FLOWERS get all the attention when it comes to attracting butterflies!

 

With their bright, beautiful, nectar-filled blooms, it’s easy to see why gardeners love providing flowers to encourage butterflies to visit their backyards.


*CLICK HERE to skip directly to the list of butterfly host plants!*


But I want you to stop and think about the butterfly life cycle:

 

butterfly life cycle

As you can see, there are FOUR life cycle stages that a butterfly goes through. And only the adult butterfly uses flowers.

 

So what do eggs, caterpillars, and pupas (chrysalis) need?

 

HOST PLANTS!

 

Host plants are plants that adult butterflies depend upon to raise their larval young. Female butterflies lay their eggs directly onto their host plant of choice since caterpillars cannot travel far to feed.

 

Caterpillars won’t just eat any leaf. Each butterfly species has specific plants that their caterpillars will eat.

Monarch caterpillar eating host milkweed

The most common example is the Monarch Butterfly. In case you didn’t know, their favorite host plant is milkweed.

 

This means the female Monarch specifically chooses and finds a milkweed plant to layer her eggs on. This is so when the caterpillars hatch they are able to eat the milkweed leaves, before turning into a chrysalis. Once the adult butterfly emerges, it will begin feeding on nectar-rich flowers.

 

Out of the four stages of a butterfly life cycle, three of them rely on host plants, while only one needs flowers.

 

So even though flowers are more popular to plant in your backyard to attract butterflies due to their visual beauty, you need to think about host plants. Just think of it as “one-stop shopping” for your butterflies. They will never need to leave your backyard garden!

 

Today I’m going to list 34 different host plants you can use.

 

The good news is that many plants are both HOST plants for eggs and caterpillars and produce flowers for the adults. (These are my favorite options.)

 


As you are reading, please keep the following things in mind:

 

  • Most of the butterfly host plants listed below have many cultivars or varieties available for purchase. Some are better suited for different growing zones, some grow to different heights, and they all have slightly different blooming times. You may need to do additional research or contact a local nursery or butterfly club to find plants that work best in your area.

 

 

Are you curious about how these specific butterfly host plants were selected? Then please scroll to the bottom or CLICK HERE to read the criteria that were used!


My FAVORITE butterfly host plants:

host plants for butterfly eggs and caterpillars

This plant list is going to look a little different – and is more extensive – than the ones I’ve put together for flowers that attract bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

 

Native host plants for butterflies can encompass flowers, grasses, shrubs, vines, trees, and herbs. So I have broken down the list into different sections!

 


Flowering Host Plants:

 

#1. Aster

aster as host plant

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Growing upwards of 6’ tall, with dozens of blooms on a single plant, asters make a great addition as a host plant to any garden, attracting a wide range of butterfly species.  Asters are daisy-like perennials that bring a variety of colors to your garden towards the end of the growing season when most other plants have stopped flowering.

 

Flower colors come in white, pink, purple, blue, and red. Varieties range in size from short groundcovers to towering plants. With so many colors and sizes, it’s easy to find a variety of aster for your garden.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-8’ tall, 1-4’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September

Light Requirements: Sun, but will tolerate some high canopy shade.

Genus: Aster

Larval Host To: Pearl Crescent, Painted Lady

 


#2. Black-Eyed Susan

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A fantastic native plant, black-eyed Susans are an incredibly drought-resistant perennial that grows wild in grand expanses sweeping across the Midwest prairies. Their bright yellow daisy flowers draw in butterflies and bees to feed on their nectar. 

 

These sun-loving beauties are quickly gaining popularity outside of their meadow habitats to adorn yards and gardens because of their easy-growing nature.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-3’ tall, up to 1.5’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September

Light Requirements: Sun or partial shade

Scientific Name: Rudbeckia hirta

Larval Host To: Silvery Checkerspot, Gorgone Checkerspot, Bordered Patch

 


#3. Coneflower

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This daisy-like perennial blooms midsummer and are relatively drought-tolerant, making them a great addition to gardens in hot climates. There are only a handful of species in the genus, and they all share common characteristics described by words such as “stiff,” “dry,” and “tough.” Plants are deer resistant and can be left standing over the winter for birds.

