Flutter Color

How To Plan Your Garden

The ideal butterfly and hummingbird garden offers a variety of color for your enjoyment and a variety of nectar plants to attract and feed your winged visitors. Plant in masses of five or more plants with similar color blooms. Look for different heights, complementary colors and a wide range of blooming times to ensure the best and longest-lasting show.

Garden Basics

SEASON: Select a variety of nectar-producing plants with the aim of providing flowers in bloom throughout the season. When planting perennials, plan a continuous sequence of color so your garden is never completely out of bloom. Use annual plants to add season-specific splashes of color.

SUN EXPOSURE: Most butterfly- and hummingbird- attracting plants demand full sun, at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, though protection from afternoon sun is desirable in hotter climates. Be sure to check the light requirements for each variety you select.

Butterflies prefer warm, sunny locations — in fact, they demand sunlight. As cold-blooded creatures, butterflies do not generate enough heat themselves to enable them to fly. They must start each day by basking in the sun to warm themselves to a sufficient flying temperature. A garden area that gets plenty of morning sun is ideal.

Hummingbirds, on the other hand, need a variety of shaded and sunny areas. Vines, shrubs and trees provide suitable full- and partial-shade areas for nesting and perching. Nectar-rich flowers planted in full-sun areas nearby complete a total hummingbird habitat.

PLANT SPACING: Plant your garden in natural clusters and groups rather than rows. For these mass plantings, fill the area with three or four varieties of plants, spaced close together to create a bold, dramatic effect. Such masses offer plenty of shelter for butterflies and hummingbirds and create the visual interest to draw them near. Keep your garden neat but loosely natural-looking. Each plant’s tag will have spacing requirements on it.


Butterflies tend to gravitate toward purples and masses of yellow flowers, but simply choose colors you like and the butterflies will tend to agree with you. Butterflies prefer tubular, fragrant flowers.

Hummingbirds favor red, but a successful hummingbird garden might also include orange-red, orange or pink. Hummingbirds also prefer tubular flowers, but those without fragrance.

Massing 5 or more flowers of similar colors create the most attractive gardens. Use these color masses to redefine areas of your landscape.

Many gardeners like to choose colors based on the color wheel. Here’s how it works:

  1. Choose related colors, those next to each other on the color wheel, to create a color scheme that provides a dramatic, massed appearance.
  2. Choose complementary colors, those opposite each other on the color wheel, to create a garden that demands attention.
  3. Choose a mixture of colors from across the color wheel to create a natural blend of flower colors.

Ideal Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden

Create the ideal garden by providing nectar-rich flowers that bloom from spring through fall. By staggering your garden’s bloom time you can attract visitors for months! Plant in masses (5 or more) of similar color blooms to draw the butterflies’ and hummingbirds’ attention. Stair-stepping your garden from taller upright plants toward the back of the garden, then medium mounding plants in the middle, and finally, low trailing plants in the front, creates an aesthetically pleasing garden for you and your winged visitors. And don’t forget to provide a few woody vines, shrubs or trees for the hummingbirds.

  1. Upright Plants

    Upright plants produce vertical branching which exceeds the length of their horizontal branching. Here are a few great examples of upright, butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting plants:

    • Royal Red Butterfly Bush
      (Bloom Time: Summer)
    • Cardinal Flower
      (Bloom TIme: Summer-Fall)
  2. Mounding Plants

    Mounding plants grow both vertically and horizontally, creating a rounded appearance. Here are a few great examples of mounding, butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting plants:

    • Impatiens
      (Bloom Time: Summer - Fall)
    • Petite Delight Bee Balm
      (Bloom Time: Summer)
  3. Trailing Plants

    Trailing plants produce horizontal growth with little or no strongly upright branches. Here are a few great examples of trailing, butterfly- and hummingbird-attracting plants:

    • Gold Marie Bidens
      (Bloom Time: Spring - Fall)
    • Crimson Beauty Moss Phlox
      (Bloom TIme: Spring)