12 Plants That Butterflies Love

Easy-to-Grow Nectar Plants for a Butterfly Garden

Want to bring butterflies to your backyard? Of course! To make your garden attractive to your colorful guests, you'll need to provide a good source of nectar. These 12 perennials are butterfly favorites and if you plant them, they will come—especially your butterfly garden is located in a sunny area. Butterflies like to bask in the rays of the sun and they need to stay warm in order to remain aloft. Perennials come back year after year, and all of the ones listed below flourish in sunny locations.

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Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

Close up of garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)
Violet DiVine / 500px / Getty Images

Garden phlox might have been something your grandma used to grow but butterflies don't mind in the least. With clusters of fragrant flowers on tall stems, garden phlox offers nectar in summer and fall. Plant Phlox paniculata and expect visits from clouded sulphurs (Phoebis sennae), European cabbage butterflies, silvery checkerspots, and all kinds of swallowtails.

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Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)

Close-Up Of Gaillardia Blooming Outdoors
Rüdiger Katterwe / EyeEm / Getty Images

Blanket flower is a "plant and ignore" flower. It's drought tolerant and can handle poor soil conditions. Once established, it will push out blooms right until the first frost. Few butterflies will roll up their proboscises and flutter away from this one. Once it blooms, be on the lookout for sulphurs, whites, and swallowtails.

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Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Monarch Butterfly on a Yellow Flower
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Several plants go by the name "butterfly weed" but Asclepias tuberosa deserves the name like no other. Monarchs will be twice as happy when you plant this bright orange flower since it is both a source of nectar and a host plant for their caterpillars. Butterfly weed starts slow but the flowers are worth the wait. You might need a field guide to identify all its visitors. Anything from coppers, hairstreaks, fritillaries, swallowtails, spring azures, and of course, monarchs are likely to show up.

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Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis)

Solidago virgaurea
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Goldenrod's had a bad rap for years due to the fact its yellow blooms appear at the same time as the sneeze-inducing ragweed. Don't be fooled, though—Solidago canadensis is a worthwhile addition to your butterfly garden. Its fragrant flowers appear in summer and continue through autumn. Butterflies that nectar on goldenrod includes checkered skippers, American small coppers, clouded sulphurs, pearl crescents, gray hairstreaks, monarchs, giant swallowtails, and all manner of fritillaries.

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New England Aster (Aster novae-angiae)

High angle view of New England aster growing in park
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Asters are the flowers you likely drew as a child boasting many-petaled blossoms with a button-like disk in the center. When it comes to attracting butterflies, any variety of aster will do. New England asters are prized for their prolific flowers late in the year, which coincide nicely with the ​monarch migration. In addition to monarchs, asters attract buckeyes, skippers, painted ladies, pearl crescents, sleepy oranges, and spring azures.

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Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Monarch Butterfly and Pink Flowers
Katrin Ray Shumakov / Getty Images

Joe-pye weed is great for the back of a garden bed, where at nearly six feet in height, they tower over lesser perennials. While some gardening books list Eupatorium as a shade-loving plant at home in wetland areas, it can survive just about anywhere, including a full-sun butterfly garden. Another late-season bloomer, Joe-pye weed is an all-purpose backyard habitat plant, attracting all kinds of butterflies, as well as bees and hummingbirds.

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Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

Violet aster flowers on white wood background with copy space
oxygen / Getty Images

Liatris spicata goes by many names: blazing star, gayfeather, ​liatris, and button snakeroot. Butterflies—especially buckeyes—and bees love it no matter what the name. With showy purple spikes of flowers and leaves that resemble clumps of grass, the blazing star makes an interesting addition to any perennial garden. Try interspersing a few white varieties (Liatris spicata 'alba') to a butterfly bed for more contrast.

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Tickseed (Coreopsis verticillata)

Tickseed Coreopsis
Annie Otzen / Getty Images

Coreopsis is one of the easiest perennials to grow, and with little effort, you'll get a reliable show of summer flowers. The variety shown here is threadleaf coreopsis, but really any coreopsis will do. Their yellow blossoms attract smaller butterflies such as skippers and whites.

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Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Close-Up Of Pink Flowering Plant
Elizabeth Rajchart / EyeEm / Getty Images

If you want low-maintenance gardening, purple coneflower is another excellent choice. Echinacea purpurea is a native prairie flower of the U.S. and a well-known medicinal plant. Generously sized purple flowers with drooping petals make excellent landing pads for larger nectar seekers such as monarchs and swallowtails.

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Stonecrop 'Autumn Joy' (Sedum 'Herbstfreude')

Purple alpine garden plant Hylotelephium triphyllum Sedum Stonecrop close up macro nature background
Евгения Матвеец / Getty Images

While it's not the showy, colorful perennial you might picture when thinking of a butterfly garden, you can't keep the butterflies off of sedum. With succulent stems, sedum almost looks like a desert plant before its late-season bloom. Sedums attract a variety of butterflies: American painted ladies, buckeyes, gray hairstreaks, monarchs, painted ladies, pearl crescents, pepper & salt skippers, silver-spotted skippers, and fritillaries.

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Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)

Field of Black-Eyed Susan
Nikki O'Keefe Images / Getty Images

Another North American native, black-eyed Susans bloom from summer to frost. Rudbeckia is a prolific bloomer, which is why it's such a popular perennial and an excellent nectar source for butterflies. Look for larger butterflies like swallowtails and monarchs on these yellow flowers.

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Bee Balm (Monarda)

Germany, Bavaria, Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), close-up
Westend61 / Getty Images

It might be obvious that a plant named "bee balm" would attract bees but it's equally attractive to butterflies. Monarda produces tufts of red, pink, or purple flowers on the tops of tall stems. Be careful where you plant it though, as this member of the mint family will spread. Checkered whites, fritillaries, Melissa Blues, and swallowtails all adore bee balm.

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Your Citation
Hadley, Debbie. "12 Plants That Butterflies Love." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/perennials-that-butterflies-love-1968217. Hadley, Debbie. (2023, April 5). 12 Plants That Butterflies Love. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/perennials-that-butterflies-love-1968217 Hadley, Debbie. "12 Plants That Butterflies Love." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/perennials-that-butterflies-love-1968217 (accessed June 10, 2023).