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How to Grow a Butterfly-friendly Garden

  • 2 min read

Butterflies are a good sign that your garden ecosystem is blooming! Butterflies are essential in our environment as they pollinate plants, and bring lizards and birds to your garden.
South-west Australia has few native butterfly species and their numbers are under threat from habitat loss. Planting the right plants and flowers can help conserve our butterflies, as well as many other native animals and insects.

butterfly on pink flower

Encouraging Butterflies into your Urban Garden in Perth

Butterflies and caterpillars need warmth to stay active, so butterfly-friendly gardens should be in a sunny spot. You can enhance your garden with stepping stones or rocks on which butterflies can sunbathe to get heat from above and below. Larger shrubs with dense foliage can help to provide butterflies with shelter from wind and rain.

Understanding the Life of a Butterfly

Butterflies have four stages in their development from egg to caterpillar to a pupa or chrysalis stage, before they emerge as a butterfly. You need to provide different food sources and habitat for each stage.

butterfly on pink flower

Butterflies drink their nutrients in the form of nectar. Flowers with easily accessible nectar and 'landing pads' that make it easy for butterflies to balance are ideal. These include flowers with a shallow tubular shape, daisies, or flowers that bloom in clusters or umbels. Colour is also important, with yellow, purple, orange, red and pastels all attractive to butterflies.

marigold flowers


Suitable nectar-rich flowers that butterflies will enjoy include:

  • Everlasting daisies
  • Alyssum
  • Ageratum
  • Candytuft
  • Verbena
  • Asters
  • Marigold
  • Forget me not
  • Echinacea
  • Zinnia
  • Butterfly bush
butterfly on zinnia flower

Caterpillars: When the caterpillar emerges from the egg they need to feed, so you may have a few chewed leaves! However, the plants that caterpillars feed on are often different to those nectar plants from which butterflies feed. So it’s important to provide food and shelter for caterpillars.

Butterflies look for a safe place to lay eggs and soft leaves for newly hatched caterpillars to eat. Suitable host plants can include grasses, reeds, eucalyptus, wattle, hardenbergia, running postman, stinging nettle, daisies and even some weed species.
Warmth: To stay active, butterflies and caterpillars need warmth. If you don’t have a garden in full sun, then add warmth with areas of stepping stones, gravel paths, and paving.
Chemical free: Building up the natural bio-controls in your garden will help you to avoid using chemicals and non-organic fertilisers that can harm caterpillars and butterflies.

Puddling: Butterflies access water via shallow puddles or moist soil. Water doesn’t just provide hydration for butterflies; it is also their source of essential minerals including calcium and potassium.

Beautiful butterflies you might see in your Perth garden:

  • Western Jewel (Hypochrysops halyaetus)
  • Australian Painted Lady (Vanessa kershawi)
  • Wedge Grass Skipper (Anisynta sphenosema)
  • Monarch (Danaus plexippus)
  • Pea-blue (Lampides boeticus)
  • White-banded Grass-dart (Taractrocera papyria papyria)
  • Spotted Jezebel (Delias aganippe)

Native Plants for a butterfly friendly garden:

  • Western Australian Golden Wattle (Acacia saligna)
  • Green Stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana)
  • Green Carpet (Grevillea crithmifolia)
  • Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum)
  • Rice Flower (Pimelea ferruginea)
  • Red-eyed Wattle (Acacia cyclops)
  • Coast spear-grass (Austrostipa flavescens)
  • Feather spear-grass (Austrostipa elegantissima)
  • Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia sp.)

Butterflies are a joy to have in the garden, bringing colour and movement. We'd love to know which plants the butterflies enjoy in your garden. Leave a comment below or reach out to us on social media.

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