Create a Beautiful Butterfly Garden With These Plants

butterfly garden plants pink flowers milkweed
Create a best-on-the-block butterfly garden with these must-have plants that butterflies love. Including plants like phlox and butterfly bush will surely attract butterflies to your garden.

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush is a shrub that's typically covered in butterflies all summer long. An easy-care shrub, it features fragrant flowers in shades of blue, purple, and white.

Here's a hint: If your butterfly bush starts to get big, prune it back in winter or early spring. You can cut it almost all the way down to the ground.

Name: Buddleia selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 10 feet tall and 15 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 5-9, depending on type

Grow it with: Mexican sunflower; this annual's bold orange flowers look great against just about any butterfly bush.

Related: Basics for Planting a Butterfly Garden

Phlox

Phlox bears beautiful clusters of red, pink, lavender, salmon, or white blooms throughout the summer. Their lovely scent delights our noses as much as their nectar delights hungry butterflies.

Here's a hint: Phlox can be troubled by a disease called powdery mildew. Look for disease-resistant varieties.

Name: Phlox paniculata

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 4 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Zones: 4-8

Grow it with: Purple coneflower—the two plants thrive in the same growing conditions and visually complement each other.

Anise Hyssop

There are lots of reasons to grow anise hyssop: It's super heat and drought tolerant, deer and rabbits leave it alone, it blooms for weeks in late summer, and butterflies love it. Plus it's a great cut flower.

Name: Agastache foeniculum

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Zones: 4-10

Grow it with: Black-eyed Susan for a dazzling blue-and-yellow combo of easy-care plants.

Butterfly Weed

Grow a butterfly weed or two and you're sure to have Monarchs. The adults drink nectar from the plant's summertime orange flowers, and the caterpillars eat the plant's leaves.

Here's a hint: Add variety to your garden with other milkweeds, such as annual bloodflower or tall swamp milkweed.

Name: Asclepias tuberosa

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Zones: 4-9

Grow it with: Liatris, another long-blooming perennial that Monarch butterflies love to visit.

Aster

A top plant for the fall garden, aster is a heavy bloomer with colorful flowers in shades of blue, purple, pink, red, and white. Aster does double duty: The blossoms supply nectar for fall butterflies, and Pearl Crescent caterpillars feed on the plant's leaves.

Here's a hint: Look for newer named varieties of asters; they're often more disease resistant and compact.

Name: Aster selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 3-8, depending on type

Grow it with: Bloody geranium—this spring- and summer-blooming perennial develops bright red fall foliage that looks great with colorful aster flowers.

Butterfly gardens not only attract butterflies, they also offer beautiful flowers. Watch and learn the best butterfly garden plants for your butterfly garden, so you can enjoy butterfly gardening all summer long.

Top Butterfly Garden Plants

Starting a butterfly garden isn't difficult and doesn't keep you from having gorgeous flowers in the landscape. Get details, tips, and tricks for growing your butterfly garden, and see how to maintain it for flying friends all summer long.

 

Purple Coneflower

There are lots of reasons to grow purple coneflower if you have a sunny spot. A wide range of butterflies love sipping its nectar; the plant is very heat and drought tolerant, it's a perfect cut flower, and it blooms almost all summer long.

Name: Echinacea selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 5 feet tall and 2 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 3-9

Grow it with: Anise hyssop for a combo that will give you pretty bouquets and tons of butterflies for weeks in summer.

Related: Top Coneflower Varieties

Salvia

There's a salvia for every garden: some are tall, others are short. Some have blue or purple blooms, and others have red, orange, or pink flowers. While you might have trouble picking a salvia, the butterflies won't—they'll reliably flock to it every summer. 'May Night' is shown here.

Name: Salvia 'May Night'

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Zones: 4-9

Grow it with: Coreopsis for a long-blooming, no-fail blue-and-yellow combination.

Lantana

Colorful lantana blooms all summer long in glowing shades of lavender, pink, red, orange, yellow, cream, and white. The versatile plant looks perfect in containers or beds and borders. The butterflies will agree—lantana is a perfect addition to your garden.

Name: Lantana selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and wide

Zones: 10, but in cooler areas, lantana is grown as an annual.

Grow it with: Zinnia; the two look beautiful together and will lure an endless stream of butterflies to your garden.

Related: Butterfly Container Gardens

Pentas

An all-around garden champion, pentas bears clusters of star-shaped blooms in bright shades of pink, red, and white. It loves hot conditions, holds up to drought pretty well, and is a sure bet for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds in need of a snack.

Name: Pentas selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide

Zones: 10-11, but usually grown as an annual

Grow it with: Angelonia for an easy-growing combo that looks smashing all season.

Passionflower

Hardy passionflower is one of the most exotic vines you can grow. It's also one of the best for butterflies as a variety of them drink its nectar. It's a host plant for several types of butterflies, as well.

