Native annuals for butterflies

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Is it a visual treat to watch butterflies gracefully flutter around your garden? A silly question — of course, it is! And, it’s a treat for them, too — it means they’ve found some of their favorite flowers there. If you don’t have any or only a few butterflies visiting your yard, then you need to add plants that will provide lots of delicious nectar on which they can feed.
There are countless perennials available, but maybe you’d like to change things up a bit. Did you know that lots of annuals are native species? They’re both beautiful and resilient, unlike many of the cultivated species. Plant them in showy groups in your garden or add them to pots for your patio or deck to draw butterflies up close. The more, the better for attracting their attention.
Butterflies are most attracted to plants that have flat-topped or clustered blossoms with short flower tubes. They favor flowers of red, yellow, orange, pink and purple. 
What to do about caterpillars
Butterflies will use some plants as hosts for their caterpillars, which will do some damage. However, if your goal is to attract butterflies, then insecticides must not be used. So, what to do if you don’t want your beautiful specimen plants to become unsightly?
If you’d like to preserve the life of a caterpillar (some of them may be future swallowtails or, perhaps Painted Ladies.) It would be so easy if we could just move caterpillars from a desirable plant to a less desirable one, or place it on the ground somewhere to let it find its way to a new host. Unfortunately, caterpillars are finicky about what they’ll eat — they’ll starve to death rather than feed on an unsuitable plant. For example, move a Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillar from, say, a parsley plant to a phlox, and it will starve to death. It must be placed a plant in the same family, which includes parsley, celery, and carrots. That would seem to leave us only two choices: Tolerate damage to precious plants or remove the caterpillars, in which case they die.
But, we recommend a third alternative: Plant some duplicate plants to set out of the way. If caterpillars show up on your specimens, simply move them over to the duplicates.
Common butterflies and their native annuals
Our list here shows many of the most common species of butterflies and the native annuals on which they nectar. We’ve mined the internet, queried knowledgeable people, and included our own observations, but the list is incomplete. 
We’d like to hear from you about what annuals you’ve used and the butterflies you’ve observed on them. Please let us know, and we’ll add your data to the list, along with your name, if you’d like.

SWALLOWTAILS

NAMEANNUALS
Western Tiger SwallowtailZinnia
Two-tailed SwallowtailGeranium
Spicebush SwallowtailLantana, Phlox, Cosmos
Pipeine SwallowtailPetunia
Eastern Tiger SwallowtailLantana, Phlox, Globe Amaranth, Petunia
Black SwallowtailPhlox, Zinnia
Anise SwallowtailLantana, Petunia

BRUSH-FOOTED

NAMEANNUALS
Question Markcommon milkweed, aster
Variegated FritillaryMarigold, Verbena, Glove Amaranth, Zinnia
Red-spotted AdmiralVerbena
Red AdmiralLantana, Marigold
Pearl CrescentDandelion, Marigold, Globe Amaranth
Pearl CrescentDandelion, Marigold, Globe Amaranth
Painted LadyCosmos, Marigold, Verbena, Zinnia
MonarchCosmos, Lantana, Marigold, Zinnia, Globe Amaranth
Gulf FritillaryImpatiens, Lantana
Great-spangled FritillaryVerbena, Marigold
American LadyMarigold, Verbena, Globe Amaranth
Common BuckeyeGlobe Amaranth

PIERIDAE

NAMEANNUALS
Sleepy OrangeCosmos, Marigold, Zinnia
Orange SulphurCosmos, Marigold, Verbena, Zinnia, Globe Amaranth, Dandelion
Lyside SulphurAgeratum
European Cabbage WhiteImpatiens, Lantana, Marigold, Globe Amaranth, Dandelion, Zinnia
Clouded SulpurPhlox, Marigold, Verbena, Globe Amaranth, Dandelion

HAIRSTREAKS AND BLUES

NAMEANNUALS
Red-banded HairstreakGlove Amaranth
Gray HairstreakLantana, Verbena, Globe Amaranth

SKIPPERS

NAMEANNUALS
Ocala SkipperGlobe Amaranth, Zinnia
Little GlassywingLantana
Least SkipperVerbena, Glove Amaranth
Hayhurst's ScallopwingMarigold, Verbena, Globe Amaranth
Fiery SkipperLantana, Marigold, Globe Amaranth
Dun SkipperVerbena
Common SootywingGlove Amaranth
Common CheckeredVerbena, Globe Amaranth
Clouded SkipperVerbena, Globe Amaranth

*Top photo: Swallowtail on marigold. (John Flannery / Flickr; cc by-sa 2.0)

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