33 plants guaranteed to attract butterflies


What’s a backyard wildlife habitat without butterflies? Incomplete, of course! Butterflies aren’t just beautiful but beneficial, too, as pollinators. Attract them to your yard with butterfly and host plants.

Most butterflies drink nectar as adults, but their young offspring—caterpillars—can’t fly and must rely on a single plant to feed them, the one their mother laid their egg on. It’s called a host plant.

So below are many of the native perennials (and a few annuals) that butterflies prefer for nectar and hosts. (Follow this link to see a list of butterfly species and their preferred host plants.) Please take care never to apply insecticides to butterfly habitats. Also see: Native annuals for butterflies

Nectar perennials for butterflies

Aromatic aster in bloom

Aromatic Aster. (U.S. Government Work; PD)

Aster (Aromatic, New England, Smooth, et al.)
Aster spp.
Bloom time: Late spring–Early fall
Zones: 3–9

Black-eyed Susan in bloom

Black-eyed Susan. (Frank Mayfield / EOL; cc by-sa 2.0)

Black-eyed Susan
Rudbeckia hirta
Annual, Perennial
Bloom time: Mid-summer–Early-fall
Zones 5–10

Dense Blazing Star plant in bloom

Dense Blazing Star. (Marc Ryckaert (MJJR) / EOL; cc by 3.0)

Blazing Star (Dense, Prairie, et al.)
Liatris spp.
Bloom time: Mid-spring–Early-fall
Zones 3–10

Blue False Indigo plant in bloom

Blue False Indigo.(Fritzflohrreynolds / Wiki; cc by-sa 3.00

Blue False Indigo
Baptisia australis
Bloom time: Late spring–Mid-summer
Zones: 3–10

Common Boneset plant in bloom

Common Boneset. (H. Zell / Wiki; cc by-sa 3.0)

Boneset (aka Snakeroot, Thoroughwort)
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Bloom time: Early fall–Late fall
Zones 3–9

Butterfly weed plant in bloom growing amongst Yellow Corydalis, also in bloom

Butterfly Weed. (SB Johnny / EOL; cc by-nc 3.0)

Butterfly Weed
Asclepias tuberosa
Bloom time: Mid-summer–Early-fall
Zones: 4–10

Cardinal Flower blossom

Cardinal Flower. (H. Zell / Wiki; (cc by-sa 3.0)

Cardinal Flower
Lobelia cardinalis
Bloom time: Late summer–Early fall
Zones: 2–10

Copper Iris blossom

Copper Iris. (Scott Loarie / EOL; cc by 3.0)

Copper Iris
Iris fulva
Bloom time: Early spring–Spring 
Zones: 5–11

Daisy Fleabane plant in bloom

Daisy Fleabane. (Nicholas A. Tonelli / Wiki; cc by 2.0)

Daisy Fleabane
Erigeron annuus
Annual or biennial
Bloom time: Mid-spring–Mid-summer
Zones: 2–8

Hemp Dogbane in bloom

Dogbane. (Steven J. Baskauf / EOL; cc by-nc-sa 3.0)

Apocynum cannabinum
Bloom time: Summer
Zones: 2–8

Downy Phlox plant in bloom

Downy Phlox. (Aaron Gunnar / EOL; cc by-sa 3.00

Downy Phlox
Phlox pilosa
Bloom time: Mid-spring
Zones: 4–9

Golden Rod plant in bloom with bright yellow flowers.

Goldenrod. (WW; cc by-nc-sa 3.0))

Goldenrod (Showy, Carolina Moonlight, et al.)
Solidago spp. (can be invasive)
Bloom time: Varies; most in late-summer–Fall
Zones: 28

Great blue lobelia blossom

Great Blue Lobelia. (John B. / Flickr; cc by 2.0)

Great Blue Lobelia
Lobelia siphilitica
Bloom time: Late summer–Early fall
Zones: 3–9

Indian Blanket plant in bloom

Indian Blanket. (Clarence A. Rechenthin, USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database; PD)

Indian Blanket
Gaillardia pulchella
Bloom time: Summer–Early-fall
Zones: 3–9

Joe-pye Weed plant in bloom

Joe-Pye Weed. (H. Zell / EOL; cc by-sa 3.0)

Joe-Pye Weed
Eupatorium fistulosum
Bloom time: Mid-summer–Early-fall
Zones: 3–8

Lanceleaf coreopsis plant in bloom

Lanceleaf Coreopsis. (Eleanor / Flickr; cc by-nc 2.0)

