Flowers for a Butterfly Garden

Swallowtail butterfly on blue butterfly bush flower.
The many varieties of butterfly bush are perfect for a butterfly garden.

A butterfly garden is an easy way to bring some beauty and fun to your garden. Read on for more butterfly-friendly flowering plants as well as tips on how to grow a butterfly garden in your yard.

Orange flowers on butterfly weed plant.
Bright, hardy butterfly weed adds a splash of orange to a butterfly garden.

Butterfly Garden Tip #1: Many species of plants and flowers attract butterflies – some provide nectar for the adults, and some provide nutritious leaves for the larvae to feed upon.

Annual Nectar Flowers for a Butterfly Garden

Cosmos (Cosmos sulphureus)Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Globe Amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)
Impatiens (Impatiens wallerana)Sunflower (Helianthus sp.)
Marigold, French (Tagetes patula)Verbena (Verbena sp.)
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia sp.)Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Pinkish red rose of Sharon flowers.
Rose of Sharon is heat-tolerant, and the flowers add character to a butterfly garden.

Butterfly Garden Tip #2: As a bonus, many butterfly-attracting plants are low-maintenance, hardy, and quite possibly native to your area, which means that your butterfly garden may be the easiest patch of flowers you’ll ever grow.

Perennial Nectar Flowers for a Butterfly Garden

Ageratum (Ageratum)Hollyhock (Althea rosa)
Aster (Aster sp.)Ironweed (Vernonia sp.)
Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium fistulosum)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia sp.)Lantana (Lantana sp.)
Boltonia (Boltonia asteroids)Leadplant (Amorpha fruticosa)
Bugle (Ajuga reptans)Lobelia (Lobelia cardinalis)
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)Milkweed (Asclepias sp.)
Catmint (Nepeta sp.)Mountain mint (Pycnanthemum sp.)
Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)Passion Flower (Passiflora sp.)
Coneflower (Echinacea sp.)Phlox (Phlox paniculata & carolina)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis sp.)Salvia, Sage (Salvia sp.)
Daylily (Hemerocallis sp.)Sedum (Sedum sp.)
English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)Shasta Daisy (Chrysanthemum max.)
False Indigo (Baptisia australis)Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
Gayfeather, Blazing Star (Liatris sp.)Thistles (Cirsium sp.)
Heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescensVerbena (Verbena sp.)
Hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.))Yarrow (Achillea sp.)

Yellow black-eyed Susan flowers.
Black-Eyed Susans require little attention and reach for the sunshine.

Butterfly Garden Tip #3: The best location to plant a butterfly garden is in full sun.

Shrubs and Trees for a Butterfly Garden

Abelia (Abelia sp.)Mock Orange (Philadelphus sp.)
Blueberry (Vaccinium sp.)New Jersey Tea (Canothus americanus)
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)Pear (Pyrus communis)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)Plum (Prunus sp.)
Buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)Privet (Ligustrum sp.)
Clethra (Clethra alnifolia)Redbud (Cercis sp.)
Elaegnus (Elaegnus umbellata)Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus sp.)
Hawthorn (Crataegus sp.)Silverling (Baccharis sp.)
Honeysuckle shrub (Lonicera sp.)Spiraea (Spiraea sp.)
Lilac (Syringa sp.)Viburnum (Viburnum sp.)

Purple blazing star flower with green butterfly on it.
Blazing star is great for a butterfly garden, since it tolerates both heat and drought.

Butterfly Garden Tip #4: In addition to nectar-producing flowers for your butterfly garden, consider plants that caterpillars like to munch, such as fennel and milkweed.

Host Plants for Butterfly Larvae and Eggs

Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)Milkweed (Asclepia sp.)
Clovers (Trifolium sp.)Nettles (Urtica sp.)
Carrot and CabbagesOaks (Quercus sp.)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)Parsley (Petroselinum sp.)
Dogwoods (Cornus sp.)PawPaw (Asimina triloba)
Elms (Ulmus sp.)Senna (Cassia sp.)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)
Flowering Fruit TreesTulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera)
Hop Tree (Ptelea trifoliate)Willow (Salix sp.)

Red flower of Jupiter's beard.
Jupiter’s Beard is a prolific bloomer that is both heat and drought tolerate.

Butterfly Garden Tip #5: When planning for your butterfly garden, keep in mind that some butterflies like to lay their eggs in trees.

Verbena flowers in shades of purple and blue.
Trailing varieties of verbena work well in containers or in the landscape.

Butterfly Garden Tip #6: Mass plant single varieties of plants for greater visual appeal and to attract more butterflies.

Yellow coneflower blooms.
This unique yellow coneflower is native to the Ozarks and attractive to butterflies.

Butterfly Garden Tip #7: It’s important to keep a butterfly garden free of pesticides!

Yellow coreopsis flowers.
Coreopsis cultivars can be lightly trimmed to encourage repeat blooming.

Butterfly Garden Tip #8: Butterflies love to sunbathe, so include a few flat, dark stones in your garden.

Orange and yellow marigold flowers.
Marigolds are profusely-blooming annuals that are extremely easy to grow.

Butterfly Garden Tip #9: Butterflies also need water and take minerals from the soil by sipping from wet soil. Bury a dish of coarse sand (kept wet), or include dishes of water with pebbles or sticks for perching.

Flowers on red buckeye.
The lush, glossy foliage of Red Buckeye shows off their spring blossoms.

Butterfly Garden Tip #10: Learn your local butterflies, and plant larval host plants so you can attract species common in your area.

Bluish purple stokes aster flowers
In addition to attracting butterflies, stokes aster can be used for cut flowers.

Butterfly Garden Tip #11: Plant your butterfly garden where it’s protected from the prevailing wind, such as near a fence, wall, or hedge.

White clusters of yarrow flowers.
Yarrow is tolerant of drought is great for combating soil erosion.

Butterfly Garden Tip #12: Stagger the bloom times on plants to ensure butterflies are attracted to your garden throughout the warm seasons of the year.

Bee balm flowers with butterfly.
Fast-spreading bee balm can be used to attract many different pollinators.

Butterfly Garden Tip #13: Having trees or large shrubs near your butterfly garden can provide a protected place for butterflies to nest at night.


  1. Hello,

    I am buying a home in the desert mear Palm Springs California. I like the butterfly plants but are those types of plants the best type of plants. Let me know what types are the best in Desert area.


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