How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Native butterflies are not only a beautiful sight in your garden, they are also important pollinators of native plants.  If you want to attract native butterflies to your garden, you need to make sure you have a mix of host plants for the larva stage to feed on and nectar plants for the adult stage to feed on.  Native butterflies are unfortunately disappearing due to habitat loss. 

There are around 40 species of butterflies in or near Perth. They vary in size from small ones with a wingspan of less than 2cm to a large wingspan of 9cm. Some butterflies are best identified by seeing the underside of the wings rather than the top.

 

 

Lesser Wanderer photo by Sue Hauri-Downing
Australian Painted Lady photo by Ange @splendour.inthe.garden

Below are some of the butterflies you may be lucky enough to see around Perth and the host plants you can plant to attract them include:

Meadow Argus
(Junonia villida)

 

  • Woolly Bush (Adenanthos sericeus)
  • Slender Goodenia (Goodenia filiformis)
  • Scaevola spp

Saltbush Blue

(Theclinesthes serpentata)

 

  • Coast Saltbush (Atriplex isatidea)
  • Grey Saltbush (Atriplex cinerea)
  • Berry Saltbush (Rhagodia baccata)

Western Bitterbush Blue

(Theclinesthes Hesperia)

  • Bitter-bush (Adriana quadripartita)

Western Jewel

(Hypochrysops halyaetus)

 Found north of Perth in Banksia woodlands. They are also attended by ants (Crenatigaster perthensis).

  • Stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana)
  • Rattlepods like Marno (Daviesia divaricate)
  •  White stemmed wattle (Acacia xanthina)

 

Australian Painted Lady

(Vanessa kershawi)

  • Fragrant Waitzia (Waitzia saveolens)
  • Swan River Daisy (Brachyscome iberidifolia)
  • Blue Lace Flower / Rottnest Island Daisy (Trachymene coerulea)
  • Chenille Honeymyrtle (Melaleuca huegelii)
  • Grasstree (Xanthorrhoea preissii)

Pea-blue

(Lampides boeticus)

 

  • Flame Pea (Chorizema cordatum)
  • Running postman (Kennedia prostrata)
  • Stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana)
  • Broad-leaved Brown Pea (Bossiaea ornate)
  • Rottnest Tea Tree (Melaleuca lanceolata)

Icilius Blues

(Jalmenus icilius)

Becoming rare still sighted in near Mundaring Weir

  • Golden Wattle (Acacia pynantha)
  • Golden Wreath Wattle (Acacia saligna)

 

Inous Blue

(Jalmenus inous)

Becoming rare still sighted in Mandurah

  •  Golden Wreath Wattle (Acacia saligna)
  •  Golden Wattle (Acacia pynantha)

 

Fringed blue

(Neolucia Agricola)

  • Daviesia cordata
  • Bookleaf Pea (Daviesia decurrens)
  • Prickly Bitter-pea (Daviesia divaricate)
  • Marno (Daviesia physodes)
  • Stinkwood (Jacksonia sternbergiana)

Common Brown

(Heteronympha merope)

  • Kangaroo grass (Themeda triandra)
  • Weeping grass (Microlaena stipoides)
Meadow Argus photo by @rewildingsuburbia
Meadow Argus photo by @rewildingsuburbia
Western Jewel Butterfly photo by Mary and Peter Ball

Other introduced species you may also see include the Monach butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and the White Cabbage butterfly (Pieris rapae). In addition to planting host plants, you can also plant nectar plants for the adult butterflies to feed on. Flat open flowering plants make it easy for butterflies to extract nectar. In addition to the plants listed above, suggestions of plant species suited to a range of butterflies are included below:

