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Best Plants for Attracting Butterflies

Best Plants for Attracting Butterflies

By Farah Nauman, Lawn Love
Photographs courtesy of Lawn Love

Bright-colored butterflies not only look beautiful and make your garden feel wholesome, but they also serve an important function by pollinating plants. Building a habitat that supports and serves all the developmental stages of a butterfly is necessary to attract these winged beauties. Here are eight plants for attracting butterflies.

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Photo by Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man) | Wikimedia Commons | CC-BY-SA-2.5

1. Butterfly Weed

Butterfly weed is a type of milkweed. Also known as the butterfly flower, the stems and leaves of this incredible plant serve as landing pads for these winged visitors, while the flowers provide the nectar. It features bright orange blooms that attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.

It’s also a tough plant; you won’t have to worry about its growing conditions or maintenance, because these plants are drought-tolerant and are generally easy to work with. Butterfly weed is essential for butterfly gardens, especially if you’re attracting the endangered monarch butterfly, because monarch larvae feed solely on milkweed.

  • Botanical name: Asclepias tuberosa
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Flower color: Purple, pink, yellow, orange, white
  • Mature plant height: 2-4 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Summer
  • Grows best with: Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
  • Ideal growing conditions: Full sun with moist soil
  • USDA hardiness zones: 4-9 

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2. Lantana

The perennial lantana is typically grown as an annual. It produces clusters of beautiful blooms in a variety of eye-catching hues. This plant works well both potted in a container and planted in the garden. It can tolerate an impressive amount of heat and attracts butterflies naturally with its alluring scent.

Lantana, also called shrub verbena, blooms continuously through the summer. Monarchs, cabbage whites, red admirals, swallowtails, and skippers are some butterfly species that love to feed on its delectable flowers.

  • Botanical name: Lantana
  • Plant type: Tender perennial, grown as annual
  • Flower color: Single, bicolored, or multicolored in hues of purple, pink, orange, coral, red, white, yellow
  • Mature plant height: 2-5 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Moderate
  • Blooming time: Late spring to all summer, year-round in warmer climates
  • Grows best with: Zinnia
  • Ideal growing conditions: Sunny, bright spot with well-draining soil
  • USDA hardiness zones: 9-11

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3. Aster

Aster comes with daisy-like flowers in a wide variety of colors. It’s a great plant to keep your garden full and colorful till the late fall. Aster sports large blue flowers that serve as an essential late-season source of food for migrating butterflies, specifically monarchs.

The eye-catching blooms attract lots of butterflies and bees and act as host plants for caterpillars. Pearl crescent and painted crescent butterflies are especially fond of asters. It’s a heavy bloomer and also has variants that are more compact and disease resistant.

  • Botanical name: Symphotrichum
  • Plant type: Herbaceous perennial
  • Flower color: Blue, purple, pink, white
  • Mature plant height: 1-6 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Summer to fall
  • Grows best with: Bloody geranium
  • Ideal growing conditions: Full sun with well-draining, moist soil
  • USDA hardiness zones: 3-8

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4. Salvia

Salvia is a cherished plant for butterflies and hummingbirds. Its no-fuss nature and bewitching blooms make this a favorite among gardeners and butterflies. It will bloom for weeks and easily tolerates clay, drought, and deer.

Salvia is essentially a mint relative and develops long-lasting, scented foliage. The flowers have a tubular or spiky appearance and appeal to an array of butterfly species, including cabbage whites, American lady, and different types of skippers, sulfurs, and swallowtails.

  • Botanical name: Salvia sylvestri
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Flower color: Blue, mauve, orange, coral, purple, pink, white, yellow
  • Mature plant height: 1-5 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Late spring to fall
  • Grows best with: Coreopsis
  • Ideal growing conditions: Full sun and well-draining soil
  • USDA hardiness zones: 4-9 

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Drew Avery | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

5. Blazing Star

Blazing star is an excellent choice to attract butterflies to your garden. It is also called gayfeather and shoots up firework-like flower stalks throughout summer.

The flowers are spiky and attract monarchs, buckeyes, swallowtails, and other pollinators. This North American prairie native is also very easy to grow and maintain.

  • Botanical name: Liatris spicata
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Flower color: White, lavender, purplish-pink
  • Mature plant height: 1-5 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Summer
  • Grows best with: Butterfly weed
  • Ideal growing conditions: Moist soil and full sun
  • USDA hardiness zones: 3-9

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6. Sedum

Sedum, or stonecrop, is a tough, drought-tolerant perennial that has thick, succulent leaves. This plant comes in various shapes, sizes, and colors. It has tall and short variants that are both loved by butterflies because sedum serves up nectar mid- and late-season.

The star-shaped, nectar-rich flowers attract species like American painted ladies, silver-spotted skippers, and buckeye butterflies.

  • Botanical name: Hylotelephium spectabile
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Flower color: Pink, purple, yellow, white, orange, red
  • Mature plant height: 3-36 inches
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Summer to fall
  • Grows best with: Coreopsis
  • Ideal growing conditions: Well-draining soil and full, bright sun
  • USDA hardiness zones: 3-11 

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7. Coneflower

Coneflower is a great choice for your garden to attract a large number of butterflies. The plant develops large, enticing blooms that attract a variety of wildlife, too. It’s a useful plant that makes nectar for the butterflies, while in its dried form it is used to produce immune-boosting tea.

Coneflower is a drought-resistant perennial that stands up pretty well to harsh winter conditions. These plants are excellent for water-conscious planting and also work well for rain gardens as they easily adapt to wet-dry soil cycles. It’s a favorite among bees, birds, and butterflies and is capable of holding up to humidity, heat, and drought. You can plant coneflowers practically anywhere in the U.S. 

  • Botanical name: Echinacea
  • Plant type: Perennial 
  • Flower color: Orange, white, pink, purple, red, green, yellow, and bicolored
  • Mature plant height: 1-5 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Summer and early fall
  • Grows best with: Anise hyssop 
  • Ideal growing conditions: Well-drained soil and full, bright sun
  • USDA hardiness zones: 3-9 

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8. Goldenrod

A member of the aster family, bright yellow goldenrod blooms in the late summer. The snowy, plume-shaped flowers grow vigorously along open meadows, roadsides, and woodlands and will attract dozens of butterflies to your yard, too. It’s an important source of nectar late in the growing season.

Monarchs, painted lady, viceroys and red admirals are some of the butterfly species that are drawn to this plant.

  • Botanical name: Solidago
  • Plant type: Perennial
  • Flower color: White, yellow
  • Mature plant height: 1-6 feet
  • Maintenance needs: Low
  • Blooming time: Late summer to fall
  • Grows best with: Coneflowers, Joe-Pye weed
  • Ideal growing conditions: Full sun or part shade and well-drained soil
  • USDA hardiness zones: 3-9

Attract Fluttering Charmers To Your Garden

Creating a healthy and complete habitat for butterflies can get tricky, but knowing about the right butterfly-attracting plants will help you set up a beautiful garden in no time. And if you find yourself struggling to do so, Lawn Love pros are just a call or text away.


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