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

Flowers and Plants that Attract Butterflies

Primary Image

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

Grow Your Own Butterfly Garden

Print Friendly and PDF
Almanac Garden Planner

Become a better gardener! Discover our new Almanac Garden Planner features for 2024. It’s easy, fun, and free to try!


Butterflies and flowers were made for each other. As a French poet once pointed out, “Butterflies are flying flowers, and flowers are tethered butterflies.” Here is our list of the best plants that attract butterflies to the garden, with their respective common and Latin names, along with some advice on how to grow them.

In attracting butterflies, 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.

butterfly on a flower

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 eat from native flowers.  When building a butterfly garden, or really any pollinator garden, native varieties are far more effective.

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 can attract different species of butterflies! See our full list of flower and fruit varieties to consider adding to your garden. You may consider some of these plants “weeds,” but the butterflies love them.

Common NameLatin Name
Aromatic AsterSymphyotrichum oblongifolium
Bee balmMonarda
Black CherryPrunus serotina
Blue Wild IndigoBaptisia australis
Blueberry bushesVaccinium corymbosum,
Vaccomoium angustifolium
ButtonbushCephalanthus occidentalis
Butterfly bush*Buddleia 
Clove PinkDianthus
False indigoBaptisia
Floss flowerAgeratum
Globe thistleEchinops
Grey DogwoodCornus racemosa
Helen’s flowerHelenium
HoptreePtelea trifoliata
Joe-Pye weedsEupatoriadelphus fistulosus,
Eupatoriadelphus maculates,
Eupatorium purpureum
MilkweedAsclepias tuberosa
New York IronweedVernonia noveboracensis
NinebarkPhysocarpus opulifolius
Northern Spicebush Lindera benzoin
PipevineAristolochia macrophylla
Purple coneflowerEchinacea
Rock cressArabis
Sea hollyEryngium
Senna, AmericanSenna hebacarpa
Senna, MarylandSenna marilandica
Shasta daisyChrysanthemum sp.
Sweet alyssumLobularia
Sweet rocketHesperis
TuliptreeLiriodendron tulipifera
Trumpet VineCampsis radicans

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

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

Related Pollinator Articles

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

2023 Gardening Club