Bringing Butterflies to the Backyard

The most important step in attracting butterflies is to provide host plants and nectar flowers. Providing host plants–native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees– for caterpillars to feed on will allow you to watch the metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly, so don’t discourage caterpillars! Although they may snack on your plants, this is only temporary.

Nectar plants are brightly colored, sweet-smelling flowers that will provide adult butterflies with food. Most important  in making a butterfly garden – do not use pesticides! You may be killing off the very insects you made the garden for.

You do not need a large area to attract butterflies to your garden! Just select a few butterfly-attracting plants and place them in the sunniest spot in your garden. A combination of woody shrubs, perennials, and annuals works best. If you do not have room for a garden, hanging baskets filled with fuschia, petunias, or impatiens will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.

The following is a list of plants that attract butterflies:

Woody shrubs:

  • Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida)
  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)
  • Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
  • Weigela (Weigela florida)
  • Spiraea (Spiraea)
  • Lilac (Syringa)
  • Deutzia (Deutzia gracilis)
  • Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
  • Blueberry (Vaccinium)
  • Willow (Salix)


  • Yarrow (Achillea
  • Butterfly Weed (Asclepias)
  • Aster (Asteraceae)
  • Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Bee Balm (Mondara)
  • Cat Mint (Nepeta)
  • False Indigo (Baptisia)
  • Tickseed (Coreopsis)
  • Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis)
  • Lupinus (Lupine)
  • Garden Pinks (Dianthus)

Annuals and Tender Perennials:

  • Heliotrope
  • Lantana
  • Rosemary
  • Marigolds
  • Petunias
  • Geraniums
  • Snapdragons
  • Portulaca
  • Zinnias
  • Allysum
  • Fucshia
  • Vinca
  • Dahlia
  • Impatiens
  • Salvia
  • Verbena
  • Cosmos