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We all love to see butterflies hanging out in our yards, don’t we? The question is, of course, what kind of flowers do butterflies like? This is a really good one to ask actually as the butterflies are attracted to varying flowers based on both their species and the life stage they are currently in. I.e. Egg->Caterpillar->Butterfly.
We will talk about that distinction below and I will offer up not only a list of flowers that attract butterflies but also butterfly garden design plans and some additional tips on how to grow a butterfly garden.
Update July 2017: Since this has become one of my most popular blogs, I have decided to add a few sections such as separate lists of flowers for attracting both caterpillars and butterflies. I also have some downloadable garden plans as well so you can get started right away on planning and planting your butterfly garden.
Determining the Plants/Flowers That Attract Butterflies
Where you live really determines which plants and flowers are best (in your area) for attracting butterflies. This is also good to keep in mind when purchasing the plants for your flower garden.
You want the plants you grow and the butterflies that come to complement one another. However, buying the wrong plants for your climate will add to your gardening workload. Do you already know which garden zone you live in? That is half the battle. This link will tell you the zone you live in.
Consider using as many native plants as possible in your garden. The benefits are many. Bringing in exotic (non-native) plants can break the food chain in your yard. A small example. Your local insects may not be able to survive on their new plant diet. This then drives the birds away from your yard because they cannot partake of a meal on your lawn.
** Were you aware you can certify your pollinator garden with the National Wildlife Federation? This would cause it to count toward the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. How fun does that sound?!?
Your garden does need to be in the sun for at least five hours each day to attract the butterflies. They love the sun and sunny places.
List of Plants & Flowers That Attract Butterflies
|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|
Keep in Mind the Butterfly’s Life Cycle
Butterfly gardening can be rewarding when you see the butterflies attracted to the flowers and plants you’ve lovingly planted, but also take into consideration their life cycle.
This means they are going to be feeding on the plants in the garden so keep this in mind if your leaves look a little (or lot) chewed up. After all, you can’t have those beautiful butterflies without caterpillars, and they can’t grow and make cocoons without proper food.
List of Caterpillar Host Plants
Remember, choose your plants based on the caterpillars and butterflies that come to your area. More on that below.
- Acmon Blue – buckwheat, lupines, milkvetch
- American Painted Lady – cudweed, everlast
- Baird’s Swallowtail – dragon sagebrush
- Black Swallowtail – parsley, dill, fennel, common rue
- Coral Hairstreak – wild black cherry, American and chickasaw plum, black chokeberry
- Dun Skipper – sedges, grasses including purpletop
- Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – wild black cherry, ash, tulip tree, willow, sweetbay, basswood
- Giant Swallowtail – prickly ash, citrus, common rue, hoptree, gas plant, torchwood
- Gray Comma – gooseberry, azalea, elm
- Great Purple Hairstreak – mistletoe
- Gulf Fritillary – maypops, other passion vines
- Henry’s Elfin – redbud, dahoon and yaupon hollies, maple-leaved viburnum, blueberries
- Monarch – milkweeds * Take note that milkweeds are really the only flowers that attract monarch butterflies.
- Painted Lady (Cosmopolite) – thistles, mallows, nievitas, yellow fiddleneck
- Pygmy Blue – saltbush, lamb’s quarters, pigweed
- Red Admiral/White Admiral – wild cherries, black oaks, aspens, yellow and black birch
- Silver-Spotted Skipper – locusts, wisteria, other legumes
- Spicebush Swallowtail – sassafras, spicebush
- Sulphurs – clover, peas, vetch, alfalfa, asters
- Variegated Fritillary – passion flower, maypop, violets, stonecrop, purslane
- Viceroy – willows, cottonwood, aspen
- Western Tailed Blue – vetches, milkvetches
- Western Tiger Swallowtail – willow, plum, alder, sycamore, hoptree, ash
- Woodland Skipper – grasses
- Zebra Swallowtail – pawpaw
Designing Your Butterfly Garden
First, don’t overthink this. The butterflies don’t care how strategically your coneflowers are placed. They just want them to be there! I have included a couple of very attractive butterfly garden plan printables from Better Homes and Gardens below. This will give you some inspiration on plant varieties, placement, etc.
Small Butterfly Garden Design
Click on the image in order to download the plans.
Create a Resting Spot and a Puddling Area
Just like us, butterflies love to warm themselves in the sun and of course, need water too. To make a butterfly friendly garden, place smooth rocks in sunny places for them to rest.
Bury shallow bowls or buckets of moist sand into the ground (making them flush with the ground) so they can have a drink and keep themselves hydrated. This is called Puddling.
It is believed they do this so they can intake sodium which helps the males reproduce successfully and also helps ensure the eggs survive. I have read that you might want to put a dead or fake butterfly on the sand in order to entice the other butterflies to visit.
Figuring Out Which Species of Butterflies Visit Your Region
In Georgia alone, there are over 170 different species of butterflies and they all have different markings and habits. Some like to perch under leaves and others patrol. Some leave their offspring to find host plants and others leave their eggs close to the host plants.
The website Butterflies and Moths of North America have a regional checklist on their website that will allow you to download a pdf of butterflies that visit your area.
Printable: Perennial Flowers That Attract Butterflies
There is so much to learn! What kind of flowers do butterflies like? So many! My pretty printable above will give you a comprehensive list of flowers that attract butterflies in all stages of their life cycle. Local nurseries can also help you get on the right track too. They are always in the know on the garden flowers that attract butterflies. Since they are usually owned and run by people who live in the area, they will have that expert knowledge you are looking for.
What have you done to grow your own butterfly garden? I would love to hear all about it!