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Butterflies andflowers 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.
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 plantswhere 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 listalso 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.
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.