Butterfly host plants and Butterfly nectar plants for Butterfly Gardens
Aristolochia, Asclepias (Butterfly weed), Buddleia (buddleja ... Butterfly bush), Liatris and many more.
Many people love to garden because they enjoy nature and the beauty of plants. In addition, some flowering plants attract brightly colored wildlife to the garden whose kinetic energy and flashing colors greatly add to the visual palette. Butterflies are the most prized gardening accessory, followed by hummingbirds, other birds and insects, garden gnomes and pink flamingos. We have searched through our enormous database of perennials to create this collection of the best butterfly attracting plants for perennial gardens.
Read More About Butterfly Attracting Plants
There are two types of butterfly attracting plants. The first type have flowers that provide nectar or fruit for adult butterflies, and the second type are host plants that provide food for butterfly larvae (caterpillars). Each butterfly species has a small set of plants they prefer, so good butterfly gardens will contain a wide variety of butterfly attracting plants to bring in the most diverse mix of lepidopterons.
As a general rule, the best butterfly attracting plants produce clusters of colorful, tubular flowers. You should plant butterfly attracting plants together in large groups to provide an all-you-can-eat buffet for butterflies. Mix up the flowering dates so that your garden provides food all year long. In addition to plants, a good butterfly garden will provide shallow pools of drinking water, some flat stones for basking, and some shady, protected spots for butterflies to cool-down in and escape high winds. Remember not to spray insecticides on your butterfly garden in order to preserve the adults and caterpillars. In fact, good butterfly gardens should be well-chewed up.
The following is a list of the best butterfly attracting plants available at Plant Delights Nursery. Look for the underlined plants which are the best of the best butterfly attracting plants. The list is divided into nectar plants and butterfly larvae host plants so when you design your butterfly garden, choose a variety of plants from the Nectar column and from the Larvae column. When you are ready to buy butterfly host and butterfly nectar plants for your butterfly garden, we hope you will enjoy the list below.
List of nectar and fruit plants for adult butterflies
Since 1988, Plant Delights Nursery has been the choice of serious gardeners and plant collectors looking for the best and rarest perennial plants. We are pleased to have received the Perennial Plant Association Retail Award in 2011, the American Horticulture Society Commercial Award in 2002, and to have been selected as one of the Best Mail Order Plant Nurseries - Garden Design Magazine 2010. Welcome to our family of plant lovers!
In our winter hardiness trials, Abutilon 'Bartley Schwarz' (named after the late California plantsman, although incorrectly spelled "Schwartz") has been one of our best performers. The slightly pendent branching habit of this Abutilon megapotamicum hybrid makes a 4' tall x 4' wide clump clothed with small, fuzzy green serrated leaves and adorned from early summer through fall with 1.5" wide, salmon-orange (RHS 24B) bell-shaped flowers that dangle from the outstretched woody branches. As a houseplant, this mallow relative is everblooming (should be the same in an apartment)...just watch out for hummingbird droppings. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Abutilon 'Canary Bird' is a marvelous hummingbird plant that has survived 6 degrees F in our garden. This hibiscus relative has maple-like foliage on a compact 6' tall x 3' wide plant. For us, Abutilon 'Canary Bird' starts flowering in early summer with large, dangling, 3" wide, canary yellow, bell-like flowers and continues until the first frost. For those in more northerly zones, Abutilon 'Canary Bird' makes a great centerpiece for a container planting. Good winter drainage is key for maximum cold tolerance in the ground. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Abutilon 'Fool's Gold' is an upright abutilon, clothed with 2" wide, fuzzy green leaves and adorned from early summer until fall with 2.5" wide, hanging, orange (RHS 24B) lantern-like flowers, each highlighted with dark orange veins...a hummingbird delight. This 4' tall x 2.5' wide flowering maple has proven to be reliable in our climate since 2004, but is also a great summer container specimen plant. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Abutilon megapotamicum is a fun and easy-to-grow Brazilian native that makes a great hummingbird magnet for the perennial border, spreading to several feet wide in a single season. If you're into container gardening, a flowering maple also makes a great hanging basket plant. In the wild, Abutilon megapotamicum reaches 8' tall, but in temperate climate cultivation, it rarely exceeds 5' tall. From late summer until frost, the plants are laden with very cool 2" hanging red lanterns, carefully placed between the thumb-sized green leaves. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This vigorous hummingbird favorite makes a 5' tall x 5' wide upright mass of woody stems adorned with fuzzy, dark green leaves. During the summer, the outermost branches are laden with dangling parchment-yellow flowers, each highlighted by a dark red calyx. This has been a superb performer in our winter hardiness trials. Although we list this as a selection of Abutilon megapotamicum, its vigor and leaf shape suggest its baby-daddy is instead a close relative. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
