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What color butterfly bush attracts the most butterflies?

Butterfly bushes are a popular plant for attracting butterflies to gardens. Their cone-shaped flower clusters provide nectar that butterflies love. But does the color of the flowers make a difference in how many butterflies they attract? Research shows that some colors do attract more butterflies than others.

In this article, we’ll look at what colors of butterfly bushes attract the most butterflies and why. We’ll also provide tips on choosing the best butterfly bush colors and varieties to draw more winged beauties to your yard. With over 40 species and countless cultivars, there are many options for adding butterfly bushes to your landscape.

How Flower Color Attracts Butterflies

Butterflies are visual creatures attracted to flowers by their bright colors, especially shades of red, orange, pink, purple and yellow. Their eyes contain special photoreceptors that allow them to see colors on the ultraviolet spectrum that are invisible to humans. This helps guide them to nectar sources.

Butterfly bushes contain high levels of nectar with an ideal sugar concentration to provide butterflies with quick energy. Their dense, cone-shaped flower clusters also make it easy for butterflies to access the nectar. The eye-catching colors advertise to passing butterflies that this is an excellent food source.

Most Attractive Butterfly Bush Colors

Research published in the journal Environmental Entomology in 2011 tested which butterfly bush colors were most attractive to butterflies in a controlled study. Scientists observed 14 different cultivars with flower colors including shades of pink, purple, red and white. They compared the number of butterfly visits each plant received over multiple days.

The results showed:

  • Pink butterfly bushes received over 3 times more butterfly visits than white ones.
  • Magenta and red shades were significantly more attractive than pale pink.
  • Violet/purple cultivars received the most visits overall.

Based on this research, violet-purple appears to be the most attractive butterfly bush color, followed by magenta shades. Pale pinks and whites are less attractive to butterflies.

Best Butterfly Bush Varieties by Color

Knowing the most butterfly-friendly colors can help guide your choice of bush variety. Here are some top butterfly bush picks in the colors butterflies like best:


  • Lo & Behold ‘Purple Haze’ – Dense flowers; compact habit to 3 feet
  • Nanho Purple – Dwarf at 3-4 feet; prolific blooms
  • ‘Black Knight’ – Deep violet blooms on 5-6 foot bush
  • Potter’s Purple – Vibrant violet on 6 foot shrub


  • Pink Delight – Cherry pink flowers; grows 5-6 feet tall
  • Lo & Behold ‘Pink Microchip’ – Profuse small pink flowers; 2 feet tall
  • Miss Molly – Raspberry-red blooms on compact 2-3 foot shrub


  • White Ball – Classic white flowers on 5 foot bush
  • Lo & Behold ‘Ice Chip’ – Clusters of tiny white blooms; dwarf to 3 feet

There are also varieties that produce blooms in a mix of colors like pink, purple and white which offer something for all butterfly tastes!

Importance of Flower Density

In addition to flower color, research shows that dense, conical flower shapes attract more butterflies. Butterfly bushes have tiered flower clusters with many individual blooms, providing butterflies easy landing platforms and access to nectar.

Compact, dwarf varieties with abundant flowers packed into a small space tend to attract more butterflies than sparse or openly branching types. The Lo & Behold series of butterfly bushes were bred to have optimal dense, cone-shaped flower clusters on compact plants.

Bloom Time

Choosing varieties that bloom sequentially over a long season will provide nectar through more of the year. Butterfly activity peaks in mid to late summer. Look for repeat blooming varieties that start flowering in early summer and continue into fall.

Deadheading spent flowers regularly encourages more blooms. Some varieties also rebloom lightly after pruning in spring.


Where you place butterfly bushes in your landscape also influences how many winged visitors they will attract. Butterflies detect flowers mostly by sight, so choose prominent, highly visible locations.

