Green Thumb: How to Plant a Butterfly or Honeybee Garden

One of my favorite things about spending time in my garden is seeing a beautiful little butterfly floating by on the breeze. I also love spotting honeybees among my flowers since I know they are such an important part of our ecosystem. I was surprised to learn recently that honeybees pollinate one-third of the world’s food supply! And since honeybee populations are disappearing, it’s so important that we take care to keep them around.

Since I love seeing them so much, I decided to do a little research into what plants attract butterflies and honeybees. Keep in mind that different plants grow better in different climates, so you will want to look into which of these plants will grow best in your area. Here are some tips for turning your garden into a butterfly or honeybee habitat…

Butterfly Garden

To create a butterfly habitat in your yard you will need to plant both the nectar plants that attract adult butterflies and the plants that caterpillars like to eat. Many butterfly plants at the garden store are labeled “butterfly friendly” to make shopping even easier. Planting a wide range of butterfly friendly plants (instead of just one or two) is the best way to attract a wide variety of species. Butterflies are cold-blooded and therefore like a lot of direct sunlight. Having flat stones in the sun provides a nice place for butterflies to bask. However, it is also beneficial to have trees or shrubs in your yard that will provide shade for the butterflies when it gets too hot. Choosing shady shrubs that double as caterpillar food will make good use of your space. Lastly, butterflies do need a small amount of water in addition to the nectar, dew, and sap that they drink. Consider having a sandy puddling station or a fountain for your butterflies.

Top butterfly plants include: anise, aster, bee balm, black-eyed susan, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, coreopsis, fennel, heliotrope, hyssop, joe pye weed, lantana, Mexican sunflower, passionflower, pentas, phlox, purple coneflower, salvia, South American verbena, swamp milkweed, zinnia

Top caterpillar plants include: alfalfa, carrot, clovers, cottonwood, deerweed, dill, fennel, hollyhock, milkweed, parsley, snapdragons, sunflowers, thistle

Honeybee Garden

Having honeybees in your garden is a great thing since they will pollinate your flowers, providing you with beautiful blooms, fruits, seeds, and veggies. If you want to attract bees to your yard, fill it with flowering plants instead of a large expanse of grass. Stick to flowers with a single row of petals, since those are the ones that provide the most nectar. Make sure to leave the flowers on the plants, instead of pinching them off like you might normally do with broccoli or basil. It also helps to have different flowers that bloom in sequence, so that your honeybees aren’t going hungry during part of the year. Like butterflies, honeybees also need access to fresh drinking water, so consider a birdbath or simply filling a shallow container with water, plus sticks and stones for the bees to land on.

Top honeybee plants include: asters, basil, bee balm, borage, calendula, clovers, cosmos, crocus, dandelion, echinacea, foxglove, goldenrod, honeysuckle, hosta, hyacinth, lavender, milkweed, oregano, sage, sedum, snapdragons, sunflowers, thyme, wild lilac, witch hazel, zinnias; any type of wildflower or fruit tree

It also goes without saying that you want to keep your garden pesticide-free if you’d like these helpful insects to stick around. Keep in mind that backyard chemicals are very toxic to bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, along with the pesky ones.

Are you going to plant a butterfly or honeybee garden?

Even a small container garden or window box will do the trick if you plant the right things.

XO Lauren 

Photos: @LaurenConrad via Instagram, @LaurenConrad via Instagram
Sources: NABA Butterfly, Better Homes and Gardens, The Butterfly Site, NWF, Honeybee Conservancy, Beverly Bees