If you plant it, they will come. That is the take-home message for gardeners trying to attract butterflies to their yards in Arizona.
The butterflies are already here. In his book Butterflies of the Southwest, butterfly expert James P. Brock writes that we have over 300 butterfly species in our region. If you choose plants they like, you’ll attract them in droves. Below are three of my favorites:
- Blue Mist (Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Dark Knight’)—This rounded shrub has aromatic lance-shaped green leaves. But what draws the butterflies are the sprays of deep-blue flowers in summer. This 3x4-foot drought-tolerant shrub is excellent at attracting Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) butterflies to your garden.
- Woolly butterfly bush (Buddleja marrubifolia)—True to its name, the soft leaves of the woolly butterfly bush are covered with silver fuzz and attract butterflies. The 5x5-foot evergreen shrub is a workhorse in the garden; it tolerates heat, cold, intense sunlight and drought. Its globe-shape orange flowers aren’t garishly showy, unless you happen to be a Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly (Battus philenor), which visits the woolly butterfly bush frequently for nectar.
- Boneset (Concoclinium greggii)—A magnet for Queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus), boneset’s fuzzy lavender flowers create a flutter of activity during the warm months. Cut back this low-growing perennial in late spring and periodically deadhead in summer to keep the flowers and Queens coming. Provide boneset with moderate irrigation for best summer appearance.