Grasses and sedges: 
  • Lomandrasp
  • Poa poiformis
  • Carex species
  • Coast spear-grass (Austrostipa flavescens)
  • Feather spear-grass (Austrostipa elegantissima)
Trees and large shrubs: 
  • Acacias (Acacia cyclops, Acacia lasiocalyxm Acacia lasiocarpa)
  • Sheoaks (Allocasuarinasp)
  • Eucalyptus species
  • Tea Trees (Leptospermum)
Ground Covers and climbers: 
  • Native Wisteria (Hardenbergia comptoniana)
  • Native Violet (Viola hederacea),
  • Clematis species
Shrubs: 
  • Bossaiea species
  • Bottlebrushes (Callistemon)
  • Hop Goodenia (Goodenia ovata)
  • Hakea species
  • Blueberry Tree (Myopoum insulare)
  • Rice Flower (Pimelea ferruginea)
  • Green Carpet (Grevillea crithmifolia)
  • Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum)
  • Banksia species
  • Bush Peas (Pultenaeareticulata)
  • Australian Bluebell (Billardiera fusiformis)
  • Waldjumi (Jacksonia sericea)
  • Prickle lily (Acanthocarpus preissii)
Satin Azure photo by Michelle Davies
Western Xenica photo by Michelle Davies

These plants are best sourced from a native nursery, find one near you using this link.  They should be able to assist you with matching plants that are suited to your soil type. Other things you can do to encourage butterflies to your garden include:

  1. Make sure your butterfly attracting plants are in a sunny spot as butterflies like early morning sunshine to warm themselves and retreat to cooler, shadier places during the heat of the day.  Butterflies are delicate and do not like too much wind, so a spot that is fairly sheltered and protected, but gets a fair bit of sun is ideal.
  2. Mass planting of flowering plants, especially blue, yellow and red flowering plants are especially attractive to butterflies and make it easy for them to move through.
  3. Adding a few flat rocks to the garden will give butterflies a place to rest and warm up in the sun. 
  4. As much as they love sunshine, butterflies also need moisture so adding a shallow dish of muddy water in a sunny spot will attract them too. Some butterflies will suck water and nutrients from the muddy water. Another option is spreading sand in an open area of a flowerbed and adding a mineral block (sometimes known as a cow lick) in the middle.  Rain and dew will leach the minerals from the block into the surrounding soil for the butterflies to feed on.
  5. Butterflies also like small nooks where they can hide from predators in summer and stay protected in winter. Their preference is natural habitats such as hollow logs, stones with cracks in them, loose bark or a stack of firewood.
  6. Avoid using poisonous pesticides and products containing Bacillus thuringiensis.

 

If you are interested in finding out what butterflies are found near you, check out iNauralist and remember to record any species you see in you garden too.  The Western Australian Museum is also worth a visit to see the gallery that displays examples of almost all of the 113 Western Australian species.  

Orange Palm Dart photo by Todd Montgomery
Monach photo by Michelle Davies
Monach photo by Michelle Davies
Two-spotted line-blue photo by Michelle Davies
Jacksonia sternbergiana photo by Michelle Davies

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Lisa Edwards

Founding Director

Lisa Bio

Our Founder

Lisa is an Environmental Scientist who has worked for 20 years primarily managing Threatened Species and Communities in Western Australia. She has also helped manage the planting of 4.2 million trees in WA’s Wheatbelt to help tackle salinity, biodiversity loss and climate change. 

Her time at Western Power gave her a thorough understanding of our amazing biodiversity and urban ecology and it also inspired her to find ways to support what we have and help halt the decline.

Lisa started WA Loves Nature, a not for profit organisation, with Leanne Salter Jones, so that they could showcase our amazing urban biodiversity and inspire and educate people on ways to support it. To achieve this they developed urban nature trails that show existing biodiversity as well as highlight it through the use of street art, murals and sculpture. The trails are bought to life with the WA Loves Nature’s App that features augmented reality, videos and sound.

Their mission is to have a nature trail in all West Australian metropolitan areas and country towns.

Lisa’s key skills include:

  • Urban ecology and its management
  • Threatened species management
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Community education
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