Are Butterflies Attracted to Hydrangeas?

You want to encourage butterflies into your garden, right? Seeing them fluttering around is a goal of many gardeners. With hydrangeas being a favourite for gardeners, it would make sense to consider whether or not butterflies are attracted to hydrangeas.

Some hydrangeas attract butterflies but others do not. Ultimately, hydrangeas with tightly-packed flowers that have hard-to-access nectar will not attract butterflies.

Because these flowers can be so tightly packed together, certain types of hydrangeas are not the ideal flowering shrub choice for a butterfly-friendly garden. The problem is that a lot of hydrangeas have been cultivated for their appearance… And not for nature!

If you want to grow hydrangeas and also want to see butterflies fluttering amongst them, be sure to choose a variety of hydrangeas that has larger and flatter flower balls. This will allow the butterfly to access the nectar more efficiently, which keeps them around for our viewing pleasure. 

What Else Do Hydrangeas Attract?

Hydrangeas are a wonderful addition to many gardens. With many varieties of the shrub growing 4-6 feet wide and 5 feet tall, these shrubs are used as hedges, front landscaping, and in cottage gardens. Hydrangeas also come in many colours and shapes.

Choosing which hydrangea to go with depends on a few factors. One thing to consider is if you are wanting to attract and nourish pollinating insects. 

Bees, wasps, hummingbirds, and hoverflies are all wonderful pollinators that are attracted to hydrangeas. Bees are very attracted to blue and purple flowers, so choosing a hydrangea that will bloom in that colour will help attract more bees to your garden.

You can also adjust the pH level of your soil to help define which colour your big leaf hydrangeas will bloom in. 

Which Varieties of Hydrangea Attract Butterflies? 

If you are looking to impress our pollinating friends, choose a hydrangea that does not have as tight of flower balls.

A great option is choosing a hydrangea of the panicle variety.

These hydrangeas form more of a cone-like shape with their flowers, unlike a traditional ball. This shape allows pollinators to easily access the nectar and keeps them coming back for more.

Panicle hydrangeas grow as trees instead of shrubs, so it is important to keep this in mind when deciding to plant this variety. Panicle varieties of hydrangeas are almost always white-flowered that may turn to a pale pink throughout the season. 

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Even Annabelle or big leaf hydrangeas will provide some nourishment to butterflies. If you are absolutely in love with these shrubs, go ahead and plant them. Some plants just look great to us but won’t provide benefits to wildlife.

However, be sure to include other plants and flowers that help nourish the butterflies to compensate. Growing asters of all colours add dimension to your garden as well as providing food for both adult butterflies and caterpillars.

It is always recommended to plant milkweed in your garden as monarch butterfly caterpillars only eat milkweed and milkweed alone. If you are hoping to see some bold orange wings in your garden this year, plant an abundance of milkweed and it will ensure that you are an oasis for monarchs! 

Which Hydrangea Variety is Best For Butterflies?

The Pink Diamond variety, or Paniculata Hydrangea, is known to be particularly attractive to butterflies as it has both easy-to-access nectar whilst also having a sweet scent that draws them in.

Which Hydrangea Variety is Worst for Butterflies?

Any hydrangea that has hard-to-access nectar is not going to be good for butterflies or any pollinators. This would include a variety such as firefly hydrangea.

Why Do Butterflies Like Hydrangeas? 

Butterflies like some hydrangeas because they are full of delicious nectar. Choosing to grow a panicle variety of hydrangea provides a resting place for the butterfly as it eats from the many flowers.

Hydrangeas are made of many small flowers tightly clustered together, providing a bountiful resource of fresh nectar for the butterflies. 

Even though there is bountiful nectar, it can be hard for butterflies to access it since the flowers are so small and tightly grouped together.

Since there can be some difficulty in accessing the nectar, some butterflies think that it is too much work for very little reward and choose to find flowers that offer a larger amount of nectar with less work involved.

Planting large open-faced flowers like asters, sunflowers, and hibiscus flowers is a great way to increase the butterfly population in your garden. 

Summary

Hydrangeas are beautiful and classic flowering shrubs and trees that make a great addition to any landscape, garden, or cottage garden. With so many options for shapes and colours, the unique shape of the flower ball that sits on the woody stems of the hydrangea plant is a favourite of many gardeners and homeowners.

Although gorgeous and unique, these plants are not the best for butterflies. The flowers are small and tightly packed together and can cause a lot of resistance and work for the butterfly.

If they notice other food sources available, they will most likely choose another flower or fly away in search of an easier meal.

Planting panicle-shaped hydrangeas can help ease the work of the butterfly. These hydrangeas grow as trees and bloom in cone-shaped flower clusters instead of balls. This allows a different approach for butterflies and makes their work a little bit easier.

However, the fact that these are trees and not shrubs can be off-putting to many gardeners or landscapers. 

Choosing plants like milkweed, asters, and sunflowers will help attract butterflies and provide them and caterpillars with food and nourishment that is easily accessible. 

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