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How to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden: 22 Butterfly Plants

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: May 28, 2020 • 3 min read

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Ron Finley Teaches Gardening

Butterflies add beauty to your garden and pollinate flowers. To benefit your local butterflies, fill your garden with two types of plants: nectar plants and host plants. Adult butterflies drink nectar, so nectar plants will entice them to come to your garden. Host plants ensure butterflies stay in your garden by providing a place to house butterfly eggs and serving as food sources for caterpillars once the larvae hatch.

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Ron Finley Teaches GardeningRon Finley Teaches Gardening

Community activist and self-taught gardener Ron Finley shows you how to garden in any space, nurture your plants, and grow your own food.

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22 Plants That Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Growing these plants and flowers will create a butterfly-friendly habitat in your garden or yard.

  1. Allium: This ornamental flowering onion produces striking blooms that are perfect for attracting butterflies.
  2. Aster: Named after the ancient Greek word for "star" (based on the shape of its flower), these fall bloomers liven up your yard with an array of purple, blue, pink, and white and attract many types of butterflies.
  3. Black-eyed Susan: This wildflower's most common variety has a brown or black center surrounded by bright yellow flower petals. Black-eyed Susans make a great addition to a full-sun garden and are beautiful butterfly flowers.
  4. Bronze fennel: This edible plant adds a layer of texture to your butterfly garden, and serves as an ideal host plant for black swallowtail butterflies.
  5. Butterfly bush: Also known as buddleia, these large, fast-growing shrubs are true to their name and attract butterflies with their blue, purple, or white flowers. Butterfly bushes thrive in sunny locations with well-draining soil.
  6. Butterfly penta: Also known as Egyptian starflower, this easy to grow plant comes in a variety of colors. It's a rich nectar source for many butterfly types, as well as hummingbirds.
  7. Coreopsis: Also known as tickseed, coreopsis is a yellow flower with green foliage that blooms all summer long, making it perfect for butterflies. It thrives in sunny locations with well-draining soil.
  8. Goldenrod: This bright yellow late-blooming flower is full of nectar for butterflies. Goldenrod blooms in late summer and early fall.
  9. Hollyhock: This tall flowering plant comes in pink, purple, white, and yellow varieties. Hollyhock attracts pollinators with its nectar and acts as a host plant for painted lady caterpillars.
  10. Joe-Pye weed: Some varieties of this wildflower grow up to six feet tall. Spotted Joe-Pye weeds are especially attractive to monarch butterflies and tiger swallowtails.
  11. Lantana: This drought-tolerant low hedge plant is a great choice to edge walkways, and its blossoms come in an assortment of colors with nectar that attracts spicebush swallowtails, red admirals, monarchs, skippers, and more.
  12. Liatris: Also known as a blazing star, this long-blooming perennial produces vibrant purplish-pink or white flowers and is a favorite of monarch butterflies.
  13. Milkweed: There are over 100 milkweed varieties in North America, but the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) are especially well-suited to butterflies.
  14. Monarda: Also known as bee balm, this nectar-rich flowering plant comes in red, pink, and purple varieties. Once it blooms in midsummer, it attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial pollinating insects.
  15. Phlox: A low-growing groundcover plant with beautiful white, pink, red, or lavender blossoms, phlox is a beautiful butterfly plant for large backyards.
  16. Marigold: These easy-to-grow, vibrant annuals typically come in bright yellow and orange colors. They're able to thrive in full sun and partial shade conditions, they bloom all summer long, offering plenty of blooms for butterflies.
  17. Purple coneflower: This member of the Echinacea genus is one of the most attractive flowers to butterflies like the painted lady. Purple coneflowers bloom through late summer and are extremely heat and drought resistant.
  18. Sedum: Also known as stonecrop, sedum thrives in full-sun conditions in well-drained soil. Its lengthy blooming term makes it a prime choice when you're looking to attract butterflies and other pollinators.
  19. Salvia: This type of sage comes in annual, biennial, or perennial varieties. It blooms in many colors and attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
  20. South American verbena: Also known as purpletop, this fast-growing self-seeding perennial is a hit with many butterfly species, including fritillaries, black swallowtails, tiger swallowtails, painted ladies, and red-spotted admirals.
  21. Sunflower: A member of the Helianthus genus, sunflowers are tall annual or perennial flowers with bright yellow petals surrounding yellow or maroon interior disc florets. Sunflowers attract bees and butterflies like the giant swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail, American lady, monarch, and gray hairstreak.
  22. Yarrow: An easy-to-maintain wildflower that makes an ideal landing pad for butterflies, yarrow comes in many gorgeous colors and is heat-resistant and drought-resistant.

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Grow your own food with Ron Finley, the self-described "Gangster Gardener." Get the MasterClass All-Access Pass and learn how to cultivate fresh herbs and vegetables, keep your house plants alive, and use compost to make your community - and the world - a better place.

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