Do Butterflies Like Geraniums?


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Easy to grow and delightful to look at, geraniums are born winners in many gardens. However, they tend to get a somewhat mixed reception from various animals and pollinators, thanks to their specific type of scent. With that in mind, do butterflies like geraniums?

Butterflies are known to feed on geraniums. Bright, open, and flat-flowered, these plants are ideal for the average insect pollinator to sup nectar from. Butterflies may also get exclusive access to these blooms, given the relatively low competition. That said, many other flowers give off much more nectar – it’s not a pollinator favorite.

Why do butterflies like wild geranium?

Wild geraniums are ideal for butterflies with regard to shape. While they can prove awkward for some other pollinators – such as hummingbirds – to drink nectar from, butterflies will happily land and rest on geranium petals for a quick feed. Butterflies, generally, require flattish flowers when feeding, as they are unable to sup nectar mid-flight.

Geraniums are also very sweet-scented, which is not always guaranteed to attract pollinators far and wide. Butterflies, however, don’t rely on smell alone. A sweet-smelling flower is likely to be a ‘bonus’ for these insects, rather than a hindrance. Instead, butterflies are more likely to find bold and bright colors more appealing.

Thankfully, geraniums tick this box, too – their hot pinks, reds, and oranges make up the butterfly’s favorite palette. This hue is also likely to cut bees out of the pollination competition, too, as they can’t see red and pinkish colors properly!

Geraniums are easy to access for butterflies fluttering fairly low, too. While these insects often won’t meet ground level, they prefer plants and blooms a few feet off the soil. 

From the butterfly’s perspective, the only perceivable downside to the geranium is that it may not be the most nectar-rich bloom in the garden. Since geraniums aren’t too attractive to bees and hummingbirds, butterflies can expect a somewhat exclusive feast.

How do I grow geraniums?

If you want to attract butterflies, not bees, to your garden, you’ll ideally need to be within USDA zones 10 and 11 to grow hardy geraniums. While they will grow in other zones, they will need potting and taking indoors when winter comes around.

Otherwise, you will typically expect a fairly easy maintenance schedule from your geranium plot – they will need lots of sunlight, so ideally need to be out in the open. Curiously, this works in the butterfly’s favor, too – as these pollinators won’t stray into shaded areas unless they absolutely have to.

It’s also good to ensure geraniums benefit from soil that drains well, so as to not make them too moist. If you start to notice wilting during the warmer seasons, always make sure to top up your plants with a little water – they are likely very thirsty!

To keep geraniums growing, be sure to deadhead them – doing so proactively may lead to double the flower growth in any given season. That, of course, will mean you keep attracting butterflies to your yard!

Growing geraniums is a great idea if you’d like to treat your butterflies. However, be sure to grow a variety of other flowers, too. Consider growing lilacs, verbenas, and roses, for example. Butterflies love variety, and what’s more, they need considerable levels of nectar each day to thrive.

Are geraniums the best flowers for attracting butterflies?

While butterflies will have VIP access to geranium nectar, they are not necessarily the best flowers to grow for their daily needs. Butterflies will happily flutter across and feed on them, but geraniums are infamously low on nectar, at least compared to other garden flowers.

For example, if you’d like to ensure your butterflies get a bigger fill of nectar each day, grow sunflowers. These tall, ever-obvious plants are rich in food for all pollinators. 

Do also consider growing other proven butterfly attractors, too – zinnias and marigolds, for example, are fantastic for keeping insects interested. Ultimately, it’s good to grow a varied crop.

Geraniums are rewarding plants that look lovely in most flowerbeds and crops. Sadly, they aren’t the most practical for feeding your pollinators. Your local butterflies will likely show a little interest, but they’d much prefer deeper, flatter flowers such as hibiscus and those richer in nectar such as the sunflower. The geranium is – regrettably – something of a ‘filler’ plant!

About The Author
Robert has been an avid birdwatcher pretty much his entire life. Living in the suburbs he does his best to bring wild birds into his backyard. He currently has 13+ bird feeders in his yard and also raises and races homing pigeons. Robert writes part-time for Wild Yards, mostly about the subject he cares most about - birds.

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