What can I plant to attract butterflies in my garden?
There are many kinds of butterflies, and many of them have very specific favorite foods. In general, to attract butterflies to your yard, you will need a forage source, a nectar source, water, sunshine, and shelter. For monarch butterflies, you will want to grow types of milkweed. There are several that will extend the bloom time, green antelope horn milkweed blooms early (Asclepias viridus) Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), and many other native species.
See http://oces.okstate.edu/canadian/horticulture/milkweed-guidebook-final-reduced.pdf/ for the varieties of milkweed in our state. Swallowtail butterflies prefer dill, fennel, parsley, and rue. Gulf Fritillary butterflies will devour passion vine. Many of the butterflies will feed on nectar from a variety of blooming plants. Favorites seem to be lantana, vitex, coreopsis, yarrow, purple cone flower, salvias, zinnias, and many more. Single bloom types make it easier for the butterflies to land and feed on the flatter blooms. Annuals and perennials both can provide this nectar source.
A water source, even a simple as wet sand or a damp spot in the garden, is needed for these pollinators. Another option is a shallow dish with gravel, rocks, or sand. This needs to be balanced with plenty of sunshine and a little shelter from the wind will make it more inviting to both you and the butterflies. Avoiding or limiting chemicals is necessary as well.
There are many resources available about butterfly gardens. We have several OSU Fact Sheets to help: HLA-6430, EPP-7155, as well as a web page on our web site, Pottawatomie County OSU Extension under the Horticulture tab, where you can find several links to information.
Thanks to all who came by our Multi-County Master Gardener's plant sale to support the butterfly garden and projects! There is a local upcoming Monarch Butterfly and Pollinator Conservation Program at CPN South Reunion Hall at 10 am on May 29th. You must register by May 23. We have posted details to our web site and Facebook, or you can give us a call.