Butterflies and flowers were made for each other, and there are certain flowers that butterflies absolutely love to be around. As a French poet once 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.
However, if you want to keep butterflies in your yard (and support these declining pollinators), it’s essential to include host plants where they can lay their eggs (some butterfly species are fussier than others as to what plants are best); once the larvae hatch, the host plants will serve as food for the developing caterpillars. To encourage butterflies to come to your garden, it is good to include food for both the young (host plants) and the adults (nectar plants).
A butterfly’s wish list also includes sunny open spaces, shelter from the wind, and fresh water.
Plants That Attract Butterflies
For caterpillar food plants, consider plants like violets, milkweeds and asters. For nectar, butterflies love Joe-Pye weed, ironweed, yellow coneflowers, goldenrods, and brightly-hued asters. See our full plant list below.
|Common Name||Latin Name|
|Aromatic Aster||Symphyotrichum oblongifolium|
|Black Cherry||Prunus serotina|
|Blue Wild Indigo||Baptisia australis|
|Blueberry bushes||Vaccinium corymbosum,
|Grey Dogwood||Cornus racemosa|
|Joe-Pye weeds||Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus,
|New York Ironweed||Vernonia noveboracensis|
|Northern Spicebush||Lindera benzoin|
|Senna, American||Senna hebacarpa|
|Senna, Maryland||Senna marilandica|
* now categorized as an invasive plant in many states.
Please do tell us if we’re missing any great butterfly plants! Just comment below.