Suggested Butterfly Garden Plants

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This article will suggest plants for a butterfly garden.
by Brett · All Zones · Theme Gardens · 0 Comments · August 30, 2010 · 6,900 views

When talking about butterfly gardening, and what plants are best for a butterfly garden, there are two essential things to consider:

  • Host Plants These will attract ovipositing female butterflies and provide a food source for developing butterfly larvae.
  • Nectar Plants - These will attract, feed and nourish adult butterflies. Butterfly Larvae On Fennel

Host Plants

The first step is to determine which species thrive in your area, then determine what host plant the butterfly needs. Many of the host plants are found in the wild so don't worry too much about incorporating these into your garden if you can't find them. The following is a listing of butterfly families that live in or visit regions of the South and the host plants they need:

  • Swallowtails (Family Papilionidae) - snake root, parsley, carrots, parsnips, fennel to name a few
  • Whites and Sulphurs (Family Pieridae) - sassia, and the pea family, wild senna, mustards to name a few
  • Gossamer-wing Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae) - witchazel, sheep sorrel, curled dock, mistletoe, wild plum to name a few
  • Metalmarks (Family Riodinidae) - yellow thistle
  • Brush-footed Butterflies (Family Nymphalidae) - hackberry, passion vine, violets, purslane, and sedums to name a few
  • Skippers (Family Hesperiidae) - wisteria Butterfly Garden

Nectar Producing Plants

These plants are much easier to find at your local nursery and garden center.

  • Butterfly Bush(Buddleia) - Pronounced BUD-lee-ah, this is one of the most popular selections for butterfly gardens. This easy-to-grow deciduous shrub blooms all summer through fall and is a magnet for many butterflies.
  • Lantana - These plants will attract and feed more butterflies than any plant we know of. Lantana varieties can be annuals, tender perennials, or very hardy perennials, depending on where you live and garden. In the South, varieties such as Sonset, Miss Huff, Mozelle, Chapel Hill, Pink Caprice, Trailing Lavender and New Gold are among the hardiest.
  • Salvia (Salvia guaranitica 'Black & Blue' and Salvia 'Hot Lips')
  • Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias)
  • Blue Mist Shrub (Caryopteris)
  • Stoke's Aster (Stokesia)
  • Autumn Joy Sedum (Sedum spectabilis)
  • Cosmos
  • Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
  • Bee Balm (Monarda)
  • Coneflowers (Echinacea)
  • Veronicas
  • Catmint
  • Coreopsis
  • Yarrows (Achillea)

Other Tips

  • Try to provide a combination of host and nectar plants.
  • Use plants of different heights.
  • Use a variety of flowering plants to provide nectar throughout the season
  • Provide a number of different flower colors. Some butterfly species prefer certain colors of flowers.
  • Provide a mix of flower shapes. Different flower shapes provide easier access to nectar for different types of butterflies.
  • Plant in shade and sun if possible. Many forest species prefer shade.
  • Understand each plants requirements for light, water needs and soil so that plants will reach their full potential.


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