Lanceleaf Coreopsis
Coreopsis Ianceolata
Bloom time: Late spring–Mid-summer
Zones: 4–9

Spotted jewelweed blossom

Spotted jewelweed. (Fritz Geller-Grimm / EOL; cc by 3.0)

Spotted Jewelweed
Impatiens capensis
Bloom time: Mid-summer–Early-fall
Everywhere except arid regions

Sundial lupine plant in bloom

Sundial Lupine. (Marc Ryckaert / EOL; cc by 3.0)

Lupine (Sundial, Perennial, et al.)
Lupinus spp.
Bloom time: Spring–Summer
Zones: 3–9

Purple milkweed plant in bloom

Purple Milkweed. (Peter Gorman / Flickr; CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Milkweed (Marsh, Rose, Swamp, Purple, et al.)
Asclepias spp.
Bloom time: Varies
Zones 2–9

Missouri primrose blossom

Missouri primrose. (Joshm / Flickr; cc by-nc-sa 2.00

Missouri Primrose
Oenothera missouriensis
Bloom time: Late spring–Early-summer
Zones: 4–8

Native Yellow honeysuckle in bloom

Native Yellow Honeysuckle. (Missouri Dept. of Conservation; PD)

Native Yellow Honeysuckle
Lonicera flava
Perennial vine (avoid non-native bush variety) 
Bloom time: Spring
Zones: 4–9

Annual Phlox blossom

Annual Phlox. (Neelix / EOL; PD)

Phlox spp.
Annual, Perennial
Bloom time: Spring
Zones: 2–10

Purple coneflower blossom

Purple Coneflower. (Danny Stevens / EOL; cc by-sa 3.0)

Purple Coneflower et al.
Echinacea spp.
Bloom time: Summer–Late-fall
Zones: 3–9

Purple poppy mallow plant in bloom

Purple Poppy Mallow. John Hilty / EOL; cc by 3.0)

Purple Poppy Mallow
Callirhoe involucata
Bloom Time: Early spring–Mid-summer
Zones: 3–9

Red Thistle. (Matt Lavin / Wiki; cc by-sa 2.0)

Red Thistle
Cirsium occidentale
Bloom time: Spring
Zones: 2–9

Scarlet Sage plant in bloom

Scarlet Sage. (Carl Lewis / Flickr; cc by cc by 2.0)

Scarlet Sage
Salvia coccinea
Bloom time: Summer–Fall
Zones: 4–9

Spiked Gayfeather plants in bloom

Spiked Gayfeather. (H Zell / EOL; cc by-sa 3.0).jpg

Spiked Gayfeather
Liatris spicata
Bloom time: Mid-summer–Late-summer
Zones: 3–10

Common sunflower blossom

Common Sunflower. (Evening / EOL; cc by-nc 3.0)

Sunflower (Common, Plains, Woodland, et al.)
Helianthus spp.
Annual, Perennial
Bloom time: Late summer–Fall
Zones 3–9

Swamp rose mallow blossom

Swamp Rose Mallow. (Robert H. Mohlenbrock / USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database; PD)

Swamp Rose Mallow
Hibiscus Moscheutos
Bloom time: Late-summer
Zones 5–8

Southwestern mock vervain blossoms

Southwestern Mock Vervain. (Keir Morse / EOL; cc by-nc-sa 3.0)

Verbena (Rose, Pink, Southwestern, et al.)
Verbena spp.
Annual, Perennial
Bloom time: Late summer–Early fall
Zones: 3–8

wild ageratum blossom

Wild Ageratum. (Michael P. Riggs; EOL; cc by-nc 3.0)

Wild Ageratum (aka Blue Mistflower) 
 Eupatorium coelestinum
 Bloom time: Late summer–Early fall
 Zones: 5–9

Wild geranium blossom

Wild geranium. (Anita / EOL; cc by-nc 3.0)

Wild Geranium
Geranium maculatum
Bloom time: Late spring–mid-summer
Zones: 3–8

Common Yarrow blossoms

Common Yarrow. (Anita / EOL; cc by-nc-sa 3.0)

Yarrow (Common, Mountain)
Achillea spp.
Bloom time: Mid-summer–Fall
Zones: 1–11

Online native plant nursery: Prairie Nursery

More reading:

Native plants for hummingbirds  
Attract butterflies to your yard  
General anatomy of insects
In your yard: butterfly species  

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