To attract butterflies, a garden should contain colorful plants that produce nectar and offer places where they can form their cocoons. Mature butterflies are most attracted to gardens with plants that will supply food for young caterpillars.
Since native plants evolved in the same geographic areas as local butterflies, native plants supply the nectar and foliage adult butterflies need. Butterflies are attracted to certain colors, so the garden should contain red, yellow, orange, pink and purple flowers. These flowers should have flat tops or be clustered and have short tubes, so the butterflies can reach the nectar. Adult butterflies feed in the sunlight, so plants intended for their use should be planted in direct sun. Staggered planting can assure that there are always blooms available for the butterflies during their entire life cycles.
Butterflies need to rest in the sunlight in order to warm their wings for flight, so the garden should have some flat stones placed in sunlight. Each species of butterfly caterpillar feeds on certain foods, so planting food that supports these species helps bring butterflies to the garden. Butterflies also drink water and extract minerals from puddles, so creating a space for mud or wet sand attracts them.