flowers color can be different as they depend on the cultivar that you choose. It’s normally planted as an ornamental plant. It’s also known as Digitalis purpurea in scientific fields.

Foxglove can grow to a length of 6 feet depending on the growing conditions and variety. The pink, yellow, white and purple flowers attract hummingbirds. This plant is poisonous to people and livestock.

Digitalis purpurea – Foxglove – wikimedia.org


The meadow sage (Salvia plant) is one of the hummingbirds favorite flowers and serves the backs and centers of the flowerbeds.

Sage salvia flowers (salvia guaranitica) range from blue to purple, pink to mauve, and thrives well in full sun.

Saliva plants flower in mid-summer through the late summer. This plant tolerates dry soil and does well in full sun. It’s also known as Salvia nemorosa.

More on –> Growing and Care of Scarlet Sage Salvia

Salvia nemorosa – wikimedia.org


This plant comes in varieties that produce white, yellow, red, pink, coral, and orange flowers.

They attract butterflies and hummingbirds especially when they bloom in the early summer and can last till the mid-fall depending on the variety and species. Yarrow does well in well drained, average soil and can grow to a length of 48 inches.

Yarrow – Achillea millefolium – wikimedia.org

Bee Balm

Just as its name suggests, bee balm is mostly loved by bees. However, not just the bees. The hummingbirds and butterflies are also attracted to these flowers as well.

The sight of these birds and insects on your garden coupled with their beautiful white, purple, pink or white flowers will be a sight to behold.

Bee Balm works well in medium to wet soil and thrives better in a wildlife garden.

Bee Balm – Monad fistulosa – wikimedia.org

Maltese Cross

Maltese cross plant, a relative of the rose campion (Lychnis coronaria) flowers in the early summer when it achieves a stem of 2 to 4 feet. Plant them in moist, well-drained soil where there is significant sunlight.

Cut back the plant after the flowering period is over to encourage re-bloom. Maltese cross flowers attract hummingbirds as well.

Maltese Cross – Lychnis chalcedonic – wikimedia.org


The hollyhock plant achieves a height of 6′ feet and its blossoms comes in singles and doubles in colors of red, lavender, pink, purple, salmon, white, yellow, and apricot.

The first growing hollyhock blooms over longer periods in the summer. It’s a short-lived perennial and biennial but reseeds itself in the garden on a regular basis. Either way, it falls under the sought after perennials that attract hummingbirds.

Hollyhock – Alcea rosea – wikimedia.org

Mexican Sunflower

The fast-growing Mexican Sunflower is one of the favorite flowers for butterflies and hummingbirds.

It works well in the full sun and can reach 5-6 feet tall. There’re also dwarf selections that grow to 2-3 feet tall.

Mexican Sunflower – wikimedia.org

Wild Columbine

If you want something that will attract the hummingbirds, then try wild columbine flowers and plants.

They are easy to grow, and they blossom with different colors depending on the variety you choose. They bloom in the spring, and the flowers are bell-shaped. Hummingbirds love them so much.

Wild Columbine – Aquilegia canadensis – wikimedia.org

Bouvardia Flower

Dwarf evergreen shrub fragrant Bouvardia flowers perfume the air September to March.

The luxuriant, glossy, evergreen leaves make a wonderful background for the trumpet flowers with long, slim tubes flaring out into perfect four-pointed stars.

Needs full sun, moderate warmth, humidity, humusy soil kept moist except when the plant is resting after bloom.

Erythrina Crista Galli

For mild climates, Erythrina Crista-Galli (Coral tree) grows as a small or average sized tree.

Grown as a shrub and in pots in cold climates.

Brilliant green leaves with spiny branches and stems.

Summer flowers of splendid vivid red color look like waxed sweet peas. Needs full sun and well-drained soil.

Wrapping Up

To attract hummingbirds and other types of birds to your garden, plant lots of the flowers hummingbirds love to visit, maintain your habitat and secure it.

Hummingbirds love water, so consider maintaining a gentle spray from a nozzle during the day or adding a hummingbird dripper. Grow plants that bloom bright flowers, especially red; it’s their favorite.

Tubular flowers produce adequate nectar and therefore, have more of wild columbines, flowering tobacco, and Weigela.

