Moths & Butterflies

Messy Pollinators

   Butterflies have a specific relationship to plants. Two kinds of plants that attract them; 

1. plants they feed at, which can be a wide variety.  

2. plants where they lay their eggs on, called larval host plants. 

   The caterpillars only survive if they're born on or next to their host plant.


   So what you plant determines if butterfly will stop by for a sip of nectar, or if they lay eggs so that the following year you can enjoy even more lovely butterflies!


    There have been some rare sightings of Monarchs migrating through the here, so it's always good to have some Milkweed around for them just in case! 

Butterfly Life Cycle

What to plant?

The Nectar plants are important, but so are the F- Foodsource plants. Remember, you are encouraging the butterflies to lay eggs on these and then there will be caterpillars. Appreciate how valuable your garden is with them in it and live in harmony!  (list from Portland Nursery)

"Free Plants" that butterflies love!

You can stop pulling these weeds! They're valuable food or host plants.  And they're often growing freely in your garden!!
Stinging nettle, dandelion, goldenrod, thistle (noninvasive species), yarrow, Nootka rose, mint, vetch, clover, buckwheat, lupine, mugwort, and even Oregon grape.  

Here are some tips from a great site in the UK's

Simple dos and don'ts of gardening for butterflies and moths:

  • Grow lots of nectar-rich flowers between March and November.

  • Choose different plants to attract a wider variety of species. Place the same types of plant together in blocks.

  • Prolong flowering by deadheading flowers and watering well. Well-watered plants produce more nectar.

  • Grow caterpillar foodplants for butterflies and moths.

  • Let an area of grass grow long.

  • Allow a patch of ‘weeds’, such as Dandelion and Bird’s-foot-trefoil to flourish.

  • Leave bare patches of wall, fence or earth, or place large stones in sunny borders, so butterflies can bask.

  • Create a shelter-belt of trees, plant a mixed, native hedge, which will protect butterflies and moths from the wind.

  • Grow climbing plants up walls and fences, where butterflies and moths can shelter from the rain and frost.

  • Make a log pile, where butterflies and moths can hibernate. Some moths breed in dead wood too.


  • Use pesticides, especially those containing neonicotinoids, as these can remain in the plant for several months and potentially harm butterflies and moths which drink nectar from the flowers.

  • Buy peat-based compost. Peat bogs are home to many species, including the Large Heath butterfly. Check the label before you buy and choose peat-free alternatives.

  • Be too tidy – leave borders intact over winter, allow leaves to accumulate under hedges and create a ‘wild’ area that you don’t touch very often. These areas will provide shelter for insects to hibernate and rest.

Portland Nursery Butterfly Garden info

Willamette Valley Butterfly information

Drought Tolerant garden for Portland area

List of native plants for butterflies PDF from Washington State Native Plant Society

National Butterfly Association 

Read about how sensitive butterfly habitat is and what you can do to help

Milkweed Guide for Oregon

useful local links 

To discover which butterflies are likely to live in the Willamette Valley and what to plant to help sustain them, here's a link to the Eugene chapter of the North American  Butterfly Association's list of butterflies and their host plants

Make a butterfly bath!

Take a butterfly out for a drink!


Butterflies love to sip water from puddles, and stream banks so they can get water and also minerals from the soil. You can create a puddle or invite them into your bird baths by putting pebbles around the edges for them to stand on. 

A fun resource for identifying the butterflies you observe in your yard is  This link is to a page put together in Clackamas County by one person. Play around with different searches and see the amazing biodiversity in our area!

© 2019 Carol Yamada

  • White Facebook Icon
  • White Twitter Icon
  • White Pinterest Icon
  • White Instagram Icon