Plants and Flowers that Attract or Host Butterflies in Your Garden

A healthy garden is a hive of activity with an array of creatures contributing to the delicate balance of the ecosystem, and butterflies are one of them. These essential pollinators are attracted to nectar-rich flower-bearing plants from which they feed, and planting certain species of plants in your garden will bring butterflies by the dozen. But first, you must understand what they need from your garden in order to make it really appealing to them.

What do Butterflies Look for in Plants

Food for Caterpillars (host plants): It is important to remember that butterflies not only look for plants that are rich in nectar, but also need to find flora on which they can lay their eggs and allow their caterpillar larvae to pupate.

Nectar for Adult Butterflies: Plants that provide nectar for fully-grown butterflies to feed on are essential to bring then to your garden in the first place.

So, when creating a garden that attracts butterflies, it is important to include plants on which butterflies will lay their eggs, serve as food for the developing caterpillars, and provide nectar for fully-grown butterflies to feed on. These may differ for different species of butterflies, as some caterpillars may feed on certain plants that differ from those preferred by butterflies, which will feed on a variety of flowering blooms that are rich in nectar. A healthy garden should have a selection of both host and nectar-rich plants.

Butterfly-friendly Plants that Would Actually Attract them to Your Garden

Some plants have a dual purpose of being ideal hosts for developing caterpillars, as well as providing nectar for butterflies. These plants are perfect for small gardens with minimal space.

1. Daisies

Daisy

The daisy is a classic herbaceous perennial with bright, robust blooms that come alive every spring or early summer and bloom until early fall. They have dark, glossy green leaves and bear bright flowers with yellow disk florets and petals in a striking yellow-white and yellow-pink combinations. They tend to grow best in moderately fertile and well-drained soil. Shasta daisy is a typically good choice as it attracts pretty butterflies like painted lady, and red admiral.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 2 to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 5 – 8

2. Butterfly Weed

Butterfly Weed

A type of milkweed, a group of plants named for the milky substance that oozes from the leave when they are damaged, the butterfly weed’s leaves are the preferred food of the caterpillars of American monarch butterflies. The tuberous-rooted plant is a herbaceous perennial that grows up to 2.5 feet in well-drained soil and bears vibrant orange and yellow flowers that produce copious amounts of nectar. Apart from monarchs, it also hosts grey hairstreak, and queen butterflies. Other species of milkweed are also good for attracting these amazing pollinating insects.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 1 – 2.5 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 3 – 9

3. Sunflowers

Sunflower

Sunflowers are bright, heliotropic perennials that are heat-tolerant, attract a wealth of insects and birds, including butterflies, and add bright splashes of color to the garden. Best grown in nutrient-rich, well-drained soil, the plants can grow up to 16 feet tall and produce large daisy-like flowers with brown centers. Sunflowers bear different color petals ranging from the classic yellow to red, orange, and maroon, and are fast-growing, maturing in just 85 days.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: Up to 16 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 2 – 11

Plants and Flowers Butterflies Like Mainly as Sources for Nectar

1. Lantanas

Lantana

These plant bears toothed, dark green leaves which are aromatic when bruised, andtiny lobed flowers in orange, red, yellow, purple, and white, which can be mixed in the same clusters and are nectar-rich which attracts butterflies like hairstreaks, swallowtails, red spotted purples, cloudless sulfur, and checkered whites. West Indian lantana (Lantana camara), a frost-tender shrub native to Central and South America is one of the species that butterflies like the most. Though it is considered to be a noxious weed in many tropical areas as it grows to form dense thickets.

Type: Broadleaf evergreen

Plant Height: 3 to 4 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 10 – 11

2. Salvia

Salvia

Salvia, also known as sage, is a herbaceous perennial that blooms from summer through autumn and produces vibrant spikes of densely-packed flowers with tubular blossoms that are rich in nectar. The plant can bear flowers in a variety of colors from blue, pink, and purple to red, yellow, and white, attracting species like orange-barred sulfur,  monarch,  giant swallowtail,  zebra longwing, and gulf fritillary. The heat- and drought-tolerant plants prefer slightly acidic well-drained soil and can grow up to five feet tall, and velvety leaveswith a distinctive, pungent odor that deters garden pests such as deer.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 18 inches to 5 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to partial shade

USDA Zone: 5 – 10

3. Garden Pansy

Garden Pansy

Garden pansies are cool-weather perennials that tend to flourish in spring and fall gardens and attract butterflies and bees with their brightly colored flowers that look like little faces. Hybrids of violas, pansies produce vibrant flowers with heart-shaped, overlapping petals in a wide variety of colors and patterns ranging from blue, purple, pink, and maroon to red, yellow, orange, and white. Ideal for borders, ground cover or containers, these pretty blooms prefer slightly acidic, loamy soil.