Other Shrubs Attractive To Hummingbirds:

  • Hamelia Patens aka Firebush

Image: source

Hummingbird Gardening

Plants that Attract Hummingbirds
Shelter Plants for Hummingbirds
Offering Water to Hummingbirds
Hummingbird Feeders

We’re supposed to love all pollinators equally—but let’s be real, y’all. Hummingbirds are everyone’s favorite. Sure, we might smile and watch as a butterfly floats past, or when a chubby bumblebee cuddles into a coneflower. But a hummingbird sighting? That’s when we gasp and hiss a “look!” to our kids, gesture at them to shut up and watch, and fumble with our phones to take a video. It’s a whole event.

Plants that Attract Hummingbirds

First things first, you’ve gotta invite them in. A lot of the plants that hummingbirds love the most have similar features; they’re fairly tubular, they produce nectar, and they come in vibrant colors, like pink and red. These ones look great in the garden and are proven hummingbird magnets.

Hamelia (Hummingbird Bush) – This bush is a fast-grower that adds great color year-round to your garden. As the name would have you guess, hummingbirds go nuts for their red, tubular flowers. As an added bonus, hamelia also has great fall color payoff. The leaves change from green to reddish-bronze as the summer fades.

Salvia – There are many, many varieties of salvia, and plenty of them are a hit with hummingbirds. Salvias with red or pink flowers are the best varieties to go with if you hope to see more of those flickering wings. Salvia regla is a variety native to Texas that works great, looks gorgeous, and doesn’t need much maintenance.

Trumpet Vine – Trumpet vine, or trumpet creeper, is a magnificent climber with an incredible show of red-orange tubular flowers. It looks great on trellises and arbors, and is a nice way to bring the hummingbirds higher up off the ground for easier viewing. The Madame Galen variety is a really nice one for hummingbird gardens, but the native Campsis radicans is almost too enthusiastic for the average gardener. Avoid this trumpet vine variety as it can quickly become invasive.

Turk’s Cap – A member of the mallow family, these intriguing red flowers are a favorite food source of hummingbirds and can be grown in light shade. Turk’s cap tends to be quite drought resistant and comes in a few color and size variations that are equally beloved by hummingbirds.

Lantana – It’s hard to resist these sensational clumps of multicolored flowers. The different lantana color combinations are each more beautiful than the next, and they all make for a charming container filler. Add lantanas to containers and hanging baskets throughout your yard to really tempt the local hummingbird population.

Butterfly Weed – A type of milkweed, these compact flowering perennials are a favorite of other beautiful pollinators as well. Butterfly weed is also a primary food source for monarch butterflies and caterpillars. Incorporating a little butterfly weed into your garden design will turn it into a VIP pollinator destination!

Shelter Plants for Hummingbirds

Once you’ve attracted hummingbirds to your yard, it’s always nice to offer them a place to stay. After all, all the best festivals have a campground! Add some hummingbird-friendly shelter to your landscape with these hummingbird-friendly trees and shrubs.

  • Pecan Trees
  • Youpon holly
  • Bottle brush
  • Mountain Laurel

Offering Water to Hummingbirds

Like every living thing, hummingbirds also need to drink water to survive. Hummingbirds, like most animals, prefer moving water to still. Try these ways to add moving water to your hummingbird garden.

Install a mister – Hummingbirds have tiny mouths but they move fast. Not only does a fine mist provide a perfect source of water for hummingbirds, it also cools the air and helps your humidity-loving tropical plants thrive.

Create a water feature – Hummingbirds prefer moving water sources that keep the water clean and allow them to sip from the fine offspray. Integrating a waterfall into your garden with a pump and some river rock adds a stunning focal point and a great water source for plenty of bird and wildlife species.

Try a solar fountain – For an easy solution on the cheap, you can add a solar-powered fountain to a traditional bird bath. These cool gadgets are powered by a solar strip and pump water through the device, turning a plain basin into a moving water source.

