15 Plants for Butterfly Gardens

Butterfly on Marigold FlowerButterflies are beautiful insects in the order Lepidoptera that many gardeners actively attract to their container gardens due to their beautiful wings, interesting flight patterns and interesting life cycle (egg, larva, pupa and adult). Some gardeners plant butterfly gardens to try and see many different butterfly species. Some butterflies migrate and can be seen only parts of the year.


Butterfly gardens are gardens planted specifically to attract butterflies, including gossamer-wing butterflies, swallowtail butterflies, brush-footed butterflies, skippers and more. The container plants used in butterfly gardens provide nectar for adult butterflies and/or plants that caterpillars will thrive on. Here are 15 plants for butterfly gardens.

  1. Aster
  2. Blue cardinal flower
  3. Butterfly bush
  4. Butterfly weed
  5. Carrot
  6. Dill
  7. Fennel
  8. Hollyhock
  9. Marigold flower
  10. Milkweed (which larvae will eat)
  11. Mustard greens
  12. Pawpaw
  13. Peony
  14. Phlox
  15. Poppy
  16. Purple cone flower
  17. Salvia
  18. Sunflower
  19. Thistle
  20. Zinnia flower

Some butterfly gardens also contain water, other food sources and “butterfly houses.” Butterfly houses are tall, skinny wooden boxes with 3-by-1-inch slits in the front that the butterflies can enter. Butterfly houses should be securely attached to something at least four feet off the ground and in full sun.

Read more about monarch butterflies, one of the most common butterflies seen in the United States.

Additional information