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Perennial flowers that attract butterflies

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.

Consider this to be a great way to get your kids involved in gardening too! This Giant Butterfly Garden with 5 Caterpillars was cheapest on Amazon!


Determining the Plants/Flowers That Attract Butterflies

garden flowers that attract butterflies
(c) Can Stock Photo / Alexis84

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.

Monarch on Milkweed

A Monarch hanging out on our Common Milkweed

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.

Birds Choice Butterfly NectarBirds Choice Butterfly NectarGardirect Butterfly House, Butterfly ShelterGardirect Butterfly House, Butterfly ShelterWildflower Butterfly Hummingbird MixWildflower Butterfly Hummingbird MixWoven Bamboo Butterfly HouseWoven Bamboo Butterfly House

List of Plants & Flowers That Attract Butterflies


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
Catmint Nepeta
Clove Pink Dianthus
Cornflower Centaurea
Daylily Hemerocallis
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
Snapdragon Antirrhinum
Stonecrop Sedum
Sweet alyssum Lobularia
Sweet rocket Hesperis
Tickseed Coreopsis
Tuliptree Liriodendron tulipifera
Zinnia Zinnia

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.

In order to attract as many as you can, you will need a combination of nectar-rich plants for the adults and host plants for the caterpillars.

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.

CaterpillarList 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

Blue Mountain Mist flower 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

Butterfly Puddling StoneButterfly Puddling Stone

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.

Were you aware the Monarch Butterfly was in trouble? There is a huge initiative to help them by planting milkweed. This is the only plant they eat. Can you help them out by planting some in your own yard?!?

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

Click here to download my Printable List: Perennial Flowers That Attract Butterflies

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!

Do you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden or birds to your garden!