Hummingbird Feeders

If you still can’t get enough of your favorite bird, hummingbird feeders are another easy way to attract them and keep them fed. Hummingbirds will migrate through our area 2 times a year, once in the spring for a quick trip to their summer home, and then for 4-6 weeks in late summer early Fall on their way to their winter home. To attract them in with a feeder and keep the hummingbirds flying in, make sure to:

Clean it often – Hummingbirds are very clean animals and won’t bother with a dirty feeder. They won’t risk getting their pretty lil’ feathers sticky!

Use a red feeder with clear nectar – Red plastic helps attract hummingbirds to the feeder, but the nectar itself should be clear. The artificial red coloring in a lot of commercial nectars isn’t good for the birds.

Beware of ants! – Choose a feeder model that has a moat built into the top to keep ants from crawling into the feeder. Make sure to refill the moat with water daily.

Put feeder out before migration – Scouts will come to the area seeking food before the whole flock joins. If they know you have food for their friends, he will invite them back for a feast. Put feeders out in late January for Spring migration, and in July for Fall migration. Fill feeders ½ full and keep it fresh. Once the flock moves in, fill it up and enjoy! 🙂

Everyone loves the rush of catching a flash of iridescent green feathers. Fill your garden with all the right stuff, and soon enough your garden will look and feel like a five-star hummingbird hotel.

Lantana Plant And Butterflies: Does Lantana Attract Butterflies

Most gardeners and nature enthusiasts love the sight of graceful butterflies flitting from one plant to another. Butterfly gardening has become increasingly popular not only because butterflies are beautiful, but also because they assist in pollination. While there are many plants that attract butterflies, no butterfly garden should be without lantana. Continue reading to learn about lantana and butterflies in the garden.

Attracting Butterflies with Lantana Plants

Butterflies have a highly evolved sense of smell and are attracted to the sweet smelling nectar of many plants. They also are attracted to plants with bright blue, purple, pink, white, yellow and orange blooms. Additionally, butterflies prefer plants with flat or dome-shaped clusters of small tubal flowers that they can safely perch on as they drink the sweet nectar. So does lantana attract butterflies? Yes! Lantana plants provide all these butterfly preferences.

Lantana is a hardy perennial in zones 9-11, but northern gardeners often grow it as an annual. There are over 150 varieties of this tough heat and drought tolerant plant, but there are two main types that are grown, trailing and upright.

Trailing varieties come in many colors, oftentimes with more than one color on the same flower dome. These trailing plants are excellent in hanging baskets, containers or as groundcovers.
Upright lantana also comes in many color variations, can grow up to 6 feet tall in certain climates and is an excellent addition to any flower bed or landscape.

Some butterflies that commonly visit lantana for its nectar are:

  • Hairstreaks
  • Swallowtails
  • Monarchs
  • Checkered whites
  • Cloudless sulfur
  • Red spotted purples
  • Red admirals
  • Painted ladies
  • Gulf fritillaries
  • Queens
  • Great southern whites
  • Atlas

Hairstreak butterflies and certain Lepidopteras will also use lantana as host plants.

Lantana also attracts hummingbirdsand Sphinx moths. Many birds feed upon the seeds after the flowers have faded. And male weaver birds use lantana to decorate their nests to attract female weaver birds.

As you can see, lantana plants are great additions to have around, so if you want to see some butterflies on lantana, be sure to add the lovely flowers to the landscape.


Common Brown

This butterly is often hard to detect because its colours offer camouflage. The female is easier to spot as it’s larger than the male and has brighter wings. The caterpillar has a brown head, is covered in bristles, and is either green, grey or brown. It enjoys feeding on grasses, especially those which belong to the poa family. One of the best native grasses for the caterpillars is kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra).

Large Grass-yellow

A pretty butterfly with a wingspan of just 4cm that’s an all-year-round visitor to gardens in the tropics, and a summer and autumn caller further south. To entice it to breed in your garden, try growing the caterpillar’s favourite food plants, such as cassia, wattle and native species of breynia. The caterpillar is well-camouflaged, so you’ll need to look closely – it’s green with a narrow, yellowish stripe.

Orchard Swallowtail

If you have lemon or orange trees in your garden, you’ve probably seen this large swallowtail butterfly as it likes to lay its eggs on citrus trees. The caterpillars chew on the citrus leaves but rarely do serious damage. Native eriostemon is another good food plant for the caterpillars, which are bright green with white bands and edging. The female is more colourful than the male.


