Inviting all butterflies: Create an oasis

Landscape Design

Inviting all butterflies: Create an oasis

By Kaitlin Johnson | April 7, 2017

It is no coincidence that every time you see a butterfly, a smile stretches across your face. They are exquisite flutters of color that glide flower to flower-pollinating plants around them. If you find yourself wanting to invite butterflies into your garden, keep reading to find out what trees and shrubs they are attracted to!

Butterflies feel welcome almost anywhere, but only if you know what they are looking for – sources of food, shelter and water. Trees and shrubs bear fruit, nuts and berries while also offering shelter and breeding places.

The best way to attract butterflies to your garden is to start with a variety of flowering and fruit trees and shrubs. We recommend choosing a mixture of both prolific bloomers and those that have a long bloom time. Butterflies attracted to the following recommendations include American lady, silvery blue, zebra swallowtail, Compton tortoiseshell, and northern pearly eye- some containing more specific species.

sweetbay mag

zebra swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail by Shenandoah National Park

In spring, sweetbay magnolias produce a profusion of creamy white flowers that carry a light lemon scent. Working well as a patio tree, it flowers best in full sun exposure and yields clusters of red fruit. Sweetbay magnolias attract different types of butterflies such as the tiger and zebra swallowtail.

eastern redbud

silvery blue

Silvery Blue by Brad Smith

Many butterflies visit the eastern redbud because it is one of the earliest trees to bloom in the spring. A few species that are drawn to it include silvery blue, zebra swallowtail and dreamy duskywing. Its nectar and pollen attract butterflies necessary for a small healthy orchard or a vegetable garden.

pink dogwood


White Admiral by Brad Smith

The pink dogwood blooms in April and May and produces a glossy red fruit that ripen in the fall. The blossoms attract butterflies such as the American snout, white admiral and banded hairstreak.

american lady

American Lady by John Flannery

‘Blue Chip’ is one of the many butterfly bushes but has some unique characteristics – namely its noninvasive behavior and compact size. Sweetly scented flowers continuously bloom from midsummer through fall-attracting all types of butterflies like the American Lady. This butterfly bush is perfect for landscaping along a pathway, too.

Butterflies such as the American lady and King’s hairstreak love sassafras trees because of its fragrant leaves resembling a root beer scent. The root and bark of the tree were once used as a spring tonic, it’s no wonder butterflies love it. The tree can grow as high as 40 feet.

Welcome these lovely friends into your garden by offering what they need. Visit the Arbor Day Foundation’s Tree Nursery to find more variety of trees and shrubs, perfect for your butterfly oasis.

Read the Top 10 Flowering Trees bought from the Arbor Day Tree Nursery.

ButterfliesLandscape DesignTrees for Butterflies



Kaitlin Johnson

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