Who doesn’t love watching butterflies (can we call them fluttering flowers?) fly from one flower to the next on a sunny day? These are the best plants that attract butterflies to your garden.
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How to Attract Butterflies
To attract and keep butterflies, you need to supply the foods that they and their caterpillars eat. Many butterfly species get their nourishment from nectar that they sip from a variety of flowers. Butterfly caterpillars are more choosy, though. Most butterfly larvae are dependent on just one or a few kinds of green foliage for their sustenance. Female butterflies knows best, and she lays her eggs only on the kind of butterfly plant that her babies will eat.
A successful butterfly garden needs to include flowers for the adult stage butterflies and foliage for the caterpillars. Pollinators love to have a place to hang in between hunting for food sources.
Not all butterflies sip nectar or pollen. Red-spotted purples, mourning cloaks, buckeyes, and malachites, are among those that feed on rotting fruits, tree sap, carrion, or even dung.
To attract the most butterflies to your pollinator garden, serve up a variety of flower colors, shapes, and sizes. Include morning and afternoon bloomers, flowers that open in different seasons (winter bloomers, we are looking at you!), USDA hardiness zone, and those that bloom in full sun areas as well as those that prefer partial shade nooks. You may also take into consideration the weather patterns in your area i.e. the amount of rainfall vs the drought tolerance of the plant. Diversity is the key to attracting the most butterflies to your garden.
Of course, no matter what type of flowers you plant the pollinators will flock! These butterfly garden plants are for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, as well as other pollinators like wasps and other wildlife.
Some of the best nectar sources for attracting adult butterflies are in the aster, mint, and verbena families. They are long blooming flowers and you invite butterflies into your landscape in no time!
The Best Plants for a Butterfly Garden:
Blazing stars (Liatris spp.)
Coneflowers (Rudbeckia spp. and Echinacea spp. aka purple coneflower)
Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)
Asters (Aster spp.)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.)
Vanilla plants (Carphephorus spp.)
Goldenasters (Chrysopsis spp. and Pityopsis spp.)
Goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
Mistflower, Conoclinum coelestinum
Joe-pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Ironweed (Vernonia spp.)
Bee balms (Monarda spp.)
Sages (Salvia spp.)
Verbenas (Glandularia spp. and Verbena spp.)
Lantana (Lantana spp.)
Golden dewdrop (Duranta repens)
Porterweed (Stachytarphaeta urticifolia)
Butterfly bush family
Butterfly bush (Buddleia spp.)
Cardinal flower and other lobelias (Lobelia spp.)
Phlox (Phlox spp.)
Pentas (Pentas lanceolata)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Firebush (Hamelia patens)
Glossy abelia (Abelia grandiflora)
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Hollies (Ilex spp.)
Butterfly Host Plants for Caterpillars
If your pollinator friendly garden doesn’t include caterpillar host plants, it is just a fast-food stop for adult butterflies. They won’t hang around if they don’t find the appropriate plant to lay eggs on to create their caterpillar babies.
The rose, legume, and laurel families include many important host plants for butterfly larvae.
Cassias, sennas, Partridge pea, (Cassia spp.) – sulphurs, hairstreaks, sleepy orange
Beggar’s ticks (Desmodium spp.) – long-tailed skipper
Clovers (Trifolium spp.) – dogface
Garden beans (Phaseolus spp.) – long-tailed skipper
Laurels, red bay, sassafras, spicebush (Lauraceae) – palamedes and spicebush swallowtails
Dutchman’s pipe, Calico flower, Virginia snakeroot (Aristolochia spp.) – polydamus and pipevine swallowtails
Shepherd’s needle (Bidens alba) – sulphurs
Sunflowers (Helianthus) – painted lady
Fennel, dill, parsley, water hemlock (Apiaceae) – black swallowtail
Citrus trees, Hercules’ club, toothache tree, hoptree (Rutaceae)– giant swallowtail
Coastal Plain Willow (Salix caroliniania) – viceroy
Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora – white peacock, buckeye, crescents
Passionflower (Passiflora spp.) – fritillaries, zebra longwing
Pawpaw (Asimina spp.) – zebra swallowtail
Sugarberry (Celtis laevigata) – hackberry and snout butterflies, tawny emperor, question mark
Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) – tiger swallowtail
Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) – tiger swallowtail
Milkweed plants (Asclepias spp.) – monarch, queen
Collards, kale, mustard (Brassica spp.) – whites
Please note that most of these garden plants are easy to grow and are suited for a wide range of butterfly species in North America. It is always best to grow native plants for the wide variety of pollinators they can attract. Butterflies love bright colors on the nectar plants.
Once you have these plants that attract butterflies in your garden you will be able to see the complete metamorphosis of the butterfly life stages. When the butterfly emerges it truly is remarkable!
Many other Perfect Plants are good for butterflies:
Abelia Edward Goucher, Agapanthus blue, Asiatic jasmine, Bridal wreath spirea, Confederate jasmine (star jasmine) , Dwarf Buford holly, Goldmound spirea, Helleri holly, Limelight hydrangea, Little Princess spirea, Loropetalum ‘Ruby Chinese’, Loropetalum Zhuzhou, Needlepoint holly, Oakleaf holly, Oakleaf hydrangea, Penny Mac hydrangea, Rose Creek abelia, Schilling holly, Sky pencil holly, Soft Touch holly, blueberries, apple trees, peach trees, pear trees, plum trees, blackberries, raspberries, redbud trees, dogwood trees, crabapple trees.
What kind of plants do you have planted for butterflies? Let us know in the comments below. If you enjoyed this article, please like, comment, or share. Happy planting!