Plants for a Butterfly Garden - Knowledgebase Question

Omaha, NE
Question by JycRen
March 26, 2001
Please suggest a good mix of plants for a butterfly garden.


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Answer from NGA
March 26, 2001

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Butterflies have specific favorite host plants. The plant the caterpillars feed on are not necessarily the ones the adults are attracted to. Therefore you will want to plant a variety of species for both larvae and adults. Most butterflies feed on flowers (like members of the sunflower or zinnia family) with large exposed sites to easily obtain nectar. They are attracted to gardens with lots of color, especially bright, vibrant colors with striking contrasts.

For nectar plants, consider lantana, verbena, salvia, mint, and rosemary. Other favorites are flowers that have flat surfaces that can be used for landing pads, such as calendula, black-eyed Susan, purple coneflower, aster, coreopsis, spreading fleabane, zinnia, and gaillardia. Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), buddleia, and passionvine are other excellent choices. Black Swallowtail larvae feed on both leaves and flower heads of dill, parsley, and fennel.

For most gardeners, I'm sure it is obvious that butterfly gardens should not be treated with pesticides, as this can defeat the whole purpose of the garden.

More plants to choose from:
Annuals & Perennials: Shasta daisy, hollyhocks, nicotiana, petunia, phlox, pincushion flower, cosmos, sunflowers, French marigolds, and salvia.

Wildflowers: Mexican sunflower, Joe-Pye weeds, ox-eye daisy, gilias, Bigelow's Aster, Indian paintbrush, desert globe-mallow, liatris, pentas, Jupiter's beard, coral bells.

Herbs: yarrow, hyssop, mints, lavender, bee balm, rosemary, catnip, pineapple sage.

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