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Nectar plants and host plants that attract butterflies

By: Garden Gate staff
Turn your garden into a beautiful butterfly hangout with nectar and host plants the winged wonders will love.

nectar-and-host-plants-to-attract-butterflies-lead: Here a painted lady butterfly rests on a sedum plant.

Did you know butterflies use plants in different ways during their life cycles? Host plants provide shelter for butterfly eggs and food for growing caterpillars. Many butterfly species have only a few or even just one plant that they will use to lay their eggs and support their offspring. Most herbs make excellent host plants. Nectar plants produce various kinds of flowers that provide liquid food for adult butterflies.

See how to design your garden to attract more pollinators

Attract butterflies with nectar plants and host plants

If you want to attract butterflies that are just passing through, nectar plants will be enough to bring them in for a visit. You’ll see in the list below that there are a many more nectar plants than there are host plants. Butterflies are more selective about their host plants, which give them a place to put down roots and raise a family.

The list of host plants below has a couple of weeds that also host butterflies. They’re followed by an asterisk and have no hardiness information. Although you probably won’t go out of your way to plant them, we’ve included them because they might be in your garden already. If you let a few of them grow, they may be host to butterflies you want to help out.

Check out these 5 tips for attracting more butterflies to your garden

Nectar plants

Plant name Botanical name Type Cold zones
Arroyo lupine Lupinus succulentus Annual n/a
Azalea Rhododendron spp. Shrub 3 – 10
Bee balm Monarda didyma Perennial 4 – 9
Blackberry lily Belamcanda chinensis Short-lived Perennial 5 – 9
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta Short-lived Perennial 3 – 7
Blazing star Liatris spicata Perennial 4 – 9
Blue vervain Verbena hastata Perennial 3 – 7
Button bush Cephalanthus occidentalis Shrub 5 – 10
Coral bells Heuchera spp. Perennial 3 – 8
Cosmos Cosmos bipinnatus Annual n/a
Fiddleneck Phacelia tanacetifolia Annual n/a
Flowering tobacco Nicotiana sylvestris Annual n/a
Foxglove Digitalis spp. Biennial/Perennial 5 – 9
Goldenrod Solidago spp. Perennial 3 – 9
Lantana Lantana camera Perennial 10 – 11
English lavender Lavandula angustifolia Perennial 5 – 10
Lilac Syringa vulgaris Perennial 2 – 9
Milkweed Asclepias spp. Perennial 3 – 9
Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus. Annual n/a
Pincushion flower Scabiosa columbaria Perennial 3 – 9
Primrose Primula spp. Perennial 3 – 8
Privet Ligustrum spp. Perennial 3 – 10
Spicebush Lindera benzoin Perennial 5 – 9
Spirea Spiraea spp. Perennial 6 – 9
Star flower Pentas lanceolata Perennial 10 – 11
Sweet William Dianthus spp. Annual n/a
Texas paintbrush Castilleja indivisa Annual n/a
Tickseed Coreopsis spp. Perennial 4 – 9
Turtlehead Chelone lyonii Perennial 3 – 8
Wallflower Erysimum capitatum Perennial 5 – 8
Yarrow Achillea spp. Perennial 3 – 9
Zinnia Zinnia spp. Annual n/a

Check out our butterfly-friendly garden plan

Host plants

Butterfly name Plant name Botanical name Cold zones
Buckeye Sedum Sedum spp. 3 – 9
Dainty sulphur Marigold Tagetes spp. Annual
Eastern tailed blue Alfalfa* Medicago sativa n/a
Meadow fritillary Violet Viola odorata 8 – 9
Milbert’s tortoiseshell Stinging nettle* Urtica dioica n/a
Monarch Milkweed Asclepias spp. 3 – 9
Mourning cloak Willow Salix spp. 4 – 9
Painted lady Hollyhock Alcea rosea 3 – 9
Tiger swallowtail Poplar Populus spp. 4 – 9

Related Tags

annuals-tender-perennials butterflies perennials plant-recommendations pollinator-friendly

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