Type: Perennial / evergreen perennial / biennial

Plant Height: 0.50 to 0.75 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to part shade

USDA Zone: 2 – 9

4. Coneflowers

Coneflowers

Coneflowers, also known as echinacea, are tough herbaceous perennials that produce bright, daisy-like coneflowers in a variety of colors that are rich in nectar. Growing up to four feet tall, the plant is native to most states in central and southeastern United States and has dark green broad-lanceolate leaves and can bloom in a range of colors from purple, pink, and red to orange, yellow, and white. The fast-growing plants prefer loamy, well-drained soil and self-seed profusely, blooming from midsummer through fall frost. Butterflies like fritillaries, swallowtails, painted ladies, and monarchs love these flowers.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 2 to 5 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to part shade

USDA Zone: 3 – 8

5. Goldenrod

Goldenrod

Goldenrod, commonly known as cliff goldenrod, is a herbaceous perennial native to Missouri, found on bluffs, cliffs, and ledges. The plant grows up to three feet tall and produces branched racemes of tiny, bright yellow, daisy-like flowers that attract butterflies like American snout,  bronze copper, orange sulfur, Milbert’s tortoiseshell, and  various hairstreaks due to their sweet nectar and ovate, toothed, hairy leaves. Goldenrod grows easily in any well-drained soil and performs best in full sun.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 1.5 to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 5 – 8

6. Phlox

Phlox

Phlox is a fantastically versatile annual that is native to central and eastern Texas with several varieties ranging from low-growing ground cover to tall, brightly colored stems of up to 10 feet. The plant produces fragrant, trumpet-shaped, red flowers rich in nectar from early April through July and prefers loose, loamy and well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Flowers bloom in varying shades of pink, red, purple, lavender, and white.

Type: Annual

Plant Height: 0.5 to 1 foot

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun, part shade, shade

USDA Zone: 2 – 9

7. Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-Pye Weed

Joe-Pye weed is a tall, herbaceous, clump-forming perennial native to Missouri, occurring in low, moist ground, thickets along streams, wet meadows, and wooded slopes. Best grown in moist, fertile, loamy soils in full sun to part shade, the plant grows up to seven feet tall and has coarsely serrated dark green leaves on sturdy stems. Clusters of tiny pinkish-purple flowers have a distinct vanilla scent that attracts butterflies and bees to the garden. Sweet Joe-Pye, trumpetweed, and spotted Joe-Pye are good options.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 5 to 7 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to part shade

USDA Zone: 4 – 9

8. Yarrow

Yarrow

Yarrow is a native North American herbaceous perennial with bright white, yellow, red, or pink flowers that are perfect for ground cover and borders in the garden, attracting various hairstreak butterflies along with Lorquin admiral, West Coast lady, and American copper. The hardy, versatile perennial prefers loamy soil and full sun, and is drought- as well as pest-resistant. Yarrow can be an invasive grower and needs to be monitored and cut back frequently to avoid pushing out its neighbors.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 2 to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 3 – 9

9. Pot Marigold

Pot Marigold

Pot marigolds are bright cheerful blooms in warm shades of yellow, orange, gold, copper, and brass that brighten any garden. These easy-growing plants perform best in average, moderately fertile, well-drained soil in full sun and produce daisy- or carnation-like flowers from spring through fall. Perfect for beds and borders in the garden, pot marigolds not only attract butterflies but is also an wonderful herb with a whole lot of uses.

