To attract butterflies, plant these

Last week, I wrote about the need for butterfly habitats. This week, let’s talk about some of the plants that attract butterflies to the garden.

You can approach this from two different views: picking out the butterflies you want to attract and then select the plants that attracts them or picking out plants that are attractive to butterflies.

The first thing I do is take an inventory of what I already have in the garden and then look at the plant lists to see what I can add to attract an assortment of butterflies.

I also check the list for those plants that are fairly readily available either at the garden centers or in catalogues. Finally, I make sure that I have a diversity of plants, including trees, shrubs and flowers that will attract a wide variety of species.

Following are just a few of my favorite and easy-to-grow butterfly-attracting plants:

  • Asters (New England, sky blue and smooth) are great for summer and fall blooms and grow around 2-4 feet tall. They are attractive to a wide variety of butterflies including red admiral, painted lady, monarch, pearl crescent, whites and sulphurs.
  • Bee balm is very easy to grow and grows to around 2-5 feet tall. I find that the species bee balm is more attractive to butterflies than some of the cultivars. However, the species is more susceptible to powdery mildew. If it gets hit with this disease, I just cut it back to the ground and it comes back and blooms again. Bee balm attracts painted ladies, cabbage, tortoise shell, mourning cloak and eastern tiger swallowtail.
  • Black-eyed Susan’s are extremely easy to grow and I would suggest you give the ample space as they will re-seed readily and fill in empty space in the garden. They get around 2-4 feet tall and have yellow flowers almost all summer long. Black-eyed Susan attracts whites, sulphurs, brushfoots, skippers and blues.
  • Creeping phlox and tall phlox both attract butterflies. Creeping phlox blooms early in the spring (early May) and brings in a variety of small butterflies whereas tall phlox blooms in late May and June and attracts swallowtails, sulphurs, painted ladies and viceroys.

All of the above plants attract the adult butterflies. In addition, consider some of the following plants that the larvae of the butterflies require for food:

  • Spicebush, sassafras, parsley, dogwood, viburnum, violet, aster, elm, tulip tree, leguminous (bean family) plants, black cherry, hackberry and cottonwood.

Most of the plants mentioned in this list are native plants, but you can also look for cultivars of these plants and use them in the garden as well.

For a complete list of plants to use in butterfly gardens, go to:

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