Satin Azure

A brilliant blue colour, this beautiful butterfly is hard to miss. It lays its eggs on casuarina trees so its caterpillar can feed on the mistletoe which grows there. You’ll often see the caterpillars with black ants in tow as, amazingly, the ants shelter and protect them. You’ll recognise the caterpillar by its flattened appearance, dark-brown head, and dark-grey, mottled-brown colouring.

Richmond Birdwing

With a wingspan of up to 11cm, this threatened butterfly is one of Australia’s largest. Home gardeners can help save it by growing native bird wing vine (Pararistolochia praevenosa) and removing Dutchman’s pipe vine, which is poisonous to the caterpillar. The caterpillar is black with black spines, or whitish with grey spines.



Originating in America, this butterfly was discovered here 100 years ago. Today, the Monarch is one of Australia’s most common species. To some Australians it is known as the Wanderer. The caterpillars have yellow, black and white bands, and feed on milkweed (Asclepias curassavica), which also makes an attractive garden subject. However, it is a weed, so you’ll need to trim flowers before it seeds.


Ulysses Swallowtail

These striking rainforest butterflies are most attracted to gardens which have nectar-rich flowers. They’re drawn to the colour blue, especially the male of the species, which may fly in for a closer look if you’re wearing blue clothing. The female prefers to lay its eggs on native rainforest trees such as Melicope elleryana but may also lay them on citrus trees. The caterpillar is green with a pair of white spines on its tail.


Blue Tiger

With their distinctive striped bodies, these butterflies will add visual impact to any garden, especially when seen flying in large groups. The caterpillar’s favourite food plant is corky silk pod (Secamone elliptica), but in the north they will also eat Heterostemma acuminatum. The mature caterpillar is greenish grey to white in colour and also sports an orange-brown stripe.


Butterflies–symbols of beauty, nature, freedom and hope–are universally adored. Unfortunately, urban expansion has caused a decline in many butterfly populations. You can attract butterflies to your garden, and have fun doing so, by planting a butterfly garden.

What is Butterfly Gardening?

Butterfly gardening is a concept designed to conserve the natural environment and attract butterflies back into populated areas through native plant gardening. When land is developed, native plants are usually destroyed in the construction process and replaced with commercially popular exotic varieties. Because the native butterflies cannot complete their life cycles on the new plants, they are forced to travel further and further away in search of the naturally growing species they need to survive.

All butterflies have a life cycle which includes a leaf-eating caterpillar and a free-flying adult butterfly. Both stages need food. Caterpillars eat leaves of certain wild plants, while flying adults eat the sugary nectar from various flowers. There must be food for both adults and their caterpillars nearby.

If you live in the suburbs and there are partially wild forest edges or unmowed fields nearby, you can attract butterflies to your garden simply by planting flowers. They will visit your garden to feed and find mates, but will lay their eggs and complete the rest of their life cycle in nearby weedy fields. If you live near the city, it may be necessary to provide both flowers and larval food plants.

Proper Layout to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

There are several considerations in laying out a butterfly garden. First, butterflies will only fly around flowers that grow in bright sun.

Second, choose a mix of annual and perennial flowering plants which are good sources of nectar for the hungry adult butterflies. Butterflies prefer to alight on a flower which points almost upward. They prefer flowers with heads of small clumped flowers, or flowers with broad petals which act as landing pads for them to rest while they eat.

Flower color is not critical. It is best to stick to the simple varieties. Excellent choices for our area are asters, black-eyed Susan, lantana, blazing star, milkweeds, phlox, thistles, coneflowers, dogbane, zinnias, buttonbush, butterfly bush, moon mist flower and salvias.

Butterflies are extremely sensitive to insecticides; do not use pesticide dust or sprays. Yard fogging and mosquito spraying programs take a terrible toll on these beauties.

Foolproof Five: The Best Plants to Grow for Bees

Growing a bee garden is as easy at it gets for a home gardener. There’s no need to seek out exotic blooms or struggle with fussy flowers that need to be pampered.

Some of the best plants to grow for bees are what I consider the underdogs of a garden: those “plain Jane” flowers and hard-working herbs that normally wouldn’t get a second glance.

