Plant These to Attract Butterflies

Plants

Draw butterflies to your garden by growing specific plants. Create an environment that supports a butterfly’s entire life cycle by growing both host plants and nectar sources. Different plants will attract certain species, so plant strategically if you have a favorite!

Are butterflies hovering over your neighbors’ gardens but not yours? The butterflies are not attracted to the lovely people next door, but to the plants growing in their yards. If you like the idea of walking outside and being greeted by butterflies, all you need is a little strategic planting. 

In this blog, we will walk you through the best Florida plants to draw butterflies to your landscape. Check out our next blog post to learn about planning a dedicated butterfly garden!

Plants that Attract Butterflies

Butterflies won’t flock to your garden just because you have flowers growing. You must grow plants that butterflies like, and you must make sure the environment is suitable for these winged beauties. 

Butterflies are drawn to plants for one of two reasons: the plant serves as a host, or it provides nectar. Including both host and feeding plants creates an environment that encourages butterflies to stay and build a population instead of merely passing through; it supports their entire life cycle, from egg to adult.

Butterfly Host Plants

Adult butterflies only live for about two weeks, during which time they feed and reproduce. Butterflies seek out plants where they can lay eggs and where the caterpillars can feed until they enter the pupa stage. The plants they seek out are called host plants. Host plants are an essential addition to your garden if you want to see butterflies fluttering around.

Flowering host plants that do well throughout most of Florida (through zone 10) include the aster, false nettle, sunflower, and swamp verbena. Those that thrive north of Lake Okeechobee include the black-eyed Susan, coneflower, milkweed, and snapdragon.

Plant herbs including parsley, dill, and fennel; ornamental grasses like little bluestem grass and panic grass; and shrubs such as wild indigo and spicebush. Grow vines like passionflower and pipevine; choose oak, elm, dogwood, or willow trees.

Butterfly Nectar Sources

Adult butterflies need nectar to feed on. There are dozens of nectar-rich plants to choose from, and you can easily incorporate these into your yard and gardens. 

Buddleia, or butterfly bush, is a top-choice nectar source. This plant attracts lots of butterfly species and can support them all! Hundreds of butterflies can feed on the butterfly bush at a time. For best results in Florida, grow your Buddleia in a container.

Other nectar-rich flowers include the sunflower, Joe-Pye weed, plumbago, ruellia, and liatris. Plant a border crop using Mexican heather or firebush; groundcovers such as bulbine or lantana; and shrubs including ruby red pentas, blue porterweed, firespike, and pagoda flower. Grow vines like purple passionflower and corky stem passion vine; an accent plant like cat’s whiskers; or a tree such as jatropha, cassia, or bottlebrush.

Plants for Specific Butterfly Species

Different plants will attract different species of butterflies, so you can plant strategically if you have a favorite!

  • Milkweed is the only host plant for monarchs. 
  • Swallowtails love herbs like dill, parsley, and fennel. 
  • The cloudless sulphur, a common species in Florida, loves the sensitive pea or senna plant as a host and seeks nectar from red flowers like the morning glory, scarlet creeper, and scarlet sage. 
  • The rare Atala butterfly, once thought to be extinct, is drawn to the native Florida coontie, a fascinating prehistoric plant species.

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