Are you dreaming of a flower-filled garden with clouds of beautiful butterflies soaring from plant to plant? If you want to create a stunning butterfly garden, the best place to start is by choosing the right flowers.
Butterfly-friendly flowers not only look amazing with their vibrant colors, but they also provide practical benefits such as attracting butterflies and other pollinators, promoting biodiversity, and improving the overall health of your garden.
Filling your backyard with a range of flowers that are known to attract butterflies will create an eye-catching focal point, making your garden an enjoyable space for you and your butterflies to share during the warmer months.
If you are ready to take your butterfly garden to the next level, consider planting a mix of these butterfly-friendly flowers. You won’t regret it when you see the stunning and vibrant butterflies that will visit your garden!
What Are The Best Plants For Butterfly Gardens?
Butterflies love bright, colorful blooms that are rich in nectar. By planting these flowers in your garden, you can attract a wide range of butterfly species and enjoy their beauty all season long.
We’ve selected 20 of the best flowers for a stunning butterfly garden, including a range of shrubs, annual and perennial plants, and herbs.
There’s something to fit every space and situation, whether you’re filling a sun-soaked ornamental bed or have a few planters on a shaded balcony.
Top Shrubs For Butterfly Gardens
Shrubs are a great starting point for butterfly gardens because they provide shelter, nesting sites, and a source of food for butterflies.
Once established, shrubs create the backbone of your butterfly garden design, providing structure and defining the overall shape and character of the space.
1. Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)
Arrowwood viburnum is a deciduous shrub that can grow up to 10 feet tall and 6 feet wide at maturity. It produces dense clusters of fragrant white flowers in the spring that are a favorite of many butterfly species, including the delightful powder-blue Spring Azure butterfly.
2. Pink Dogwood (Cornus florida f. rubra)
A small tree that grows up to 15 feet high, pink dogwood produces clusters of small flowers in the spring that attract a variety of butterfly species. The low-hanging branches make it perfect for butterfly-watching on sunny summer afternoons!
3. Virginia Sweetspire (Itea virginica)
Virginia Sweetspire produces long fragrant spikes of white flowers in the spring that are a favorite of many butterfly species and other pollinators. It is also a host plant for various Azure butterfly species, acting as a food source for caterpillars.
4. Blueblossom (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus)
Also known as California Lilac, Blueblossom produces clusters of small blue or purple flowers in the spring that are a particular favorite of the pale tiger swallowtail butterfly.
5. Panicle Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata)
When choosing hydrangeas for butterfly gardens, it is important to select varieties with lacecap flowers that are easily accessible to pollinators. My favorite is the Panicle Hydrangea, which produces creamy white flowers that mature to a deep red color.
Top Perennial Flowers For Butterfly Gardens
Perennial plants are a great investment for your butterfly garden because they come back year after year and provide a reliable source of nectar for butterflies.
Many perennial plants also act as hosts for caterpillars, playing an important role in the reproductive cycle of butterflies.
6. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
There is no greater perennial for a butterfly garden than the Purple Coneflower! The brightly-colored, daisy-like flowers attract a variety of butterfly species, including monarchs, swallowtails, and fritillaries. It is easy to grow in most soils and produces an abundant floral display, year after year.
7. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Black-eyed Susan produces bright yellow, daisy-like blooms in the summer and is a favorite of many butterfly species that feed on its abundant nectar. It is also a host plant for the caterpillars of the Silver Checkerspot butterfly.
8. Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
Hyssop produces spikes of tubular flowers in shades of pink, purple, and blue that are a favorite of many butterfly species. The flowers keep on blooming throughout the warmer months, providing food for your butterflies from spring until fall.
9. Phlox (Phlox paniculate)
Garden phlox attracts not only butterflies, but bumblebees, moths, and other vital pollinating insects too. These low-maintenance perennial plants produce colorful, fragrant flowers in shades of pink, purple, and white that will attract butterflies all summer long.
10. Bee Balm (Monarda fistulosa)
Bee balm not only attracts bees – it is also a great butterfly plant too! Swallowtails, fritillaries, and whites are all drawn to the colorful flowers, as well as various species of moths.
Top Annual Plants For Butterfly Gardens
Annual plants will add bright pops of color to your butterfly garden, attracting a variety of different butterfly species. They are easy to care for and many will self-seed freely, giving you an abundant floral display year after year.
11. Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)
Zinnias are bright and colorful flowers that come in a variety of shades, including red, pink, orange, and yellow. They are a favorite of many butterfly species, including monarchs.
12. French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
French Marigolds produce bright, daisy-like flowers in shades of yellow, orange, and red. Not only do these low-maintenance plants attract butterflies, but they are also hugely beneficial as companion plants in the vegetable garden.
13. Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Cosmos produce delicate, daisy-like flowers in shades of pink, white, and purple that are a favorite of many butterfly species. This annual thrives in poor soil, making it a good choice for neglected corners of your yard.
14. Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)
Sunflowers are often overlooked as part of a flowering garden, but there is more to these towering plants than just something that kids grow for fun! A row of sunflowers creates a stunning visual backdrop to your borders and fencelines, and will also attract a host of different butterflies to your garden.
15. Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
Although Verbena can be grown as a perennial, it is normally short-lived and many gardeners prefer to regard it as an annual. This plant produces thin and tall stems topped with bundles of small flowers in shades of white, pink, and purple.
It’s a great source of nectar for butterflies and can tolerate a wide range of soil types.
Top Herbs For Butterfly Gardens
I think herbs might just be my favorite category of plant – not only do they smell and taste good, but they also attract all the right kinds of winged insects to my garden!
Many herbs also repel unwanted bugs such as mosquitos, and they also tend to thrive with very little maintenance.
16. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Producing tall stems topped with clusters of tiny yellow flowers, the fennel is a host plant for the black swallowtail caterpillar and a food source for various butterfly species.
17. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Parsley produces tiny yellow-green flowers that attract a variety of butterflies, including swallowtails and sulphurs.
18. Garden Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
The fragrant purple flowers of lavender attract a variety of butterflies, including skippers and sulphurs.
19. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Thyme produces tiny flowers, ranging in color from white to purple, which is particularly attractive to smaller butterflies. This Mediterranean perennial herb thrives in full sun and poor soil.
20. Sage (Salvia officinalis)
The tall, dramatic spikes of pink or purple flowers produced by sage attract a variety of butterflies, including swallowtails and sulphurs.
Is Butterfly Bush A Good Choice For A Butterfly Garden?
While the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii) is famous for its attractive flowers that draw in butterflies and other pollinators, it pays to think carefully before choosing to plant it!
Butterfly bush is considered invasive in some regions, particularly in areas of the western United States. When it escapes from gardens, it can establish itself in natural areas and outcompete native plants. This can have negative effects on local ecosystems and wildlife.
This hardy, fast-growing shrub also requires regular pruning to prevent it from becoming overgrown and woody, which can detract from its overall appearance. This can be time-consuming and may be difficult for some gardeners to keep up with.
Finally, while the butterfly bush is a great source of nectar for adult butterflies, it does not provide food for caterpillars. To create a truly beneficial butterfly garden, it’s important to include plants that provide food for all stages of the butterfly life cycle, including caterpillars.
For these reasons, the iconic butterfly bush has been given an honorary mention on our list of the ultimate plants for butterfly gardens, but I’d urge anyone to do a little bit of research before bringing this beautiful shrub into your garden!
Choosing The Best Flowers For Your Butterfly Garden
When planting your butterfly garden, it’s important to choose a variety of flowers that bloom at different times throughout the season. This will ensure that there is always a source of nectar available for the butterflies.
It’s also a good idea to plant flowers in clumps or groups, rather than scattering them throughout the garden. This will make it easier for butterflies to find the right flowers and increase their chances of staying in your garden.
In addition to planting flowers, you can also provide other resources for butterflies in your garden. For example, you can add a butterfly house or a pile of rocks for butterflies to rest on. You can also create a shallow dish of water with pebbles in it for butterflies to drink from.
Finally, it’s important to avoid using pesticides in your butterfly garden. Pesticides can harm butterflies and other beneficial insects, so using natural pest control methods is best.
For example, you can plant companion plants that repel pests, or you can use organic pest control sprays.
Advantages Of Creating A Butterfly Garden
There are many advantages to creating a butterfly flower garden, not just for the butterflies themselves but for gardeners and the environment as well. Here are some of the reasons why the butterfly garden is my favorite part of our outdoor space:
Butterflies Are Beneficial Pollinators
Butterflies are important pollinators and by creating a butterfly garden, you can help attract them to your yard.
When butterflies visit flowers to feed on nectar, they inadvertently transfer pollen from flower to flower, helping to fertilize plants and ensure their survival. A butterfly garden will help promote healthy plant growth and biodiversity in your area.
Enhancing the Beauty of Your Garden
Butterflies are beautiful creatures, and adding a butterfly garden to your yard can enhance its aesthetic appeal. By planting a variety of colorful flowers, you can create a visually stunning space that attracts not only butterflies but other beneficial insects and birds as well.
A butterfly garden can be a great way to teach children about the natural world and the importance of pollinators. Watching butterflies in your garden can be a fascinating and educational experience, helping to foster a love of nature in people young and old alike.
Many butterfly species are under threat due to habitat loss and other environmental factors. By creating a butterfly garden, you can help provide a safe and healthy habitat for these important pollinators, helping to promote their conservation and preservation.
Many of the flowers that attract butterflies are easy to grow and require little maintenance, making them a great choice for gardeners who are short on time or who are new to gardening.
Less work means more time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful floral display you have created!
No matter what your reasons for creating a butterfly paradise, you will be certain to reap the rewards that come with it! In my opinion, nothing beats sitting amongst the flowers on a warm evening, watching clouds of brightly-colored butterflies foraging for nectar. So, go ahead and get planting, and await the excitement of spotting a new species of butterfly for the first time!