Butterfly Gardens

To attract butterflies to your garden, plant both nectar producing and host plants. Adult butterflies feed from nectar producing plants and host plants provide female butterflies with egg-laying sites. Once the caterpillar hatches, it will eat from the host plant, so be prepared for some munching on those plants.

To attract a wide variety of butterfly species, plant an assortment of butterfly plant favorites. Plant masses of the same species of plant rather than singly to help the butterflies find the plants. As an additional attractant, place a pebble filled tray with water in the garden to provide the butterflies with drinking water.

Monarch butterflies migrate south to Mexico in the winter, but many butterfly species over-winter in our area. Some species hibernate as adult butterflies and seek protected places such as rock crevices, log hollows and roof eaves as the temperatures drop. Other species remain dormant in the larval (caterpillar) stage attached to dead leaves or pieces of wood. And some species of butterfly lay their eggs on host plants in the late fall; the eggs remain there until the spring when they hatch. During fall clean-up of the garden check your plants for eggs or larvae before removal. If you find any eggs or larvae, leave the plants undisturbed until spring.

In addition to the perennials listed below, butterflies rely on our native trees and shrubs for food and shelter. Some of the more common native plants found in our area (SE) are listed at the end of the perennial list.

Butterfly Favorites Available from Most Nurseries

Botanical NameCommon NameBloom PeriodColor
Achillea spp.YarrowSummer  Pink, red, white
Aster spp.AsterSummer  Various
Asclepias tuberosaButterfly weedMid — late sum  Bright orange
Baptisia australisFalse IndigoEarly — mid sum  Violet blue
Boltonia asteroidesFalse AsterSummer  Lilac-pink
Campsis radicansTrumpet CreeperSummer — fall  Orange tubes with scarlet lobes
Caryopteris x clandonensisBluebeardSummer — fall  Blue
Coreopsis spp.TickseedSummer to frost  Yellow, red
Dianthus spp.DaylilySummer to fall  Various
Echinacea purpureaPurple ConeflowerSummer  Pink-purple, white
Gaura lindheimeriGauraSummer  Pink, white
Heliopsis helianthoidesFalse SunflowerSummer  Yellow
Heuchera spp.Coral BellsSpring  Pink, white
Iberis sempervirensCandytuftSpring  White
Lavendula spp.LavenderMid-sum — early fall  Lavender pink
Leucanthemum spp.Shasta DaisyMid-sum — early fall  White
Nepeta subsessilisCatmintMid-sum — early fall  Pink-purple
Penstemon digitalisBeardtongueEarly — mid-sum  White tinged with pink
Penstemon x mexicaliBeardtongueEarly — mid-sum  Bright rose
Phlox spp.Phlox, ThriftSpring, Summer  Various
Rudbeckia fulgidaBlack-eyed SusanSummer — fall  Yellow with brown center
Salvia elegensPineapple SageEarly to mid sum  Red
Salvia lyrataSageMid to late sum  Blue-purple
Salvia nemorosaMeadow SageEarly — late sum  Rose-pink, white
Sedum spp.StonecropSummer — fall  Pink, white
Solidago canadensisGoldenrodSummer  Yellow