Do Butterflies Like Sunflowers?

Do butterflies like sunflowers? You may be asking yourself this if you’re trying to attract more butterflies to your yard.

Sunflowers are a great plant to grow from seed, for novice gardeners and even kids. Plus are so eye-catching and make your yard look fantastic.

This guide to help you figure out if it’s worth planting sunflowers in your yard to attract butterflies. You’ll also learn more about using sunflowers to attract butterflies.

Sound good? Then let’s get going.

Do butterflies like sunflowers?

Butterflies do like sunflowers. The head of a sunflower is large and flat, which is perfect for a butterfly to land on. The middle of a sunflower is made of many smaller flowers which are rich in nectar for the butterflies to feed on. Sunflowers bloom in summer and autumn which makes them a rich food source for migrating butterflies.

Why do butterflies like sunflowers?

Butterflies like sunflowers because of their shape, scent, color, habitat, and nectar.

Sunflowers purposely try to attract insects such as butterflies and bees. This is because butterflies are pollinators and help the flower species to survive. Let’s look at each way the sunflowers attract the butterflies.

Sunflower Shape

Sunflowers have large, flat flower heads which act as a platform for insects. This composite flower shape is attractive to the butterflies as they can easily rest and feed. They will use their long tongues (proboscis) to sip the nectar from individual tiny flower heads.

As the butterfly moves around the sunflower they will pick up pieces of pollen on their legs. This helps the sunflowers to pollinate as the butterflies move on to the next sunflower.

Sunflower Scent

Sunflowers don’t have a scent to humans, but they do to butterflies. That’s because butterflies ‘smell’ with their feet!

Sunflowers don’t smell overly sweet. They also give off a slightly earthy scent which the butterflies love.

Sunflower Color

The bright, sunny yellow color is the first thing you think of with sunflowers.

Butterflies have amazing color perceptions and yellow is one of their favorites.

It’s thought that butterflies like the yellow of the sunflower because they know it’s associated with a rich nectar source.

Yet, sunflowers can come in a range of bright colors including orange, pink, and red variations. Butterflies are attracted to these bright colors too.

Sunflower nectar

Sunflowers produce a lot of nectar that butterflies can eat.

This might be hard to believe as sunflowers don’t look like other typical nectar-producing flowers.

The secret is that the flat darker part of the sunflower head is made up of thousands of tiny flowers bunched together.

Each of these tiny flowers produces nectar. That means when a butterfly lands on a sunflower they have access to thousands of flowers at once.

So now you can see why sunflowers are so popular with butterflies.

Sunflower nectar not only gives the butterflies energy but also provides nutrients too.

Sunflower Habitat

Another reason butterflies are attracted to sunflowers is because they are a great place for them to lay eggs.

The idea is that once the eggs hatch the caterpillars will have a rich source of food from the sunflower. Painted lady butterflies are well known for this.

In fact, if sunflowers are destroyed in an area it can greatly affect the survival of some butterfly species.

Related: How to Make Homemade Butterfly Nectar

How to grow Sunflowers for Butterflies

The best way to grow sunflowers to attract butterflies is to plant seeds.

Sunflowers from Seeds

You’ll need:

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pots
  • Compost
  • Canes

Step by step

1. Choose your seed

Buy your sunflower seeds in-store or online. The type you choose will depend on what you want your sunflower to look like. Some sunflower can be quite small and other can be gigantic. The most popular sunflower to grow is the American giant.

2. Sow the seeds

From March to April sow your sunflower seeds in a small pot. This keeps them free from bugs before you put them in the yard. Keep the post in a warm position.

3. Plant them

In around late April to May, you can plant your sunflower shoot in the yard. A sheltered position with rich soil is ideal.

You’ll need to be on slug patrol. I find using copper mesh (like this) is the most natural way to deter slugs without harming other wildlife.

4. Support them

As your sunflowers grow you’ll need to keep them supported. Placing a stalk or a cane at the back of the sunflower allows you to support the stem as the flower grows.

Ensure your plants are well watered especially if you live in a dry area.

When to plant sunflowers for butterflies

The best time to plant sunflowers for butterflies is around April to May. This allows the plant time to grow and flower over the summer and fall seasons.

The best plan is to plant a few sunflower seeds every few weeks to keep an extended bloom time in your yard. This will provide a contact food source to attract more butterflies to your yard.

Once the plants are in full bloom the butterflies can enjoy the sweet nectar from the flower heads.

You’ll probably find that the sunflowers will also attract some birds to your yard as they begin to nibble on the sunflower seeds as the flowers dry out.

Where to plant sunflowers for butterflies

Sunflowers are quite hardy plants and can survive in most areas of your yard.

They prefer a sheltered spot where they can turn towards the sun. Ideally, the soil should be rich and not waterlogged.

Sunflowers look great in flowerbeds. This makes it easier for you to provide strong support to help them grow.

You can also plant sunflowers in containers, although they may not grow as large as in flowerbeds.

What states do sunflowers grow best?

Sunflowers can thrive in all 50 states in the USA. This makes them great for attracting butterflies to your yard.

As you would expect sunflowers, naturally grow better in warm, sunny, dry areas with lots of space. However, they are pretty hardy and will survive in most backyards.

Do butterflies like mini sunflowers?

If you don’t have a lot of space in your yard you’re maybe thinking about growing dwarf sunflowers. These look just like large sunflowers but they fit in a smaller pot.

Butterflies do like mini sunflowers as they have all the same features as a large sunflower. These smaller sunflowers will attract butterflies and provide them with nectar.

Planting dwarf sunflowers in containers around your yard is a great way to attract a lot of butterflies in spring and summer.

What sunflowers do butterflies like best?

Butterflies are attracted to all sunflower types as long as they produce nectar. Native sunflowers will attract native butterfly species in your area.

The type of sunflower you choose for your yard will depend on what you think looks best and really how much you space have to grow them.

Choosing an American giant for a tiny yard probably isn’t the best idea.

If you don’t have a lot of space then I’d highly recommend planting Mexican sunflower. These have small, bright orange flowers that butterflies love.

Do Monarch butterflies like sunflowers?

All butterfly species like sunflowers, including the monarch.

As long as there is nectar to be eaten, the butterflies will be attracted to your sunflowers.

The Mexican sunflower is a particular favorite of the monarch butterflies.

To attract more butterflies it’s best to grow milkweed nearby. Monarchs like to lay their eggs in milkweed. That means they’ll be attracted to any neighboring nectar-producing plants nearby.

Final thoughts

Sunflowers attract butterflies and provide them with a good source of nectar which gives them energy through the day.

You can grow your own sunflowers in your yard or even in containers. Plant the sunflowers in the spring and you’ll be able to watch butterflies enjoy them through the summer and autumn.

Butterflies don’t have preference over which sunflowers you plant. That’s because as long as the sunflower produces nectar the butterflies will arrive.

Are you trying to plant flowers to attract butterflies to your yard? Let me know what flowers are bringing you the most success in the comment below.

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