Whereas honey bees tend to gravitate to all the blossoming fruit trees in the yard, butterflies are attracted to a wide variety of other flower types.
The Canadian Tiger Swallowtail is one that I will specifically mention, as they are quite abundant and are attracted to crabapple trees and trembling aspen, yet you will most often see them on dandelion. A domestic crabapple tree takes up a lot of space in your yard though, so people will mostly notice these magnificent yellow and black striped beauties on other varieties of flowers. Coneflowers and Zinnia are excellent attracters of most butterflies.
Butterfly bushes are definitely my favourite choice, as their deep purple or blue spikes of flowers shoot straight into the air in every direction, just daring passing butterflies to come and sip their nectar. These bushes can grow to around 6 feet tall and at least that in circumference, so place them in a larger space than most other bushes. Cut them to about 8 inches from the ground in late fall. Although these plants are fairly hardy, I think they will stand up against our long cold winters much better if the base is mulched after flowering stops. Keep in mind that there are different varieties, so ask your Garden centre which will do better in our climate. Lilac tree flowers, although only available in early spring are guaranteed to attract butterflies of most varieties.
I have seen butterflies attracted to climbing vines that flower such as Clematis, yet have not had more success than with a honeysuckle vine growing up the front of a garden shed. The pink flowers not only constantly attract butterflies, but hummingbirds seem to prefer the honeysuckle nectar over the sugar water I temp them with in the multitude of feeders that I place around the yard. The purple ball on the top of flowering chives is an attractant to butterflies as well. Bright flaming orange coloured flowers are seemingly irresistible to many varieties of butterflies, and most people as well, in any flowerbed. Orange Cosmos or Mexican Sunflowers are good examples.
The Coneflowers I mentioned, come in different shades of purple for a nice show, and Bee Balm is also a pleasant light purple shade that is a huge attracter. If you have room enough for a few sunflowers, you are certain to see them decorated with any number of butterflies and bees on a regular basis.
I would be completely remiss if I didn’t mention the beautiful Monarch butterfly, who migrates from the far north climate, all the way south to winter over in Mexico. This species was once extremely prolific, yet hovers on the edge of extinction because of modern farming and pesticide practices. If you have the opportunity and space to provide these creatures with a plant or two of Milkweed, you will not only attract them, but encourage them to lay their eggs so that your Grandchildren will be able to enjoy them someday as well. There are approximately 100 different varieties of milkweed available, in a huge variety of colours, so I’m certain that you can find a variety or two that might fit well into your landscape somewhere.
Although I have focused on only a few of my favourites, there is a large selection of Butterfly attracting bushes to choose from such as: Saskatoon, Potentilla, Azalea, Spirea and Weigela.
Any water feature that you can incorporate is also a huge draw for any butterfly searching for a drink.
-Salisbury Landscaping, Edmonton & Sherwood Park Professional Landscaping