A circle of sunshine and flowers to attract a mob of butterflies is dream for many of us. We can imagine ourselves stretched out comfortably in a lawn chair, drink in hand, while entertained by graceful fluttering wings in jeweled colors visit the bright flower beds.
If that sounds like paradise to you, be ready to plant the flowers loved by butterflies, while making a nurturing habitat in your yard.
Plant Lists and Plans
Plants for a butterfly haven consist of two main categories, those for nectar and those for feeding caterpillars. The plants might be prize garden flowers, but they could as easily be considered weeds, and the difference between the two may dictate how you plan to design the garden.
Most of this post is dedicated to the blend of planting for the pleasure of people who visit and view the garden with the regard for nurturing butterflies. But the two can’t really be divided, so a compromise in allowing some ragged edges to foliage and petals along with some of the less presentable plants into a flower garden is compensated with the incredible blessing of healthy butterflies bringing their beauty and grace.
You may even wish to give an out of the way corner or two to the less desirable (to humans!) plants. Most of the plants here are garden worthy and they all love full sun. The choices of which ones to combine for your particular butterfly garden plan is up to you, though I offer a couple sketched-out ideas to begin your plans.
General Purpose Butterfly Plants for a Sunny Border
Soft Romantic Plan
Example of a garden scheme could include a front row of dianthus choices: Dianthus plumarius ‘Itsaul White’, Dianthus ‘Bath’s Pink’, Dianthus ‘Coconut Surprise’
Follow with drift of medium-low Scabiosa caucasica interspersed with Gaura lindheimeri for airy interest. Additionally, clumps of Chrysanthemum maximum (Shasta daisies) beside and close behind.
Next the pink daisy forms of Echinacea purpurea.
Behind these place garden Phlox in graded heights: Phlox paniculata ‘David’, Phlox x arendsii’Babyface’, along with tall Lupines in rose, pink, white. Tuck in some Verbena bonariensis from mid to back heights.
This will give a pink, blue, and white color scheme with flowering beginning early summer in the front and ranging to late summer in the rear.
Bring On the Color Plan
Coreopsis lanceolata at the front. Monardas, Asclepsia tuberosa, and Rudbeckia hirta create the center of color, Add tall grasses and a selection of lilies for height and interest.
If the main interest is to center around native plants, replace lilies with Joe Pye, Eupatorium purpureum. It won’t be as colorful, but will draw butterflies and grows between 3 ft. – 7 ft . (It’s extremely hardy).
For long blooming and bright color, add annuals. The perennials for this garden will bloom mainly in mid-summer with seedhead interest later. Annuals give all summer color amongst the longer lived plantings.
Plants Which Feed Caterpillars
Provide host plants which are meant to be eaten by butterfly larvae (caterpillars). This encourages the visits and nurtures reproduction of the Lepidoptera population.
Plants to Provide Nectar
They like flat faced flowers (like a tabletop) with landing space. A mix of flowers is best, with many annuals like these:
- Single Marigolds
- Tithonia rotundifolia
- Ageratum houstonianum
- Nicotiana alata
- Pentas lanceolata
Plan a Meadow Haven
A grand mix of blooms in a flowery meadow brings many Lepidoptera species and sets a smorgasbord of their favorite plants. A loose casual planting of semi-circle beds centered with a shallow birdbath or stone fountain is ideal. make sure to place a seat for the gardener, as well.
24 Perennials That Butterflies Like
|Plant Name||Height||Butterflies||To Grow||Zones|
|Aster novae-angliae||1-2 ft.||Checkered White, Orange Sulphur, Question Mark, Painted Ladies, Red Admiral, Buckeye||Regular moisture, Average soil||4 – 9|
|Geum chiloense||16-18″||Astarte fritillary||Short lived. Tolerates drought||5 – 9|
|Rudbeckia hirta||2-3 ft.||Great Spangled Fritillary, Pearly Crescentspot||Average water, drought tolerant||3 – 8|
|Caryopteris clandonensis||2-3 ft.||Subshrub, will reseed. Average moisture and soil.||5 – 9|
|Gaillardia grandiflora||1-3 ft.||Edwards fritillary||Drought tolerant; good soil||4-10|
|Malva alcea, Althaea rosea||2-4 ft. ,|
|Checkered skipper||Average moisture and soil||4 – 8|
|Monarda didyma||2-4 ft.||Checkered white, Edwards fritillary, Melissa blue, Monarch||Good soil, likes moisture||4-8|
|Gaura lindheimeri||2-4 ft.||Many species||Good drainage, average soil||5 – 10|
|Asclepias tuberosa||2 ft.||Monarch,||Average conditions||4 – 10|
|Chrysanthemum maximum||18-36″||Pearly Crescentspot, Red Admiral, Queen||Short lived, average conditions, somewhat drought tolerant||5-10|
|Dianthus||10 – 15″||Giant Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail||Good soil. regular moisture||5 – 9|
|Hylotelephium spectabile||2 ft.||Variegated Fritillary, Fiery Skipper||Average soil, drought tolerant||3 – 9|
|Hyssopus officinalis||2 ft.||Subshrub, Average soil||4 – 9|
|Echinacea purpurea||2-4 ft.||American Lady, Giant Swallowtail, Great Spangled Fritillary, Painted Lady, Pearl Crescent, Red Admiral, Silvery Checkerspot, Spicebush Swallowtail, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Variegated Fritillary, Viceroy, Fiery Skipper, Gulf Fritillary, Sachem, Tawny-edge Skipper||Drought tolerant.||3 – 9|
|Lupinus||1-3 ft.||Common Blue||Regular moisture. Average soil.||3 – 8|
|Scabiosa caucasica||2 ft.||Good, well drained soil. Needs regular moisture||3 – 7|
|Apocynum cannabinum||3 ft.||Spicebush Swallowtail, checkered White, Common Orange Sulphur, Gray Hairstreak, Spring Azure, Pearly Crescentspot, Mourning Cloak, American Painted Lady, Buckeye||Can be invasive. Drought tolerant.||3 -9|
|Kniphofia uvaria||2 -5 ft||Monarch||Fertile, well drained soil.||5 – 9|
|Verbena bonariensis||3 – 6 ft.||American Lady, Cabbage White, Common Buckeye, Great Spangled Fritillary, Painted Lady, Pearl Crescent, Pipevine Swallowtail, Zebra Longwing, Zebra Swallowtail, Silvery Checkerspot, Fiery Skipper, Great Southern White||Tolerates drought, well-drained||7 – 11|
|Ruta graveolens||2 -3 ft.||Black Swallowtail, Giant Swallowtail||Sub shrub, Well-drained soil, moderate moisture||6 – 9|
|Phlox paniculata||2 -3 ft.||Swallowtail, Spicebush Swallowtail, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Sachem, Zabulon||Good soil, moderate moisture|
|Conoclinium coelestinum||1 -3 ft.||Monarch, Southern Broken-Dash, Ocola Skipper, Zabulon, Sachem||Needs moisture, loamy soil||5 – 10|
|Coreopsis lanceolata||1 -2 ft.||Gray Hairstreak, Pearl Crescent, Swallowtail||Loam soil. moderate moisture||3 – 9|
|Lilium Orientalis||4 -6 ft.||Monarch, Spicebush Swallowtail, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Zabulon||Rich well drained soil. Regular moisture||5 – 9|
Project Butterfly Garden
Remember to create an entire habitat with shallow water source, maybe even a butterfly house, or some offered fruit. To know exactly how to do that visit my page on “How to make your garden a butterfly destination“.