Planting for birds and butterflies

Get our list of the flowers and creature comforts winged visitors love most

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  • Garden attractions

    An orange fritillary alights on Adenophora.


  • Plants for birds and butterflies

    Rose-red alstroemeria, orange butterfly weed, golden columbine, and, at rear, cape honeysuckle brighten the wildlife garden at Buena Creek Gardens.

  • Dahlias

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    The Sunset Plant Finder helps you choose the right flowers and plants for your climate and gardening style



Abelia. Evergreen to deciduous shrub. Small bell-shaped blossoms of pink, red, or lilac on graceful, arching branches in summer to early fall. Sun, some shade. Zones vary by species.

Aster. Many kinds and colors (mostly shades of pink to purple), with daisylike blooms. A. x frikartii is one of our favorites; it bears lilac blooms early summer to fall. Sun. Zones 2b-24.

Bluebeard (Caryopteris). Deciduous shrub. Small clusters of blue flowers from midsummer to frost. Sun. Zones vary by species.

Butterfly bush (Buddleja). Shrub. Flowers mostly in shades of purple. Peaks in summer.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). Perennial. Clusters of orange or yellow flowers in summer.

Coreopsis. Perennials and annuals. Profusion of yellow, orange, maroon, or red flowers in spring and summer, depending on species. Sun. Zones vary by species.

Goldenrod (Solidago). Perennial. Large branching clusters of small bright yellow flowers from mid- or late summer into fall. Zones 1-11, 14-23.

Jupiter's beard (Centranthus ruber). Perennial. Flowers of deep crimson to pink and white in dense terminal clusters in late spring, early summer. Sun or partial shade. Zones 2-9, 12-24, H1.

Lantana. Shrub grown as annual in cold climates. Wide range of colors ― lavender to yellow, orange, and white. Long bloom season.

Lavender (Lavandula). Evergreen shrubs. Silvery to green mounds capped with spikes of lavender to purple, pink blooms late spring and summer. Sun. Zones vary by species.

Lilac (Syringa). Deciduous shrubs. Big, flamboyant fragrant flower clusters on branch tips in spring. Light shade in hottest climates. Zones vary by species.

Pincushion flower (Scabiosa). Annuals and perennials. Blue, pink, and white flowers in spring and summer.

Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). Perennial. Pink, white, or orange daisy blooms in summer. Sun. Zones A2, A3, 1-24.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Evergreen shrub. Small blue or white flowers bloom winter through spring. Sun. Zones 4-24, H1, H2.

Shasta daisy (Chrysanthemum maximum). Perennial. Gold-centered, white daisy flowers in summer. Sun. Zones A1-A3, 1-24, H1.

Verbena. Perennials often grown as annual. Purples, pinks, reds. Summer and fall bloom.

Yarrow (Achillea). Perennials. Flat-topped flower clusters in shades of yellow, white, rose, red, and salmon bloom summer and early fall. Sun. Zones A1-A3, 1-24.


Babysitting services. Provide larval-food plants for the butterflies common to your area: milkweed for monarchs, fennel for anise swallowtail, and buckwheat for hairstreaks. Add birdhouses, and set out piles of nesting material for birds: pine needles and small pieces of string.

Dust baths. Birds like their dirt dry. They ruffle their feathers in it to rid themselves of parasites. Set aside a few square feet for them, bordered with rocks or brick, and fill the area with loose, sandy soil.

Mineral water. Butterflies need minerals and salts in their diet as well as sugar. One place they get it from is mud, so give them a permanent puddle. Dig a shallow depression, line it with pebbles, and keep the soil moist.

Tanning salon. Butterflies enjoy basking in the sun. Provide some flat rocks for them in an area protected from the wind by shrubs.

Info:  Buena Creek Gardens (10-4 Thu-Sun; 418 Buena Creek Rd., San Marcos, CA; 760/744-2810)


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