Written by Kara M.
As much as we care for our outdoor plants and flowers, we can’t take all the credit when they grow and thrive. We need some of our tiniest neighbors – pollinators – to help our plants out. The first creature that comes to mind at the mention of pollen might be the honeybee. While these insects are vitally important to our ecosystem, and need to be protected, they aren’t the only one that can help our plants flourish.
Not only are hummingbirds and butterflies beautiful and exciting to watch; they’re also important pollinators for our gardens. If we provide them with the right food – nectar from certain flowers – they’ll in turn pollinate our flowers and help them to grow. Plus, if you’re lucky, they might put on a show in your yard, as they buzz, float, and fly from plant to plant. Here are some plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, as well as a couple of tips to entice them to your garden.
When trying to attract butterflies, there are two things to consider. First, adult butterflies will be looking for nectar, so it’s important to have flowers that will entice them. Some surefire varieties are:
The coneflower, with its daisy-like flowers and sweet-smelling nectar, is a favorite of butterflies. This low-maintenance perennial can reach about two feet in height and can live for up to a decade. While it comes in a variety of colors, we are partial to the Sombrero Adobe Orange Coneflower. Its vibrant orange flowers are striking and stand out from the crowd in the best way.
With a name like this, it’s no wonder butterflies find the butterfly bush simply irresistible. This compact plant is fast-growing and can reach about four feet in height at maturity. It should be grown in full sunlight, and is very adaptable regarding moisture, soil type, and urban pollution. We particularly favor the Monarch Blue Knight variety for its picturesque cones of tiny, bright purple flowers that stand out against its deep green leaves.
Second, there are some plants that are well-suited to hosting eggs and caterpillars as they develop. Caterpillars will eat these plants as the mature into full-grown butterflies. Here are a couple of plants that are especially well-suited for caterpillars:
Red Butterfly Milkweed
Did you know that milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on? It’s also the only plant the caterpillars eat until forming their beautiful green chrysalis. In addition, this particular variety, with its tiny red and gold flowers also attracts hummingbirds! The red butterfly milkweed grows best in full sun to partial shade and can be expected to reach about three feet in height.
Blue Danube Aster
Caterpillars love asters, and we love the blue Danube variety because of its abundance of showstopping sky blue or light purple flowers with unique and whimsical white centers. This evergreen perennial grows at a medium rate, is relatively low maintenance, and lives on average about eight years. It grows best in full sunlight and should be watered daily in the heat of the summer. Additionally, the flowers are excellent for cutting, and look beautiful in floral arrangements.
To supplement the flowers in your garden and further entice butterflies to visit or take up residence in your yard, there are a few other things you can provide. Butterflies like sunny, open spaces where they can sun their wings. Placing some flat stones or rocks around your garden or in your yard can provide them with the perfect place to rest and soak up the sun. Additionally, they need fresh water. Installing a bird bath can provide them with a place to access water throughout their travels.
Not only are hummingbirds prolific pollinators, but they’re also fascinating to watch. The way they seem to hover in the air can be captivating. In order for hummingbirds to take up residence in your yard, you’ll need to provide them with a few basic necessities like food, shelter, and water.
Their food, of course, is the nectar from various flowers. Because they don’t have a very developed sense of smell, hummingbirds often choose their food sources based on color. They are attracted to bright colors, and especially the color red. They enjoy water, as well, whether from a bird bath, a sprinkler, or the nozzle of a hose. Ideally, they’d also like some space between plants so they have room to zip from plant to plant, as well as some shaded areas. Here are a couple of their very favorite plants:
The hollyhock is a gorgeous, towering plant that flaunts large, vibrant, and impressive flowers in the summer. Their bright pink hue is sure to attract hummingbirds. It should be noted that this plant is somewhat high maintenance. It needs to be grown in full sunlight and should be watered frequently so that it doesn’t dry out. It can reach about six feet when fully in bloom, with a spread of about a foot and a half. The weight of the flowers can be too much for the stalks, which may need to be staked or supported.
The many varieties of daylilies all offer beautiful, fragrant blooms in a variety of colors. We tend to favor the Stella de Oro variety because of its bright, sunshine-yellow flowers. This dense plant grows at a medium pace and will reach about 18 inches in height when in bloom. It prefers full sun to partial shade but should grow well and without issue in most traditional garden settings. Its sweet nectar makes it a favorite of hummingbirds.
Our gardens, in a way, can function as a microcosm of the world at large. As much care and time as we put into our flowers and plants, they don’t exist in a vacuum, and neither do we. Just as our success and survival often depends, at least tangentially, on the actions of others, so does the survival of our plants. Our flowers can’t survive without the help of pollinators like butterflies and hummingbirds. In turn, butterflies and hummingbirds can’t survive without flowers, plants, and other reliable sources of nectar. By planting the flowers from this list in your garden, you’re offering your pollinator neighbors in nature a gift and a resource. In return, they will give you the gift of helping to keep your garden healthy, growing, and thriving.
We hope that you’ll find some flowers that not only make your garden irresistibly beautiful, but also attract a variety of beautiful butterflies, caterpillars, and hummingbirds to your yard. Until next time, happy planting, and happy butterfly and bird watching, green thumbs!
Do you like what you see? Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get content like this every week!