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Plants that Attract Butterflies: Best Flowers for Butterflies | The Old Farmer's Almanac

Plants that Attract Butterflies

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Butterflies are always looking for nectar, so if you can provide the tastiest meal, you can keep them around!

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Grow Your Own Butterfly Garden

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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.” Here are some of the best plants that attract 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.

butterflies-flowers-yard.jpg

Keeping Your Garden Butterfly-Friendly

To attract butterflies to your garden, it’s best to include a range of food sources. You’ll need flowers with 1) nectar (for adults) as well as 2) “host” plants for caterpillars.

Now if you want to keep butterflies in your yard (and support these declining pollinators), you must have those 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. 

A butterfly’s wish list also includes sunny, open spaces, shelter from the wind, and fresh water. 

  • Just placing some flat stones around your yard and garden gives a place for butterflies to “sunbathe” so that they can rest and warm their wings for flying.
  • A bird bath or even a shallow basin can provide water. In nature, butterflies often gather around mud puddles to get the minerals they need. As the water evaporates, it leaves behind valuable salts and minerals that butterflies need. Some garden stores even sell pudding stones.

Plants That Attract Butterflies

Native plant varieties are best; some butterflies can only pair with natives. 

For caterpillars, consider plants like milkweed, dill, and asters. Monarch caterpillars ONLY eat milkweed. In fact, the monarch butterfly is also known as the “milkweed butterfly.”

For butterflies, Joe-Pye weed, ironweed, coneflowers, goldenrod, and brightly-hued asters are nectar-filled favorites. 

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed.
A monarch caterpillar feasting on milkweed.

Plants to Attract Butterflies

Different plants would attract different species. See our full list below.

Common Name Latin Name
Allium Allium
Aromatic Aster Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
Bee balm Monarda
Black Cherry Prunus serotina
Blue Wild Indigo Baptisia australis
Blueberry bushes Vaccinium corymbosum,
Vaccomoium angustifolium
Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis
Butterfly bush* Buddleia 
Catmint Nepeta
Clove Pink Dianthus
Cornflower Centaurea
Daylily Hemerocallis
Dill Anethum
False indigo Baptisia
Fleabane Erigeron
Floss flower Ageratum
Globe thistle Echinops
Goldenrod Solidago
Grey Dogwood Cornus racemosa
Helen’s flower Helenium
Hollyhock Alcea
Hoptree Ptelea trifoliata
Joe-Pye weeds Eupatoriadelphus fistulosus,
Eupatoriadelphus maculates,
Eupatorium purpureum
Lavender Lavendula
Lilac Syringa
Lupine Lupinus
Lychnis Lychnis
Mallow Malva
Milkweed Asclepias tuberosa
Mint Mentha
New York Ironweed Vernonia noveboracensis
Ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius
Northern Spicebush  Lindera benzoin
Pansy Viola
Phlox Phlox
Pipevine Aristolochia macrophylla
Privet Ligustrum
Purple coneflower Echinacea
Rock cress Arabis
Sage Salvia
Sea holly Eryngium
Senna, American Senna hebacarpa
Senna, Maryland Senna marilandica
Shasta daisy Chrysanthemum sp.
Snapdragon Antirrhinum
Stonecrop Sedum
Sweet alyssum Lobularia
Sweet rocket Hesperis
Tickseed Coreopsis
Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera
Trumpet Vine Campsis radicans
Zinnia Zinnia

*Butterfly bush is categorized as an invasive plant in many states and is not used as host plant for caterpillars.

Please let us know if we’re missing any of your favorite butterfly plants! Just comment below.

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