Luring Butterflies to Your Hawaiian Garden


Monarch butterfly

Plant it and they will come. Butterfly gardening is just that simple. If you plant the host plant of a butterfly, they are likely to show up in your garden. A host plant is a plant that the butterfly larva eat or butterflies lay their eggs on.

Nothing adds more magic to a sunny day than the soaring and fluttering of butterflies around your living area. Kids especially enjoy finding caterpillars and hope to catch butterflies.

For beginners, the three simplest ones to attract to your garden are monarchs, swallowtails and fritillaries.

To attract the monarch butterfly you will need to plant milkweed, crown flower (pua kalaunu) or balloon plant.

You can usually spot the tiny yellowish monarch eggs on the underside of the leaves. Soon they will hatch and the larva will begin munching on the leaves, and seed pods. The larva will grow every day and soon be large enough to pupate. They will usually leave the host plant and find another roost. Their chrysalis is green with gold highlights. When it turns dark and see-through the butterfly is about to emerge.


A monarch caterpillar forming a chrysalis on a flashlight handle.


The Xuthus Swallowtail, also known as the citrus swallowtail, is a beautiful addition to your garden. The host plants include citrus trees such as lemon, lime and tangelo. They will lay their eggs on the citrus leaves leaving little damage as they eat and grow.

The Gulf fritillary butterfly is also known as the passion vine (lilikoi) butterfly because it is its host plant. Most Hawaiian gardens have at least one lilikoi vine. You are sure to see the fritillary flying and landing on it.

Besides adding visual appeal to your garden, butterflies are also pollinators. Attracting them to your garden will also help produce plant seeds. In addition to host plants, nectar plants are also needed to keep them happy such as impatiens, marigold, and verbena. Avoid using synthetic pesticides in your garden because it will kill butterflies and bees and be disruptive to the natural balance.

It’s easy to start a simple butterfly garden. Some plant nurseries have sections devoted to host plants and butterfly gardening that will enable you to get started easily. Nothing is more natural and enjoying than watching butterflies in your garden.

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