Butterfly Garden Plants
A look at which plants to grow in your garden in order to attract butterflies.
Making a Butterfly Garden
In addition to plants some of the most beautiful and colorful things that you see in the garden are butterflies (though the caterpillars can be pesky little things if they are eating your favorite plants :-)
This edition of the newsletter takes a look at some of the plants that you can grow in order to attract these beautiful creatures to your garden.
Ideally a butterfly garden should have several different types of habitats in order to attract many different kinds of butterflies. An ideal setup will provide all of the following for the insects: Food plants for the larvae; Nectar sources for the adults; water (in the form of a mud pool); sunlight and shelter.
Plants that provide food for the caterpillars are known as host plants. Butterflies will be attracted to these to lay their eggs. Different butterflies are attractive to different plants and an individual species will generally only lay eggs on one or two different types of plants. This is because caterpillars extract chemicals from plants which will be toxic to predators. A good example of this is the Monarch butterfly that lays its eggs only on the milkweed family of plants.
The second type of plants which will attract butterflies to the garden are those that provide food for the adults. Ideal plants include Aster, Morning Glory, Trumpet Vine and Day Lily. Butterflies are attracted to flowers both by color and scent. They prefer flowers that are pink, white, yellow, orange, red or purple. Plants that have scents that act as magnets to butterflies include Dethra, Viburnum, Heliotrope, Butterfly bush and Spicebush.
Knowing which type of butterfly to attract to your garden
If a species of butterfly is not local to your area then there is little point trying to attract it to your garden. Therefore one of the most important aspects of planning a butterfly garden is to observe what butterflies are present in your area, you should also observe which plants that the butterflies are attractive to. If you are unsure of species identification then it will be a good idea to contact a local natural history society or a biologist at the closest university. The simple fact is that if a butterfly is not present in the area you will not be able to attract that species regardless of which plants you grow.
Here is a list of some European Butterflies and the plants that they are attracted to (for US/Australia) see below.
|Small Blue||Kidney Vetch|
|Essex Skipper||Cock's-foot; Common Couch; Creeping Soft-grass; Meadow Foxtail|
|Large Blue||Wild Thyme|
|Adonis Blue||Horseshoe Vetch|
|Northern Brown Argus||Common Rock-rose|
|Painted Lady||Thistles; Mallow; Nettle; Viper's-bugloss|
|Red Admiral||Nettle; Pellitory-of-the-wall; Hop|
|Large Tortoiseshell||Elm; Willow; Aspen|
|Common Blue||Bird's-foot-trefoil; White Clover|
|Swallowtail (Gorganus)||Wild Angelica; Wild Carrot|
|Orange tip||Cuckooflower; Garlic Mustard; Turnip; Charlock; Large Bitter-cress; Honest; Dame's-violet|
|Gatekeeper||Bents; Fescues; Common Couch; Meadow grass|
There are 416 species of butterflies native to Australia alone and the sheer range of habitats within that country makes it difficult choose which ones to list!
|Australian Butterflies and the Plants that attract them|
|Fivebar Swordtail||Soursop; Miliusa traceyi; Canary Beech; Yellowwood|
|Green triangle||Soursop; Dwarf Ylang Ylang; Biriba; and Annonaceae genus members|
|Hobart Brown||Perennial Ryegrass and members of the grass family (Poaceae)|
|Common Albatross||Australian Native Holly; Yellow Tulip|
|Iris Skipper||Cogon Grass; Guinea Grass; Sugar Cane|
For further information on Australian butterflies please visit this website.
For the North American section I will list plants and the type of butterfly that they attract.