In fact, all my bee gardens over the years were planted primarily because of how low-maintenance they were. They’re fairly drought-tolerant, self-seeded freely as annuals, grew back every year as perennials, and did double-duty as human food and pollinator food (as was the case with my herbs).

They included traditional favorites like bee balm and sunflowers, as well as unassuming ground covers like sweet alyssum and sedum. I also let things like cilantro and parsley go to seed every season for this very reason (aside from my general laziness in cleaning up the garden right away).

Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

You see, bees and other pollinators are not particular about looks. They don’t want fields of fancy double-headed blooms, which — while certainly show-stopping — typically produce less nectar than single-headed flowers.

The “flowers within flowers” (like double dahlias and double peonies) make it harder for bees to access pollen. While the cutting stems are great for the flower vase, they’re not so beneficial for bees.

Many of these grander blossoms are also hybridized plants. They’re bred not to seed and thus produce very little pollen. Bees keep landing on them, attracted to the bright colors, but won’t get their fill of nectar.

What do the bees like?

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Recommended Seeds: Bee Happy Seed Collection | Bring Home the Butterflies Flower Mix | Medicinal and Herbal Tea Garden Collection

They’re partial to airy umbrellas of flowers (known as umbels) like the ones found on dill, fennel, and Queen Anne’s lace.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

They love to feed on clusters of tiny flowers, such as those on yarrow, lantana, and chives.

Lantana (Lantana camara)

They prefer small, flat flowers they can land and walk on, like cosmos, black-eyed susans, and blanket flowers.

These flowers also happen to attract the widest variety of bees, as it’s just as important to feed mason bees, mining bees, and bumblebees (all your friendly natives) as well as the more-popularized European honeybees.

Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

They also like — no, need — very early bloomers (like dandelions) or very late bloomers (like bergamot) when food sources are generally scarce in the garden.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

In fact, I always encourage gardeners to leave the dandelions on their lawns in early spring, as they provide an important source of food and habitat for pollinators and other wildlife when the landscape is looking bleak those first few weeks.

As you can see, it’s hard to go wrong with a bee garden. But if you want the best, no-fail flowering plants that have proven themselves in my own garden, year after year, here are my top five favorites.

The Best Plants to Grow for Bees

1. Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis) doesn’t make most people’s lists of favorite flowers, but it’s high on mine. The dainty, star-shaped blossoms not only look beautiful, they taste great, too.

Borage is a culinary and medicinal herb that’s usually grown as an annual flower. It’s the most delightful edible plant, with a sweet, refreshing flavor similar to cucumber. I wonder if that’s why the bees can’t get enough of it?

It thrives in full sun, tolerates poor, dry soil, self-seeds readily, and can weather a couple of light frosts. In fact, once you have a crop of borage firmly established in your garden, you’ll likely never need to seed it again. (But it’s easy to keep under control if you don’t want it spreading everywhere.)

Recommended Seeds: Borage | Edible Flower Seeds Variety Pack

The plants grow quite stocky (up to 3 feet tall by 2 feet wide) and sometimes require staking if they become too top-heavy with flowers. They typically bloom from late spring through late summer, with plants in full sun producing the thickest stems and most flowers.

If you only have room to grow one bee-friendly flower in your garden this year, grow borage.

2. Calendula

As another medicinal herb that’s typically grown as an ornamental flower, calendula (Calendula officinalis) is an annual in most climates, and a short-lived perennial in warmer climates (USDA zones 8 through 10).

Calendula is sometimes known as pot marigold or simply, marigold — but should not be confused with marigolds from the genus Tagetes.

Recommended Seeds: Pacific Beauty Blend Calendula | Zeolights Calendula

In herbal medicine, calendula has been used to heal rashes, burns, and wounds, and the flower itself is edible. (Though to be honest, it’s not the most palatable of the edible flowers, with sharp flavors ranging from tangy to peppery to bitter.)

Bees love the plant’s flat, easy landing pads and profusion of pollen- and nectar-rich flowers. Calendula blooms all season long from spring through fall, and even moreso when picked and deadheaded regularly.

