Butterfly Garden Plants: Nectar and Host Plants for Butterflies

a butterfly on a butterfly garden plant

Creating a butterfly garden is a delightful way to invite these enchanting creatures into your outdoor space while adding beauty and color to your landscape. By selecting the right combination of nectar and host plants, you can attract a wide variety of butterfly species and provide them with the resources they need to thrive. In this article, we’ll explore some popular butterfly garden plants, both nectar sources for adult butterflies and host plants for their caterpillars, to help you create a vibrant and welcoming habitat for these winged wonders.

Nectar Plants for Adult Butterflies

Nectar plants are essential for attracting adult butterflies to your garden and providing them with a source of food. Here are some popular nectar plants that butterflies love:

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Known for its long, fragrant flower spikes, butterfly bush is a favorite nectar source for many butterfly species, including monarchs, swallowtails, and painted ladies.


Lantana is prized for its brightly colored flowers and long blooming period, which makes it a favorite among butterflies like sulphurs, skippers, and swallowtails.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

With its daisy-like flowers and sturdy stems, purple coneflower is a popular choice for butterfly gardens, attracting species like monarchs, fritillaries, and swallowtails.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-eyed Susan’s cheerful yellow flowers and long blooming period make it a favorite nectar source for butterflies like sulphurs, swallowtails, and painted ladies.


Verbena’s clusters of small, colorful flowers are irresistible to butterflies, attracting species like skippers, sulphurs, and swallowtails.

a butterfly on a butterfly garden plant
Butterfly Garden Plants Nectar and Host Plants for Butterflies

Host Plants for Butterfly Caterpillars

In addition to nectar plants, it’s essential to include host plants in your butterfly garden to provide food and habitat for butterfly caterpillars. Here are some popular host plants for butterfly caterpillars:

Milkweed (Asclepias)

As the sole host plant for monarch butterflies, milkweed is a must-have in any butterfly garden. Planting milkweed provides essential food for monarch caterpillars and supports this iconic butterfly species.

Parsley, Dill, and Fennel

These culinary herbs are also favorite host plants for swallowtail butterflies, including the black swallowtail and eastern tiger swallowtail.

Passionflower (Passiflora)

Passionflower vines are the host plants for several butterfly species, including the gulf fritillary and zebra longwing. Planting passionflower provides habitat for their caterpillars and supports these beautiful butterflies.

Pipevine (Aristolochia)

Pipevine is the host plant for the pipevine swallowtail butterfly, whose caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of this vine. Planting pipevine provides essential habitat for this striking butterfly species.

Mallow (Malva)

Mallow plants are host plants for various butterfly species, including the painted lady and checkered skipper. Planting mallow provides food and habitat for their caterpillars and supports these colorful butterflies.

Creating a Butterfly-Friendly Habitat

To attract butterflies to your garden, it’s essential to create a welcoming habitat that meets their needs throughout their life cycle. Here are some tips for creating a butterfly-friendly garden:

Provide Sunlight and Shelter

Butterflies are ectothermic, meaning they rely on external sources of heat to regulate their body temperature. Provide plenty of sunlight and sheltered areas for butterflies to bask and warm their wings.

Provide Water

Butterflies need water for drinking and bathing. Provide shallow dishes filled with water, or create a small puddling area with moist soil and sand for butterflies to sip from.

Avoid Pesticides

Pesticides can harm butterflies and other beneficial insects. Instead of using chemical pesticides, practice organic gardening methods and rely on natural pest control solutions like handpicking pests or introducing predatory insects.

Plant in Clusters

Plant nectar and host plants in clusters to make them more visible and accessible to butterflies. Grouping plants together makes it easier for butterflies to find them and increases the chances of successful pollination and reproduction.


By planting a diverse selection of nectar and host plants, you can create a butterfly garden that attracts a wide variety of butterfly species and provides essential resources for their survival. Whether you have a small balcony or a sprawling backyard, there are plenty of butterfly-friendly plants to choose from to create a vibrant and welcoming habitat for these beautiful insects. So roll up your sleeves, dig in the dirt, and get ready to welcome butterflies into your garden with open arms!