Butterfly Attracted to the Garden
|Ash||Baltimore; Tiger Swallowtail|
|Aster||Buck eye; Checkered Skipper; Question Mark; Pearly Crescentspot; Painted Lady; Red Admiral; Sulphurs; Whites|
|Aspen||Compton Tortoiseshell; Dreamy Duskywing; Mourning Cloak; Red-spotted Purple; Tiger Swallowtail; Viceroy|
|Birch||Tortoiseshell, Dreamy Duskywing; Mourning Cloak; Tiger Swallow tail|
|Butterfly Bush||American Painted Lady, Comma, Mourning Cloak; Milbert’s Tortoiseshell; Painted Lady, Red Admiral; Swallowtails|
|Beauty Berry||Giant Swallowtail|
|Button Bush||American Painted Lady; Monarch;Tiger Swallowtail|
|Cottonwood||Compton Tortoiseshell; Dreamy Duskywing; Mourning Cloak; Red-spotted Purple; Tiger Swallowtail; Viceroy|
|Daisy||Cloudless Giant Sulphur; Pearly Crescentspot; Red Admiral|
|Dill||Eastern Black Swallowtail|
|Elm||Comma; Mourning Cloak; Question Mark|
|Goldenrod||American Painted Lady; Giant Swallowtial; Gray Hairstreak; Painted Lady; Red Admiral; Sulphurs; Viceroy|
|Hackberry||American Snout Butterfly; Hackberry Butterfly; Mourning Cloak; Tawny Emperor|
|Heliotrope||American Painted Lady; Orange Sulphur|
|Hollyhock||Common Checkered Skipper; Painted Lady|
|Joe-pye Weed||Metalmarks; Spice bush Swallowtail|
|Knotweed||Blues; Coppers; Fritillaries|
|Lantana||Cabbage White; Fiery Skipper; Gulf Fritillary; Swallowtails|
|Lupine||Blues; Eastern Pine Elfin|
|Milkweed||Blues; Hair streaks; Mourning Cloak; Monarch; Swallowtails; Sulphurs|
|Mint||Large Wood Nymph; Hairstreaks; Monarch; Painted Ladies; Red Admiral; Swallowtails; Whites|
|Morning Glory||Cloudless Giant Sulphur|
|Musk Mallow||Gray Hairstreak; Painted Lady|
|Oak||Hairstreaks; Sleepy Duskywing|
|Passion flower||Gulf Fritillary|
|Pearly Everlasting||Painted Lady|
|Poplar||Compton Tortoiseshell; Dreamy Duskywing; Mourning Cloak; Red-spotted Purple; Tiger Swallowtail; Viceroy|
|Privet||American Painted Lady; Painted Lady; Red-spotted Purple; Spring Azure|
|Red Clover||Alfalfa Butterfly; American Painted Lady; Cabbage White; Clouded Sulphur; Painted Lady; Red Admiral; Skippers|
|Purple Coneflower||Great Spangled Fritillary ; Silvery Blue; Silvery Crescentspot; Tawny-edged Skipper|
|Queen Ann’s Lace||Eastern Black Swallowtail; Gray Hairstreak|
|Sicklepod||Blue-banded Skipper; Mercurial Skipper; Sulphurs|
|Summer Sweet||American Painted Lady Spicebush; Question Mark; Red Admiral; Red-spotted Purple; Swallowtail|
|Sunflower||Crescentspots; Tiger Swallowtail|
|Violet||Falcate Orangewing; Great Spangled Fritillary; Meadow Frittilary; Spring Azure|
|Wild Petunia||Crescentspots; White Peacock|
|Wild Senna||Blue-banded Skipper; Mercurial Skipper; Sulphurs|
|Willow||Brown Elfin; Mourning Cloak; Red-spotted Purple; Swallowtails; Viceroy|
|Wormwood||Fiery Skipper; Great Spangled Fritillary; Monarch; Painted Lady; Tiger Swallowtail|
|Yarrow||American Copper; American Painted Lady|
In addition to the butterfly garden plants listed above the following plants are known to attract a wide array of moths and butterflies: Bachelor Button; Bleeding Heart; Catmint; Comfrey; Cosmos; Jupiter’s Beard; Golden rod; Lavender; Pot Marigold Sage; Stock; Sweet William.