Name: Passiflora incarnata

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: Climbs to 10 feet

Zones: 6-9

Grow it with: Black-eyed Susan vine for a charming blue-and-yellow combo of quick-growing vines.

Mexican Sunflower

Mexican sunflower is big and bold—and perfect for butterflies. Enjoy this easy-care annual's nonstop display of big orange flowers all summer long.

Name: Tithonia rotundifolia

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Zones: Annual

Grow it with: South American verbena; the plants look amazing together and like the same growing conditions.

South American Verbena

This plant is a perfect cut flower—but don't worry about using it in bouquets. The more you cut, the more it blooms, so there will always be a supply of the lavender-purple blooms for butterflies to enjoy, too.

Name: Verbena bonariensis

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Zones: 7-10, but in colder Zones it's usually grown as an annual.

Grow it with: Yarrow, which has flat clusters of blooms in a rainbow of shades. Like South American verbena, it's heat and drought resistant, so it's a cinch to grow.

Zinnia

Just about everyone loves zinnia, which is why it's a favorite of butterfly gardeners, cottage gardeners, and beginning gardeners. It blooms in an almost endless range of colors and looks great all summer long.

Name: Zinnia selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Zones: Annual

Grow it with: Fennel, which has a ferny texture that looks perfect against the bold zinnia blooms.

Related: Zinnia Projects

Joe Pye Weed

Create towers of flowers with big Joe Pye weed, which can grow more than 6 feet tall. If you don't have that much room, don't worry—types such as 'Little Joe' stay smaller. Either way, both you and the butterflies will love the big clusters of dusty-pink flowers that appear from midsummer to fall.

Name: Eupatorium selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 7 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 3-9

Grow it with: South American verbena for an easy-care combination no butterfly can resist.

Black-Eyed Susan

Black-eyed Susan is just as perfect for bouquets as it is for butterflies. This tough perennial blooms in late summer with big, yellow, daisy-shaped flowers.

Name: Rudbeckia selections

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 4-9

Grow it with: Purple coneflower for a classic prairie-style combination.

Fennel

Bronze fennel is a great plant for adding texture to the garden. It's also a surefire way to attract Swallowtail butterflies, whose caterpillars munch on the fennel's ferny foliage.

Here's a hint: Fennel can self-seed aggressively in the garden; keep it under control by cutting off most of the flowers as they fade. Leave a few flowers to produce seed to keep the plant coming back in your yard.

Name: Foeniculum vulgare

Growing conditions: Full sun and moist, well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Zones: 4-9

Grow it with: Queen Anne's lace, which offers a similar texture but with green foliage and white flowers. Swallowtail caterpillars also feed on this plant.

Coreopsis

This award-winning perennial will reward you—and the butterflies—with little yellow flowers over rich green, ferny foliage for much of the summer. The nectar in coreopsis also attracts bumblebees.

Here's a hint: Shear the plant back with hedge clippers after a flush of blooms start to fade; it'll spring back and bloom again.

Name: Coreopsis 'Moonbeam'

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 18 inches tall and wide

Zones: 3-8

Grow it with: Sedum, which picks up blooming once the coreopsis starts to fade for the summer.

Learn how you can help pollinators such as bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, with a few simple changes.

Help Pollinators With Your Garden

Learn simple strategies that can help benefit pollinators. Get the right balance of nectar and pollen plants, and arrange the garden in a way that will provide blooms for the longest show.

Common Milkweed

Butterflies like Zebra Swallowtail and Monarchs eat only milkweed. Grow the plant from seeds or seedlings.

Name: Asclepias syriaca

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 6 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 4-9

Grow it with: Catmint for a classic prairie style with a touch of silver.

Parsley

Parsley plants host Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars and grows easily in full sun. The only maintenance this fuss-free herb requires is planting and harvesting.

Name: Petroselinum crispum

Growing conditions: Full sun and well-drained soil

Size: To 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 3-9

Grow it with: Dill for a butterfly-friendly herb garden.

Related: How to Grow Parsley Indoors AND Outdoors

Globe Amaranth

Grow this annual from seeds for nonstop summer flowers that attract the American Snout and others. Globe amaranth is an easy-to-grow option for a butterfly garden.

Name: Gomphrena globosa

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: To 1 feet tall and 1 foot wide, depending on type

Zones: 2-11

Grow it with: Strawflower to create a butterfly garden that doubles as a cutting garden.

Dill

The fragrant culinary herb grows easily from seeds and hosts Black Swallowtail larvae. Dill's delicate yellow flowers in summer add softness to the garden.

Name: Anethum graveolens

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: To 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 2-11

Grow it with: Coreopsis for a sunny yellow garden design.

Sedum

A truly diverse group of plants, sedums come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. This drought-resistant perennial blooms from late summer into fall, attracting pollinators of all kinds.

Name: Hylotelephium spectabile

Growing conditions: Full sun

Size: To 8 feet tall and 3 feet wide, depending on type

Zones: 2-11

Grow it with: Coreopsis for a sunny yellow garden design.

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