Bird and butterfly garden planning

Now is a good time to do some planning to make your yard and garden more attractive to birds and butterflies. For many of us spring is still a distant dream though for some it will be there soon. There is nothing more enjoyable than watching a hungry hummingbird sipping nectar from a plant in our garden or a beautiful butterfly that found a place to rest in our yard.

Just as we are more likely to spend more time in a location that provides for our creature needs–food; drink; a place that provides some comfort, protection from the elements and safety–so too are birds and butterflies more likely to spend more time with us if we provide for their needs.    Whether they are stopping by during migration or staying to produce offspring, birds and butterflies need good sources of food, water and habitat.

There are some great resources on the internet from non-profit organizations that provide a lot of helpful information for making our yards more bird and butterfly friendly (and don’t forget the need for bee-friendly yards):

Do you have plans to improve your yard to attract birds, butterflies and bees?

  1. Brenda Tripp says

    Planted in my gardens are: Red honeysuckle, verbenas, four o’clocks, pink spider lily, red spider lily, tuberoses, zinnia, lots of hostas, daylily, daffodils, hibiscus, bearded tongue, joe pye, daisies, coneflowers, liatris, celosia, cleome, cosmos, sunflowers, butterfly weed, milk weed, fennel, morning glory, portulacca, mums, corn flowers, red blooming yucca, yucca, red lady slipper, butterfly bushes, canas, and more. Can you think of any specific flower, that I have not mentioned, that really attracts the hummingbirds? I have lots of butterflys, but not as many hummingbirds as I would like to attract to the plantings.

    What is the purple blooming plant tht you show with the hummingbird? Perhaps a type of sage?

    • Lynne Lamp says

      Brenda, I recognize the plant as one of many types of salvia. There are some that are annuals, like the Red Hot Salvia I purchased many years ago, and some are perennials. The annual puts out wonderful seed and comes back every year, ALL over the garden. They get to be about 3 feet tall and have blooms top to bottom of the stems. When dried down in the fall, I pull the plants and run my hand down the stems to remove the seeds. Most often, I just let them winter over in the flower bed. They might bloom earlier if started in the house and planted as plants. Mine don’t usually start to grow and bloom until late July and then continue until frost here in west central Iowa. We have hummers, butterflies and clearwings.

    • Nancy Cooper says

      You might have to resort to supplementing with feeders at first. Hummers like anything red and preferably with a trumpet shape…Trumpet vine, red geraniums, butterfly bush, have worked well for me. If you can get a hold of a Gurney’s catalog, they have the plants coded with a picture of a butterfly, hummingbird or both. If you are in an area that has deer, watch for the code that it is deer resistant as well.

    • says

      Hi Brenda,

      The plant in my first photo above is an agastache (also called Hyssop). The one I have is a cultivar of an agastache native to New Mexico (only a hundred miles from me) and Arizona so not appropriate for most areas of the U.S. There are a number of other species of agastache that are recommended for other states that can be found at the site.

      Since you did not note where you live it is not possible to make any recommendations for plants to attract hummingbirds since it is best to use those that are native, or at least almost native (native nearby or cultivar of natives), to the area.

    • Cynthia Habura says

      I live in the Chicago west burbs (z 5). The best plant I have found for hummingbirds is Monarda, bee balm. I have a red cultivar and I know there are colors that range from pale pink/lavender to scarlet red, with various heights. They do “drink” from the annual Cardinal Climber vine or Cypress vine that I grow from seed each year, but that doesn’t usually bloom till late summer, early fall. The herb, pineapple sage, is another good red tubular flower, but again, it blooms very late Sept. here. I use feeders as well, but they seem to like the monarda better anyway!

    • D. Herbster says

      I find the lucifer crocosmia to be a magnet for humming birds. Another attraction for the hummers are sunflowers they go into the center between the seed to get the insects. You might also consider a cardinal plant that seems to attract them in my yard. I didn’t see you mention salvia another major attraction for the hummers. While salvia come in both annual and preannual types go with the annual as they don’t seem to care for the preannual type. The two I use every year are called lady in red salvia though many garden centers now call it humming bird red and the other one is called black and blue salvia. The last one I will mention is agastass ( I’m sure that isn’t spelled right ) but the hummers sure do like it.

  2. Janet Watson says

    Butterflies: Betony-leaf Mistflower. The plant I saw last year at Lady Bird Johnson’s was COVERED in butterflies!

    Sorry I couldn’t help you with the hummingbirds.

    • says

      Hello Janet,
      The Betony-leaf Mistflower is recommended as a host flower for butterflies by the website but it is native only to Texas. Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is located in Texas that is likely why it was covered in butterflies. Plants that are native to a state and to a specific ecosystem (for this flower “Native Habitat: Dunes, roadsides, edges of woods. “) are best grown in those areas.

      The National Wildlife Federation website states, ” Because many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for survival and reproduction, it is particularly important to install native flowering plants local to your geographic area. Native plants provide butterflies with the nectar or foliage they need as adults and caterpillars. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has lists of recommended native plants by region and state.”

      So your best bet for attracting butterflies, and birds, as well as providing adequately for their needs is to look for plants that are native to your area.

  3. says

    Brenda, I think the specific agastache in that photo is “Ava” It’s THE favorite hummingbird plant in our garden, and monarch butterflies also nectar from it right before the migration.

    I like a blended garden filled with natives and non-invasive exotic plants. I have 7 species of milkweed and the monarchs use all of them at different points in the season. Keeps our garden quite busy! Tony

  4. says

    Hello Tony,
    Actually my agastache shown in the photo above is a Agastache rupestris, called Sunset Hyssop As I noted above, it is a cultivar that is native to New Mexico and Arizona.. The Agastache ‘Ava’ which is a hybrid between Agastache cana and Agastache barberi. Agastache cana has a similar narrow native range (New Mexico and Texas) while Agastache barberi (which is synonymous with Agastache pallida (pale giant hyssop) is native only to Arizona.

  5. Amanda Deloach says

    Butterflies love butterfly bushes of course and I plant Lantana it comes in a variety of colors and comes back year after year and gets bigger and bigger every year. I am in GA.

  6. Marianne Biery says

    I make my own hummingbird food with water and sugar boiled, a ratio of 1 part of sugar to 4 parts of water. Is it o.k. to color the sirrup with red food coloring? I read somewhere that adding the red food coloring was bad for the birds.

  7. Betty Yerico says

    I noticed how the hummers like my cora bells, which are small flowers, on top of a long stem.
    Wish I could stop them from fighting over the feeders.

    • says

      Hi Betty,
      It can help to place your feeders in different parts of your yard, especially locations where they cannot be seen from one location. When the hummer-on-guard can’t see another hummer on a distant feeder, it can’t zip down to engage it right away.

      Coral Bells can be a great choice for hummers. Interestingly it is one of the American Beauties that I just posted about in my follow-up to this one, ‘Growing Native Plants.’


  1. […] wanted to provide some resources for growing native plants to go along with my recent blog Bird and butterfly garden planning. One very useful website I just found is This website has a wealth of information […]

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