Let it reseed freely, and this low-maintenance plant will grow back year after year, even in poor to average soil with only occasional watering.

3. Coneflower

Also known as echinacea, coneflowers are quite distinctive in the garden, with their daisy-like, drooping petals and cone-shaped mounds of tiny flowers at the center of their larger flower heads.

The mounds are basically beacons for bees, which are drawn to the flower’s rich nectaries. One look at echinacea’s spiny blooms and it’s no wonder that its scientific name is derived from the Greek word ekhinos, meaning hedgehog!

Coneflowers are ideal for desert climates, as they’re relatively drought-tolerant and can take the heat. (They’re also said to be somewhat deer-resistant, giving them an edge over other ornamental flowers. Of course, a deer that’s hungry enough will eat just about anything, so…)

Recommended Seeds: Purple Coneflower Echinacea | White Swan Echinacea | Herbal Tea Seeds Variety Pack

Most well-known of the Echinacea species are purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), but they also flower in shades of pink, red, orange, white, and green.

They bloom from July to October and deadheading generally encourages more stems and more flowers, though some varieties are flower-producing machines that keep blooming, even without their spent blossoms removed.

Since they’re perennials, you can cut them down to the ground at the end of the season, and they’ll come back the following spring.

4. Milkweed

Milkweed (Asclepias) is best known for being the host plant and sole food source of the monarch butterfly larvae. (I wrote more about planting milkweed for the monarchs here.)

But milkweed also benefits bees, which love the clusters of little flowers that produce an abundance of nectar even in dry years.

While there are hundreds of milkweed species, four types of milkweed are good all-around choices for gardens in most areas of the country: butterfly weed (A. tuberosa), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), showy milkweed (A. speciosa), and common milkweed (A. syriaca). Collectively, these plants cover the vast majority of climates from USDA zones 3 to 9 as perennials.

Depending on the species and climate, milkweed blooms from mid-spring through early fall. The easy-grow, easy-care plants can reach 2 to 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide, given full sun.

Recommended Seeds: Butterfly Milkweed | Irresistible Blend (Swamp) Milkweed | Showy Milkweed | Common Milkweed

With the exception of swamp milkweed (you can guess what type of environment that one thrives in), milkweed is extremely drought-tolerant and does well in poor to average, dry sandy soil. (Do you see a theme with my favorite bee-friendly flowers yet?)

To help sustain bee and butterfly populations, try planting a couple different varieties of milkweed that are native to your region. (Here’s a great guide to what grows best around the country.)

Mint (Mentha x piperita)

5. The Mint Family

The mint family (Lamiaceae) includes culinary classics like mint (all types, from your everyday peppermint to the more interesting chocolate mint), basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, thyme, savory, and lavender, as well as lesser-known lemon balm and anise hyssop.

These Mediterranean herbs prefer full sun and well-draining soil with poor to moderate fertility, just like their origins. Some are tender perennials while others are grown as annuals; some have upright habits and can be shaped into hedges, while others make resilient creeping ground covers.

Recommended Seeds: Common Mint | Viva la Dolce Vita Bend Basil | Broadleaf Sage | True Greek Oregano | Rosemary | English Thyme | Summer Savory | Winter Savory | Hidcote Blue Lavender | Lemon Balm | Lavender (Anise) Hyssop | Herbal Tea Collection

You likely already have at least one of these herbs growing (if not several), but did you know they’re also some of the best bee-friendly plants to have around?

Pollinators love the constant crop of flowers from April through December, depending on your climate and cultivar.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary, for example, can bloom in late spring to early summer in temperate zones, or from late fall to early winter in warmer zones. (Rosemary also makes you smarter, per science.)

Thyme has one of the longest blooming seasons of any herb, and doesn’t lose flavor once it flowers (so let it flower freely!).

By planting several of these highly aromatic herbs around your yard, you can create a pollinator oasis while reaping many of your own benefits, from seasoning food and steeping tea in the kitchen to companion planting and repelling pests in the garden.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Whichever flowers you choose, be sure to plant at least three different varieties that bloom at different times. That way, you can support a diverse ecosystem of not only bees, but also butterflies, birds, beetles, and other wildlife that depend on plants for food and habitat.

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