Make Your Garden a Butterfly Magnet

Bleeding heart
Bleeding heart. PHOTO | COURTESY 

It is easy to assume that big and beautiful flowers will always attract butterflies and bees to your garden.

However, a visit to Butterfly House Mombasa which has lots of plants that attract butterflies that are tourist attractions, shows that there are specific trees and flowers that entice pollinators.

From the entrance of the butterfly museum, there are lots of flowering and non-flowering plants. The ornamental Murderous thorn plant, Frangipani, Bougainvillea, red and orange flowered Pentas peliforia and royal palm trees are strategically grown.

The pupae and some butterflies in the house are brought in from various natural forests like Arabuko Sokoke in coast.

To make them adapt and feel comfortable in their new paradise, there is a water pool in the garden.

“The sound the flowing water gives the butterflies the feeling that they are in the jungle,hence they feel safe,” says David Lentai of Butterfly House Mombasa.

Mr Lentai rounds up the best plants to woo butterflies that can add colour and scent to your garden.

Orange plant

Butterflies love this plant because they lay their eggs under the leaves and the caterpillars eat them as they undergo the growth cycle which is the longest stage.

Purple elephant ears

Because of their large green leaves, the pollinators can comfortably perch under them, acting as a shade during hot sunny days and heavy rains.

Bleeding heart

This is a seasonal plant with bright coloured red flowers with purple petals. It attracts butterflies which love to suck on its nectar.

Indian cork tree

The tree grows to a height of between 18 and 25 metres and can spread from seven to 11 metres. Its white flowers grow into large clusters which have a pleasant fragrance. The nectar appeals to the pollinators.


At the Mombasa museum, some butterflies are gracefully resting on a crowded layer of lilies with smooth shiny leaves. Lilies give the butterflies the green colour they like.

Dumb cane

This outdoor or indoor plant changes its green leaves to yellow which most of the Swallowtail butterflies love to perch on. However, the plant is poisonous and should be planted away from children and pets.

Butterfly palm

Palm trees are darlings in most large rooms or office spaces. Its leaves turn yellow attracting insects. During hot days, the butterflies hide in the thin crowded leaves. Palms are good indoor or outdoor plants and makes a great focal point for hallways and reception areas.

Soft shield fern

The flying handkerchief, a type of butterfly known to protect its territory, will camp on the soft yield fern because of its attractive drooping fronds that make a wonderful lace-like accent in the garden.

Lantana camara

We all know the lantana camaras especially if you lived in rural areas where they grew wildly. As children, they were eaten as snacks. Lantana produces bright orange-yellow leaves which are best for the most active butterflies, Diadem and African queen. Also the speckled mouse bird feeds on the fruits of this plant and make their nests on them.

Christ plant or crown— of — thorns

These are poisonous plants that the African queen butterflies lay their eggs on. The pupa of the butterfly feeds on the leaves.

Night scented lily

This is both an indoor or outdoor plant that has colourful flowers that entice the butterflies.

Purity Mugwika, an administrator at the Butterfly House says the plants are watered twice a day to maintain their attractive nature.

“A humid environment is suitable for the hatching of the pupa of the butterflies which take long to hatch in dry conditions,” says Ms Mugwika.

They do weeding on a weekly basis. ‘‘Pruning ensures that the plants don’t overgrow and block the paths and also tear the nets that act as walls in the butterflies’ home,” she says.