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Plants that Attract Butterflies

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List of Plants That Attract Butterflies

It's obvious: Butterflies and flowers were made for each other. As the poet pointed out, butterflies are flying flowers, and flowers are tethered butterflies.

In attracting butterflies to your garden, it's important to understand what they want most out of life: nectar. The ancients, who believed that nectar fell directly from heaven, named it after the wines of the gods. A butterfly's wish list also includes sunny open spaces, shelter from the wind, and fresh water.

For a nectar-rich flower border designed to satisfy these requirements, consider the plants listed below. Then invite a few butterflies over for a drink.

Common Name Latin Name
Allium Allium
Aster Aster
Bee balm Monarda
Butterfly bush Buddleia
Catmint Nepeta
Clove Pink Dianthus
Cornflower Centaurea
Daylily Hemerocallis
False indigo Baptisia
Fleabane Erigeron
Floss flower Ageratum
Globe thistle Echinops
Goldenrod Solidago
Helen's flower Helenium
Hollyhock Alcea
Lavender Lavendula
Lilac Syringa
Lupine Lupinus
Lychnis Lychnis
Mallow Malva
Milkweed Asclepias
Mint Mentha
Pansy Viola
Phlox Phlox
Privet Ligustrum
Purple coneflower Echinacea
Rock cress Arabis
Sage Salvia
Sea holly Eryngium
Shasta daisy Chrysanthemum
Snapdragon Antirrhinum
Stonecrop Sedum
Sweet alyssum Lobularia
Sweet rocket Hesperis
Tickseed Coreopsis
Zinnia Zinnia

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When I was a kid my

By Carolyn Patton on March 21

When I was a kid my grandmother would plant parsley in a flowerbed. I grew up in southwestern Louisiana and remember watching the Monarch butterflies that would propagate on it. It was fascinating. This plant doesn't appear on the list. Does anybody else know anything about this happening or was it an aberration that only happens in the bayou area?

The list above is for nectar

By Almanac Staff on March 23

The list above is for nectar plants only, which the adult butterflies like to feed on. Parsley, however, is an excellent host plant for swallowtails; adult butterflies like to lay eggs on it, so that the hatching larvae may eat the plant for food. Eventually, they will form a chrysalis and turn into an adult butterfly. It is fascinating to see them develop.

I have never had them them

By marika200

I have never had them them spread in Arkansas either. Before you completely write-off the buddleia, find out if they are invasive in your area. They certainly aren't invasive everywhere. Frankly, I wouldn't mind a few volunteers coming up once in awhile.

Mideastern NJ: To assist in

By Lorrainesmith1

Mideastern NJ: To assist in the desperately declining numbers of Monarch butterflies, would like to urge every NJ garden to have some version of milkweed. The common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) is 5-6 ft and spreads quickly. It is milkweed of choice but is better in meadows or a section of isolated sun/part shade garden. Better for home gardens is Ascelpias tuberosa, "Butterfly Weed", a brilliant orange, 20-28" height, visited by all pollinators, often hosting a bunch of our favorite cheerful Monarch caterpillars. For new timers, Asclepias curassavica, "Tropical Milkweed" with beautiful red-yellow blossoms, 18-24", is annual in our area. Purple milkweed (purpurascens)is a more manageable, shorter version of Common milkweed, with lovely purple blossoms. And Asclepias Incarnata (Swamp or Marsh milkweed) is a more elegant 4-5 ft. shrub if you have room and part shade. Harvest the seed pods or cut the flowers as they fade to eliminate seed disbursement of all your milkweed. All produce flowers to feed your bees and butterflies. Your gardens will be humming and buzzing happily mid-spring to early summer with pollinators. Sadly, have not yet spotted a single Monarch, or any eggs or caterpillars on a 2 acre property with large milkweed beds.


By Harikrishna


I have lived in Northern VA

By Linda Bragg

I have lived in Northern VA and now live in the eastern panhandle of WV and have yet to see my butterfly bushes propagate in the 20 years that I have had them. Honeysuckle, the vine, on the other hand is very invasive. Have not noticed that about the honeysuckle bush. Here, I would call milkweed and thistles invasive as well as mimosa trees.

I am a wildlife ecologist,

By Soos Weber

I am a wildlife ecologist, and member of the Board of ALIPC--Alabama Invasive Plant Council. Whenever I visit a site like this one, I nearly always see butterfly bush listed as a good butterfly plant. It is not only an exotic plant, it is an invasive plant in many states. So is Lonicera unless you specify L.flava, or L. sempervirens. To simply say "honeysuckle" is inviting trouble to all our natural ecosystems, which are being blighted by these invaders. The yellow honeysuckles are invaders from Asia.

I work for nursery/garden

By bried689

I work for nursery/garden center in northern NJ. and many of my customers reported this past winter (2014)killed their butterfly bushes; Buddleia are only hardy in planting zone 7 and below and we are in zone 6) When planting for butterfliies, indigenous plant species per region are the best bet.

I live in Colorado (zone 5).

By Larry Lynuss on March 29

I live in Colorado (zone 5). I have 9 butterfly bushes that come back every year from the ground. They spring up later than most plants and seem to be dead but aren't. I get lots of butterflies and hummingbirds. Cut them down to a foot and be patient, very drought tolerant. Indigenous plants are best,but not much grows here, unless I only want weeds.I do have some milkweed.

I have had many butterfly

By john haase

I have had many butterfly bushes and they are NOT invasive at all in my area--Florida.

The native/invasive issue is

By LizJ

The native/invasive issue is a separate one. Butterflies don't care if a plant is native or not and they do like buddleia blooms. In CT, they don't seem to be invasive: I have 3 in my small suburban garden for 5 or 6 years and never had a single offspring. My sister in the mid-Atlantic region found that to be more of a probem.

Where on that list do you see

By VickiB

Where on that list do you see Lonicera or Honeysuckle???? Why make any negative comments on plants that aren't even on the list???

They said "butterfly bush"

By Larascakes

They said "butterfly bush" first.....

Thanks for sharing that

By Katt

Thanks for sharing that information so that we won't inadvertently do something that would be harmful in the long run.

I'm glad you mention the

By Dawn Horock

I'm glad you mention the invasiveness of certain butterfly bushes. I've had one in the past that really took over. So it is something that people need to consider before they buy one. Check out which variety.

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