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Butterflies are some of the most common wild visitors gardeners across the US enjoy watching. It’s easy to assume most flowers will attract these prized pollinators – but they have acquired tastes! With that in mind, do butterflies like pansies – and is it worth growing them?
Butterflies will happily visit pansies. Thanks to their striking colors and ease of propagation, the pansy (or viola) proves popular with gardeners and pollinators. It’s one of the best partial-sun flowers you can grow to attract butterflies.
Why do butterflies love pansies?
The pansy is one of the most vibrant blooms you’ll grow, with potential palettes of blue, pink, orange, red, white, purple, yellow, and even multicolor springing up. While butterflies are known to prefer hot colors, these flowers are eye-catching enough to attract their attention regularly.
These plants also have famously flat, open faces, making them more noticeable and appealing to certain pollinators. Butterflies can’t feed on nectar mid-flight, meaning they prefer those plants they can rest on while investigating flowers.
Pansies are also highly reliable regarding availability and nectar abundance. You can grow pansies easily across USDA hardiness zones four through eight, and they’ll bloom from mid-spring to late fall. Butterflies likely to be emerging in the brighter months – and sticking around until October – will have plenty to pick from.
These flowers are highly preferred by wild yard gardeners who live towards the cooler end of the hardiness scale, as they tend to withstand mild weather all year round.
The pansy will steadily grow in the open sun if they have access to plenty of water and food, meaning you’ll need to keep them well-fed. They will typically persist better in partial shade without much attention. It’s great news for butterflies, which will normally only visit shaded areas when they need to cool down or drink. Pansies growing out in the open sun are very likely to attract attention from butterflies.
Pansies also grow as annuals, biennials, and perennials, meaning local butterflies can flock back to your garden, knowing their favorite flowers will always re-bloom.
Is it easy to grow pansies?
Attracting butterflies with pansies is surprisingly simple – plant them in a rich medium such as compost towards the fall, ideally in an open spot. You’ll need to water them regularly and to ensure that soil drains well for the best health.
Ideally, you shouldn’t plant pansies in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit for the healthiest flowers. Yellowing, unhealthy blooms simply won’t attract butterflies and won’t live for very long.
Pansies famously withstand cold to even freezing temperatures, meaning growing them from fall through winter should provide you with an ample crop of butterfly attractors in the spring. This means you’ll have a crop of colorful flowers when pollinators start emerging again in the warmer months.
If you’re buying pansy bulbs from stores or online, it may be good to invest in several different colors (where possible). Butterflies enjoy a varied selection of flowers to feast on, which applies to both species and colors. It’s good to keep your beds as interesting as possible if you want to encourage return visits. Once butterflies know they can rely on a pansy garden throughout the year, they will keep coming back to you.
Are pansies the best flowers for attracting butterflies?
Pansies are fantastic at attracting butterflies and other pollinators, but be sure to grow a mix of daisies, hibiscus, sunflowers, zinnias, petunias, dahlias, and more. Opt for bright, fiery colors and flat, open blooms that butterflies can easily rest on and feed off.
It’s tempting to plant pansies alone to attract butterflies, but as well as variety being key to these insects’ diets, they will also attract other pollinators such as bees. They’re likely to see plenty of competition. So, it makes sense to fill your garden or flowerbed with a myriad of species to ensure everyone gets access to nectar and pollen.
There are no one or two flowers that I’d advise are the ‘best’ for attracting butterflies. These creatures have a small checklist of flower features that are fairly easy to meet – meaning it’s rare you’ll find plants butterflies actively avoid.
Pansies are easy to grow and will weather warmth and cold all year round, making them highly reliable for garden color and pollinator visitation. I’d recommend taking full advantage of growing these flowers from this fall onwards.