Type: Annual

Plant Height: 1 to 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun, part sun

USDA Zone: 3 – 11

10. Lavender

Lavender

Lavender is a bushy perennial shrub with a strong distinctive aroma that is world-renowned for spectacular color, mesmerizing fragrance, notable medicinal properties. There are numerous varieties that are effective in bringing in butterflies and bees to your garden. They prefer medium, well-drained, alkaline soil and full sun, producing clusters of bright purple, mauve, and lavender flowers. The highly aromatic foliage and flowers can be used as an essential oil, in cooking, and for medicinal purposes.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 2 to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 5 – 9

11. Floss Flower

Floss Flower

Floss flower is a frost-tender annual that produces clusters of fluffy flowers in various shades of blue, purple-pink, and white. The easy-growing plant performs best in moist, well-drained soils and full sun and can grow up to 30 inches tall, depending on the variety. These plants are ideal for beds or containers in the garden and when they bloom from late spring to early winter, they attract a range of butterfly species with their sweet, nectar-rich flowers.

Type: Annual

Plant Height: 0.5 to 2 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 2 – 11

12. Bee Balm

Bee Balm

Also known as wild bergamot, bee balm is a native North American herbaceous perennial with fragrant foliage and brightly colored blooms in red, pink, purple, or white. A member of the mint family, the hardy, clump-forming shrub produces bright scarlet-red tubular flowers with terminal flower heads and an abundance of rich nectar and performs best in wet, moisture-retentive, loamy soils and full sun to part shade. Though they are primarily known for attracting swallowtails, these are a great plant for attracting a number of other species to the garden.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 2 to 4 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to part shade

USDA Zone: 3 – 9

13. Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush

The butterfly bush (Buddleja) is a vibrant fast-growing, deciduous shrub that bears long, spiked trusses of purple flowers from summer to autumn. Despite its name, the plant does not host butterflies or provide food for developing caterpillars. Butterflies are attracted to the nectar-rich flowers and seem to prefer the lavender-pink (mauve) blooms over the other shades of deep purple, red, yellow, and white. Native to China, buddleias are deemed to be an invasive species in many regions across the United States, so it is recommended to check with local state rules before planting this shrub in your garden.

Type: Deciduous shrub

Plant Height: 2 to 5 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 5 – 10

Plants that are Good Mainly as Host Plants for Butterflies

1. Snapdragon

Snapdragon Flower

Snapdragons are pretty, herbaceous perennials that prefer cool summer conditions and bloom from spring to fall. Named for the tubular flowers that resemble a dragon’s snout, the classic garden favorite prefers moist, organically rich, and well-drained soils and produces flowers in a wide variety of shades including pink, purple, red and orange, as well as yellow, peach and white. The common snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) is a host plant for the common buckeye.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 1 to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun

USDA Zone: 7 – 10

2. Stonecrop

Stonecrop

Sedum, commonly known as stonecrop, three-leaved stonecrop, or whorled stonecrop, is a small herbaceous perennial native to Missouri that has fleshy, succulent-like leaves and clusters of tiny star-like flowers. Their height depends on the type you are growing with the low-growing sedum being perfect for ground cover, and rock gardens, while the upright varieties are ideal for borders. Stonecrop performs best in medium, well-drained soils. The woodland stonecrop especially attracts variegated fritillaries and fiery skippers, while the showy stonecrop is another sedum species that butterflies are fond of.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 0.50 to 3 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun to part shade

USDA Zone: 3 – 10

3. Aster

Aster

Asters are bright, daisy-like perennials that prefer cool, moist summers, with Aromatic aster being a species that works well for attracting butterflies. The slowly spreading clumps can grow up to eight feet tall, producing vibrant blooms with yellow pollen-rich centers and petals in an array of colors from pink and purple to red, white, and blue. They prefer moderately fertile, well-drained but moist soils and full or part sun. Various species of asters serve as the host plants for pearl crescent butterflies.

Type: Perennial

Plant Height: 8 inches – 8 feet

Sunlight Requirement: Full sun, part sun

USDA Zone: 3 – 8

FAQs

Q.1. What are some of the flowers that attract butterflies?

Ans. Butterfly bush, lavender, coneflower, bluestar, salvias, allium, lupine, sea holly.

Q.2. What are some of the bushes that butterflies like?

Ans. Butterfly bush,rose of Sharon, firebush, summersweet, virginia sweetspire, spicebush, French lilac, buttonbush, weigela, bluebeard, New Jersey tea, meadowsweet.

by | Updated : July 21, 2020



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