I longed for an abutilon with pastel flowers and plantsman Luen Miller of Monterrey Bay Nursery came to the rescue with this fabulous selection of Abutilon megapotamicum. The 3' tall x 4' wide clump of Abutilon 'Pink Charm' is adorned from early summer until fall with small pink dangling bells that line the stem...simply charming for both the gardener as well as nearby hummingbirds. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Thanks to Luen Miller of Monterrey Bay Nursery for sharing his splendid 2005 introduction...a hybrid of Abutilon megapotamicum. The 3-4' tall mass of stems is adorned with pointed green leaves and, from early June until fall, with hundreds of dangling bell-shaped flowers. The flowers are clear orange, highlighted by red bloodshot eye-like veins. Each flower is held tight by a dark burgundy calyx (the thing the flower sits in). Abutilon 'Orange Hot Lava' has been a standout in both our summer flowering and winter hardiness trials. Nine out of 10 hummingbirds agree, Abutilon 'Orange Hot Lava' is a top choice! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This Jon Dixon hybrid has been an amazing performer in our garden trials. Not only did Abutilon 'Voodoo' continue flowering into the upper 20s, but it kept green stems and leaves down to 20 degrees F. Abutilon 'Voodoo' makes an upright 6' tall x 3' wide clump, adorned, starting in late summer and continuing into late fall, with large 2", blood red, bell-shaped flowers dangling from the top half of the plant. This hummingbird favorite is one of the best performers of the large-flowered, upright flowering maples we have ever grown. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Anthea yarrow is a 1993 introduction...a discovery by the late Alan Bloom of England, who found it growing in a patch of Achillea 'Moonshine'. Achillea 'Anblo', marketed under the equally strange name 'Anthea', is a noticeable improvement over most of the yarrows we have tried...it actually survives here without trying to take over the garden. The basal rosette of cutleaf silvery foliage is topped in late spring with very erect 30" stalks, holding nice flower clusters of light butter yellow. This is a great addition to the softer colored parts of the border. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We've tried many yarrows through the years and most have struggled through our hot humid summers, with the exception of Achillea 'Strawberry Seduction'. This Achillea millefolium hybrid (possibly with Achillea clypeolata) was selected in 2001 by Holland's Michiel Zwaan, who bred it from the Achillea Summer Pastels seed series. Achillea 'Strawberry Seduction' is a long-flowering selection that begins flowering in June with strong 2' tall well-branched stems, topped with clusters of colorfast red flowers, highlighted with small yellow centers. I've experienced strawberry reductions before, but admit that I find the imagery of a strawberry seduction...berry interesting. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
When my friend Gert Fortgens of Arboretum Trompenburg in Holland told me about his cross of the North American native Agastache foeniculum with the Korean Agastache rugosa, the offspring sounded too good to be true. However, after trialing Agastache 'Blue Fortune' in our dry garden, I consider it one of the finest new perennials in years! In spring, the strong new stalks shoot upward to 3' tall, clothed with fuzzy, licorice-scented fragrant leaves. From early spring through summer, the stems are topped with hundreds of large bottlebrush, blue-lavender flowers that attract a stunning array of pollinators, including hummingbirds! Agastache 'Blue Fortune' needs an open, well-drained site for best performance. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This Terra Nova introduction is one of the first of the brightly-colored agastache hybrids to survive our NC summers. Agastache 'Cotton Candy' forms a 2' tall x 3' wide drought-tolerant clump of upright green stems, each clothed in small, but very minty-fragranced leaves. From spring through fall, the stems are topped with dense clusters of small pink flowers emerging from the dark pink-tipped calyces. Agastache 'Cotton Candy' is a magnet for attracting both butterflies and hummingbirds...we recommend a flight control tower within a 100' radius. Good drainage is essential for long-term survivability. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Agastache foeniculum 'Get Riehl' comes from an early 1990s trip when I visited Iowa City plantsman, Frank Riehl. Sharing a love of native habitats, Frank took me to a nearby prairie remnant where I first saw anise hyssop growing in the wild. Those cutting-grown plants have remained in our garden for over two decades, so we decided that it was time to share. The deciduous Agastache foeniculum 'Get Riehl' makes a wispy upright clump of angular branched stems, topped from early summer through September with 6" terminal soft lavender flowers. Agastache foeniculum is also grown for its wonderfully fragrant licorice-scented foliage. Anise hyssop has long been prized for its medicinal value to cure everything from coughs to diarrhea. Bees also use anise hyssop to make a lovely flavored honey. In the garden, good drainage seems to be the key to persistence. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This superb but rarely encountered hollyhock from Russia has been one of the best performers in our display garden. From an evergreen basal rosette of corrugated grey-green leaves, tall sturdy 6-7' spikes arise, beginning in spring. The spikes are clothed along the bottom half with typical hollyhock foliage, while the top half is adorned all summer with large, 4", single buttery-yellow, classic mallow flowers, attractive to hummingbirds. For us, Alcea rugosa has proven to be a reliable and disease-resistant perennial compared to other hollyhock species. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This stunning Allium nutans hybrid comes from the Onion Man, Mark McDonough. Allium 'Millennium' represents several generations of breeding (onions) and is head and shoulders above any other alliums we grow. The compact 1' tall x 1' wide clump of narrow, glossy green, deer-resistant leaves is topped for over a month in late summer with 2" rosy-purple flower heads. We grow Allium 'Millennium' in several locations and have never seen any sign of a stray seedling...garliccimo! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
(aka: Allium luteum) This fantastic selection of the southern European golden garlic was made by Antoine and Michael Hoog in 1978 while trekking in the Spanish Pyrenees. Allium 'Jeannine' is greatly improved over the typical species by having golden flowers instead of the typical greenish yellow, and by producing two flower spikes per bulb instead of the typical one. Allium moly 'Jeannine' also comes into flower a few weeks earlier than the normal species, which means late May/early June in NC. The small clumps are topped with 2" umbels of bright yellow flowers atop 10" stalks...very cute! Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
This delightful form of the Siberian Allium nutans was shared with us by our friend and garden writer, Pam Harper. Allium nutans 'Pam Harper' is composed of 8" long x 0.5" wide, slightly twisted, glaucous, deer-resistant leaves topped with 15" tall spikes that end with 2" floral balls. The clump begins flowering in early June and reflowers through the end of September. The flowers are pure white except where the nights are cool, when they may take on a light pink cast. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We had almost given up on alliums after growing far too many weedy species but have been delighted to find great non-weedy hybrids like Allium 'Sugar Melt', thanks to Allium guru, Mark McDonough. This hybrid of Mark's combines the best traits of both Allium nutans with the popular Allium senescens. Allium 'Sugar Melt' has been a standout in our rock garden, making a 6" tall x 8" wide circular clump of narrow, green, deer-resistant leaves, topped in early July (later in colder climates) with 16" stems of light pink flower balls...a perfect rock garden plant. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
We have grown Aloysia virgata since 2001 and it has become one of our favorite summer flowering plants. In our climate it dies to the ground in winter and behaves as an 8' tall perennial, where in more southerly climates it makes a large open shrub to 15'. The upright woody stems are clothed with dark green sandpapery leaves. Starting in July and continuing until a hard frost, the branches end in terminal spikes of extremely fragrant white flowers that attract butterflies, other cool insects, and even garden visitors. The intoxicating fragrance of vanilla almond is strongest in late afternoon and evening. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)
Amorpha canescens is a superb native plant that hails from Canada south to New Mexico, where it grows in dry rocky soils. Despite this rugged heritage, fragrant dwarf false indigo has been superb in our hot, humid garden where it forms a 3' tall x 3' wide deciduous shrub. The branches are adorned with small, 3" long, mimosa-like leaves that emerge grey and age to green. Starting in late May (NC), the clumps are adorned with terminal clusters of bottlebrush-like flowers of purple with orange tips. Unlike many plants from desert climates, we haven't seen any ill effects from regular irrigation as long as the soil is well-drained. I can't imagine having a drought-tolerant garden without Amorpha canescens. in 2012 we offered this as Amorpha nana, since that was the name we purchased our original plant under...sorry for the error. Pot Size: 3.5" (24 fl. oz/709.77 ml)