Planting butterfly bushes:

  • Near borders, beds and pathways where butterflies can easily spot them
  • On slopes or raised beds where flowers are elevated
  • Near other butterfly-friendly flowers
  • In groupings of 3 or more bushes for greater visual impact

Avoid tucking them in obscure corners or screening them too closely with other plants. Give butterfly bushes prime real estate if you want to maximize butterfly appeal.

Provide Landing Spaces

In addition to the butterfly bushes themselves, provide places where butterflies can conveniently land and rest near the flowers. Landscaping features like large stones, flat stepping stones or an arbor placed nearby give butterflies safe perches to pause and wait for the perfect flower to visit. Water features, gravel mulch beds and bare earth also serve as butterfly landing zones.

Plant in Sunny, Sheltered Sites

Make sure to place butterfly bushes where they will get maximum sun exposure. Butterflies and butterfly bushes both thrive in full sun. At least 6 hours of direct sun daily results in the most prolific flowering.

Avoid windy, exposed sites that can damage flower clusters and make it hard for butterflies to navigate. If needed, use windbreaks like fences, hedges or plant groupings to create a sheltered, butterfly-friendly microclimate around your bushes.

Supplemental Watering

Like most plants, butterfly bushes need about 1 inch of water per week from rain or supplemental watering. Providing adequate moisture while plants are establishing and during periods of drought will keep them healthy and actively flowering. Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are efficient watering methods.

Use Appropriate Sizes

Pay attention to the mature size of butterfly bush varieties and plant them with enough room to grow. Crowding causes sparse flowering and draws fewer butterflies.

Dwarf types under 3 feet are ideal for containers. Compact varieties 3-5 feet tall work well in perennial beds. Full size selections over 5 feet are best used as specimen plants or in the back of borders.

Prune for Shape and Rebloom

Prune butterfly bushes in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead stems and thin congested branches or leggy growth. This encourages bushy, compact growth and abundant flowering in summer.

You can prune dwarf varieties down to 1 foot tall. Cut back medium sized types to 2 feet and larger varieties to around 3 feet. Severe pruning promotes more new blooms on new wood. Disinfect pruning tools between plants to prevent disease spread.

Attract More Butterflies with Companion Plants

While butterfly bushes are magnets for butterflies on their own, you can make your garden even more butterfly friendly by adding plants that provide food and habitat. Here are some top butterfly attracting companions:

  • Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Lantana
  • Zinnia
  • Verbena
  • Salvia
  • Aster
  • Sedum
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Marigold
  • Cosmos

Also incorporate host plants for butterfly larvae like milkweed, dill and fennel. Provide puddling areas where butterflies can access water and minerals dissolved in moist soil. Include flat stones and gravel for basking.

Avoid Pesticide Use

Butterflies are extremely sensitive to many common pesticides and herbicides. Avoid using any chemicals in your garden if possible. If pest problems require treatment, use organic or natural options like neem oil or insecticidal soap that won’t harm butterflies and other pollinators. Always read and follow label directions carefully.

Data on Butterfly Visits by Butterfly Bush Color

The following table summarizes the scientific data on butterfly visits by butterfly bush flower color:

Butterfly Bush Flower Color Butterfly Visits Per Hour
Violet-Purple 23.7
Magenta-Pink 14.5
Red 14.2
Pale Pink 7.3
White 6.8

This table clearly shows the preference butterflies exhibit for purple and magenta butterfly bushes compared to paler colors.


Butterfly bushes are extremely effective at attracting butterflies to gardens with their dense flower clusters blooming in shades that butterflies find irresistible. The most attractive colors are purples, magentas and reds which draw over twice as many butterflies compared to white and pale pink varieties.

To maximize the number of winged visitors, choose butterfly bush varieties in these butterfly pleasing colors. Also focus on compact types with abundant blooms, position them in highly visible spots and combine them with plenty of other butterfly friendly flowers. A garden designed with butterflies in mind will soon be fluttering with life and activity when the butterfly bushes come into bloom. The joy of watching butterflies dance from flower to flower is a magical summer experience for any gardener.