To attract butterflies, it's useful to know that they are pollinators. That means they are on the lookout for food from flowers and will pick up pollen as they travel from bud to bud. It stands to reason that there are going to be flowering plants for any yard that have pollen to attract these winged wonders.
To increase the chances of butterflies stopping in for a snack, plant a variety of flowering types of plants. In this case, more is better since butterflies evolved with wildflowers and providing differing heights and color types can attract them naturally. Choose colorful flowers like zinnias or marigolds but avoid double petals. It's easier for both butterflies and honeybees to drink if the flower heads are flat.
Sunflowers are a favorite of several species of butterfly. They come in many varieties and except for specially bred bush types, they are also space savers in the yard, growing upward but not spreading. They're perfect around a deck or pool area. Violets and clover are two other highly attractive butterfly plants and are low growing, low maintenance and can be useful as borders or even ground cover if the area is small.
It's best to use organic or natural gardening methods when hoping to attract butterflies and bees to the yard. And remember: butterflies begin as caterpillars so plant some food for those too. Milkweed is a weed in many gardens but it's home for a number of butterfly larvae. The caterpillars also like dill and fennel, two herbs that are highly scented.
Scented plants are also nice to have for human visitors too. Try nasturtium, phlox, lavender or bee balm. If you have only a little growing space, plant an herb garden. Most can grow in a container to save space. All herbs when flowering are attractive to butterflies too. And herbs can still be harvested when they are going to seed.
Even outside the flower heads, butterflies need food and water. Place a tray of water outside with pebbles for the butterflies to perch on when drinking. Finally, add a little cover for the butterflies to hide. All creatures, even the pollinators, feel safer if there's a spot to shelter in. All that's needed are a couple high growing bushy plants or lay out an artfully placed pile of twigs.
Butterflies are the quintessential fun ingredient in a yard. They add color and interest and are a sign that the yard is healthy. Plant a variety of crops or put out a few containers of flowers and you will have a happier yard.