Any size garden can attract and support butterflies— from a wildflower meadow to a window box planted with a grouping of well-chosen species. The best way to attract butterflies and other pollinators is to provide a steady supply of the pollen- and nectar-rich blossoms that they love. The plants featured below are chosen because they will draw a variety of beneficial insects to your containers or garden beds. You'll be able to enjoy the movement and colors of butterflies, hummingbirds and bees from spring to autumn… and, hopefully, increase their populations for generations to come.
Butterflies love color almost as much as they love sweetness--and they're partial to purple! This collection of perennials and annuals are a sure bet to attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds over a long growing season. Make it simple and effective by planting in groupings of plant variety and color.
Matching plants with butterflies...
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Pink or purple, daisy-like flowers are quite a treat for butterflies. To encourage Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterflies to your garden, provide these host plants as well as nectar producing plants (preferably those that are pink or purple) for the adults. These hardy plants can bloom from mid-June to September. In fall, the dried seeds from their coppery-orange centers will attract small birds such as finches.
Hummingbird Mint Hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)
Wands of powder blue flowers attract Monarch butterflies in droves—blooming from July to October in full sun. Hyssop doesn’t mind the heat.
Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
This tender perennial shrub blooms profusely in mid-summer. Its flowers in long panicles of blue, purple, pink, violet or white. They lure butterflies, especially Tiger Swallowtails and moths with their honey-scented fragrance and rich nectar. Hummingbirds prefer the flower colors with more red in them.
Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium)
Painted Lady butterflies love the mounds of lavender-rose flowers found on native Joe-pye Weed. Joe-pye Weed likes full sun and a moist soil. Blooms July-September. Deer resistant, too.
Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Yellow-gold, Black-eyed Susans bloom abundantly in the garden… and they look beautiful planted in a container too. This biennial blooms prolifically from July through September the first year and will self- sow after that. Swallowtails love this one as do most butterflies. Pair them with orange Butterfly Weed for a cheerful display. Deer resistant.
Bee Balm (Monarda)
Bee Balm prolific bloomer with pink, red, purple or white flowers. These fragrant plants (in the mint family) make colorful container plants, easily spread in the perennial garden and can also be used as cut flowers. They bloom from July through September—attracting butterflies, as well as bees. Swallowtail butterflies love this one and deer do not.
Milkweed for Monarchs...
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa): This prolific bloomer colors the garden with a pop of orange from June through August. It is a host plant for the Monarch butterfly larvae.This mounding plant (2-3 feet tall) looks beautiful as a container plant, too. Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) makes a nice companion grass for Butterfly Weed.
Fragrant Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): Fragrant and prolific, this milkweed blooms with lavender pink flowers from June through August. It matures from 2-4 feet tall and pairs well with the native perennial grass, Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium).
Rose Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata): Rose-pink flowers grow from 3-5 feet tall. Put this tall plant in the back of a container or flower bed. Blooms from June through August. This milkweed likes moisture so it is a good plant choice for a rain garden or use in a container that you can keep well watered. Pair with the native perennial, Fox Sedge (Carex vulpinoidea). Deer resistant.
ANNUALS: Butterflies are attracted to annuals, too. For best results, plant a grouping of a single variety or color. Butterflies are drawn to larger color groupings because they are nearsighted. But they can see and discriminate between colors.
Lantana (Lantana): Small, verbena-like flower clusters that mound or trail in tropical colors of yellow, orange, white, red, pink or purple or color combinations within each flower cluster.
Cigar Plant (Cuphea x David Verity’): A mass of trailing vivid orange, tubular flowers are tipped in white. (Named after the image of glowing ash on a cigar tip.) Orange blooms attract butterflies and hummingbirds in hanging baskets, containers or window boxes. Plant in full sun to part shade and keep container moderately moist.
Begonia (Boliviensis ‘Bonfire’): Reddish-orange flowers appear on scarlet stems—blooming from May to October. This butterfly and hummingbird magnet thrives in full sun to partial shade—even with our humidity. No deadheading is needed. This begonia is the perfect trailing annual for containers, window boxes and hanging baskets.