Garden Photo of the Day

A Small-Space Butterfly Garden

Turning a deck into habitat

small potted butterfly garden in the sun

My name is Mayurika. The pandemic has taken a lot out of us, but I like to think in a positive way. This time has also allowed my 10-year-old daughter Trinolka and me to build a butterfly garden. We researched butterflies native to Maryland and proceeded to build a habitat for them, adding nectar-containing flowers, a solar-powered water fountain, and rocks (painted by Trinolka) for them to bask on. For color, we got begonias and petunias. For the nectar flowers, we got marigolds, daisies (yellow and purple), a butterfly bush, and salvia. We added host plants for the caterpillars such as dill, citrus, and milkweed. Soon two to three butterflies, mostly cabbage whites, flew in to drink the nectar. We put the plants on one corner of the deck, overlooking the backyard lawn, and some at eye level for the butterflies to easily spot. The sound of the trickling water with the early morning sun was perfect for laying out a bamboo mat and meditating in the tranquility of nature.

potted plants on a deck with small water featureThe butterfly garden begins. Even if you have just a small space, like the corner of a deck, you can make it a space for butterflies and other native wildlife by providing the right sources of food.

deck with various container plantsThe mix of plants provides what the butterflies need, as well as being beautiful for human visitors.

small butterflies on butterfly bush bloomsA butterfly bush (Buddleia, Zones 5–9) lives up to its name by providing nectar to a few visiting butterflies. Though showy flowers where adult butterflies find nectar are the most visible part of a butterfly garden, host plants for the caterpillars are just as important—if not more so.

small potted butterfly garden in the sunAnd here’s the full butterfly garden. What a great project for Mayurika and daughter to do together!

small terra cotta water featureIt is often said that every garden needs a water feature. This shows how that can be done even in a very small space. Flowing water makes a soothing sound, and it is enjoyed by birds and insects alike.

butterfly bush in a painted containerI love the beautiful pattern painted on this container with the butterfly bush.


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View Comments


  1. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/07/2021

    Love to hear about adults gardening with children. Hopefully starting a life long love of it.

  2. nwphilagardener 07/07/2021

    I hope enjoying a butterfly garden on a deck is a step toward planting a broader pollinator garden in the yard. Phlox 'Jeana' is wonderful summer phlox that seems to attract more butterflies than most with smaller pink flowers on extra tall stems.

    1. User avater
      simplesue 07/07/2021

      Thanks for the lead on Phlox 'Jeana', I just found it on the Mt. Cuba Center page. A plant I'd like to add to my own garden for sure.

  3. sandyprowse 07/07/2021

    An inspiring story and a beautiful garden. I enjoyed your story. Seems like so much fun.

  4. Rebeccazone7 07/07/2021

    This is one of the reasons I love this site. It allows us to see others' ideas and realize how diverse we are. I love the painted pot and also the water feature. I wish I had had the gardening bug when my kids were young.

  5. jenniferegraham3 07/07/2021

    It is really a great and useful piece of information.

  6. User avater
    simplesue 07/07/2021

    I like the way you think. Turning your deck into a peaceful place for nature and for people is a beautiful thing.
    Often many apartments & condos only offer a balcony for personal outdoor space, and you have taken full advantage of your space!
    And introducing your daughter to all of this at an early age is a gift better than any toy.
    Such a pretty balcony garden!

  7. wittyone 07/07/2021

    Your corner deck garden is lovely and I know the local butterflies appreciate your work. How nice that your daughter is involved in the project. Introducing young kids to gardening often begins a lifetime of gardening which is good for everyone. I do hope that next year you will grow some plants "in ground" if possible and extend the flower array to a larger portion of your deck. A person just can't have too many flowers.

  8. sheila_schultz 07/07/2021

    Working with plants can bring so much comfort and happiness. Having Trinolka by your side researching and selecting the plants, finding the right pots and painting her rocks is an added joy. Your deck containers are lovely and filled with a great selection of plants that will attract many pollinators. The water feature is also a perfect addition for the butterflies and you. Enjoy your adventures in gardening!

  9. btucker9675 07/07/2021

    So very pretty and I love the water feature. I know your daughter will go through life gardening wherever she is because of this happy project.

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