Attracting Butterflies


Gardening is for Butterflies

An abundance of flowers of any kind is almost certain to attract butterflies to your garden!

Butterflies are attracted by large splashes of color. Butterflies are a welcome sight in any garden not only for the beauty they bring but also because they serve as a valuable pollinator in our perennial beds. As butterflies develop through their life cycle, egg, larva (caterpillar), chrysalis, and adult, they rely on different types of plants for food and shelter. Each stage in the butterfly life cycle has its own special requirements.

Creating a Butterfly Garden

To develop a butterfly garden, you must include plants which will provide an accessible source of nectar which is the main interest of butterflies. The more food you provide, the more butterfly species your garden will attract.

Plant to Create Large Splashes of Color

Butterfly on SunflowerThe most appealing plants are those that have flower heads that are composed of short, tubular blossoms and are flat-topped, which provide a good landing platform. Examples include Achillea (Yarrow), Asclepias (Butterfly Weed), Buddleia (Butterfly Bush), Echinacea (Coneflower) and Monarda (Bee Balm).

Plant single rather than double blooming varieties as the nectar is more accessible in these forms.

Plant your garden to provide continuous bloom as butterflies are active from early spring through fall. Aster, Sedum, Solidago, and Vernonia are perennials which provide a valuable source of nectar late in the season.

Herbs are especially attractive to butterflies. Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, and Thyme provide not only a source of nectar but are also a favored host plant for butterfly eggs.

Plant annuals among your perennials to ensure a continuous supply of nectar throughout the season. Excellent varieties include Cosmos, Lantana, Pentas (Star-cluster), French Marigold, and Zinnia.

Provide "baby food" for Your Butterflies

For a successful butterfly garden you must make sure to include host species for the adults to lay their eggs on and which will provide food for the larvae or caterpillar stage. You must be willing to allow some plants to be eaten by caterpillars!

There are only a few perennial species which act as larval hosts. Most butterfly species prefer to lay their eggs on trees and shrubs.

The following are a few of the annual and perennial host plants: Asclepias, Cleome, Alcea (Hollyhocks), Asters, Chelone (Turtlehead), Viola, Verbena, Parsley, Humulus (Hopvine).

Perennials damaged by caterpillars can be cut back after the larvae pupate and reach adulthood. This will cause the plants to bush out and will actually improve the look of your garden.

The following are a few of the trees and shrubs which act as host plants: Apple, Cherry, Plum, Birch, Dogwood, Poplar, Elms, Ash, Hackberry, Willow, Hornbeam, Viburnum, Lindera, Lilacs.

Because color plays a vital role in attracting butterflies, you should group several plants of the same species and color.

Perennials Which Attract Butterflies

Achillea millefolium


Alcea - Hollyhock

Allium spp.

Alyssum saxitale

Aquilegia spp.

Armeria maritima

Arabis spp.

Asclepias tuberosa

Aster spp.


Boltonia asteroides

Buddleia davidii - Butterfly Shrub

Caryopteris - Shrub

Centaurea spp.

Centranthus ruber

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides

Chelone spp.


Coreopsis spp.



Dianthus spp.

Echinacea purpurea

Echinops ritro


Eupatorium spp.

Filipendula rubra


Helenium autumnale

Helianthus spp.

Heliopsis helianthoides

Hemerocallis - Daylily

Iberis - Candytuft

Iris pseudacorus

Kniphofia uvaria

Lavandula angustifolia

Liatris spicata

Lilium spp.

Lobelia spp.

Monarda didyma

Nepeta faassenii

Origanum spp. - Oregano

Phlox spp.

Physostegia virginica


Rosmarinus officinalis - Rosemary

Rudbeckia spp.

Salvia spp.

Scabiosa spp.

Sedum spp.

Solidago spp.

Spiraea japonica

Stokesia laevis

Vernonia noveboracensis

Verbena spp.

Veronica spp.

Veronica virginica ‘Alba’

It is truly a joy to see a hummingbird skipping from flower to flower to obtain nectar. Only certain flowers will attract these beautiful iridescent birds.

Perennials Which Attract Hummingbirds

Ajuga spp.

Alcea ficifolia

Aquilegia hybrids - Columbine

Asclepias tuberosa

Begonia grandis

Buddleia davidii - Butterfly bush

Chelone lyonii

Chelone oblique


Delphinium spp.

Digitalis spp.

Heuchera sanguinea - Coralbells

Hibiscus moscheutos

Hosta plantaginea

Lilium spp.

Lobelia cardinalis

Kniphofia spp.

Monarda didyma - Bee balm

Nepeta x faassenii - Catmint

Penstemon digitalis

Phlox paniculata

Rosmarinus officinalis

Scabiosa spp.

Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’

Verbena canadensis