 

Coneflowers have many uses in your yard other than being a butterfly host plant, as they also attract adult butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2-3’ tall, 2’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September, October

Light Requirements: Sun

Genus: Echinacea

Larval Host To: Silvery Checkerspot

 


#4. Dusty Miller

 

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Tolerant of heat and salt-water spray, dusty miller is commonly found along the Atlantic Coast on dunes. Silvery-white leaves form a spreading mat of groundcover. It is perfect for dry, sandy spots, or as edging or a border in your garden.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 24-30” tall, 6-12” wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Scientific Name: Artemisia stellariana

 


#5. False Nettle

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Unlike other plants in the Nettle family, the false nettle lacks stinging hairs, making it safe to plant in your yard. It is naturally found along rivers and wetlands, and in ditches, making it a perfect plant for shady, wet garden spots.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2-3’ tall, up to 18” wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September, October

Light Requirements: Sun, Part Shade, Shade

Scientific Name: Boehmeria cylindrica

Larval Host To: Eastern Comma, Question Mark, Red Admiral, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell

 


#6. Indian Paintbrush

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With about 200 different species in the Castilleja genus, there are plenty of plant options for you to choose from! Indian paintbrush is naturally found in the wild in sandy soils of the prairies, deserts, and open forests. 

 

Plants are hemiparasites, which means although they can photosynthesize, they can also sequester nutrients from neighboring plants.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-8

Life Cycle: Biennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2’ tall, 4-6” wide

Bloom Time: May, June

Light Requirements: Sun, Partial Sun

Scientific Name: Castilleja spp.

 


#7. Milkweed

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Although it’s a beneficial plant, milkweed is often treated as a weed and removed from gardens and landscapes. These hardy perennials thrive in the sun and can tolerate average to poor soil. 

 

There are many native milkweed species available, and they all serve as both butterfly host plants and nectar sources. To find a milkweed species, make sure to look for the “Asclepiadaceae” in the scientific name.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2-5’ tall, up to 2’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August

Light Requirements: Sun, to part shade

Genus: Asclepiadaceae

Larval Host To: Monarch, Milkweed Tussock Moth, Dogbane Tiger Moth, Queen, Unexpected Cycnia

 


#8. Pussy-toes

 

This low growing perennial evergreen groundcover creates a lush carpet of grey-green leaves that send up slender stalks topped with downy flowers resembling cat feet.  Pussytoe plants do well in dry, nutrient-poor landscapes and are remarkably resistant to deer and rabbits. Plant them in rock gardens or along pathways to add color to your garden. 

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 4-16” tall

Bloom Time: April, May, June

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Antennaria spp.

Larval Host To: American Lady

 


#9. Ruellia

wild pansy

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Known as Prairie Petunia or Wild Petunia, this plant isn’t actually a petunia at all, even though it looks like it. Wild Petunia is drought tolerant and can withstand rocky soils, so it grows well in open woods, prairies, and fields. Tubular, bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple attract many insect pollinators but are especially favored by bees and butterflies.  

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 1-3’ tall

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August, September

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Ruellia spp.

Larval Host To: Common Buckeye, White Peacock

 


#10. Shasta Daisy

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Similar in looks to the wild daisy found along roadsides, the Shasta daisy is a classic perennial. Its blooms are larger and more robust than the wild variety, blooming in gorgeous clumps that grow 2-3’ tall and 1-2’ wide. Shasta daisies are easy to care for, requiring deadheading as needed and dividing every 3-4 years to promote plant vigor.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 3’ tall, 2’ wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Scientific Name: Leucanthemum superbum

Larval Host To:  Mourning Cloak, Painted Lady, Red Admiral

 


#11. Snapdragon

best flowers for larval butterflies

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A cool-season flower and butterfly host plant, snapdragons add beautiful color to gardens early in the spring and then again in fall. Snapdragons are available in most colors, to coordinate or contrast with other garden plants. Their tall spikes make for a longer blooming period than many other plants.

 

Tubular flowers make them popular with butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Plant in rich, well-drained soil and deadhead often to prolong the blooming time. They are typically grown as annuals but can overwinter in zones 9-11.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial, typically are grown as Annual

Approximate Mature Size: 8-36” tall, 12-18” wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August

Light Requirements: Full Sun

Scientific Name: Antirrhinum majus

Larval Host To: Buckeye

 


#12. Sunflower

plants that host caterpillars

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Known for their large, brilliantly colored yellow or orangish heads, sunflowers are a favorite with butterflies. The fast-growing, erect annuals provide a large landing area with many small nectar flowers.

 

Sunflowers not only make great host plants, but they also provide a late-season nectar source for butterflies.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10

Life Cycle: Annual

Approximate Mature Size: 3-10’ tall, 12-18” wide

Bloom Time: July, August

Light Requirements: Sun

Scientific Name: Helianthus annuus

Larval Host To:  Silvery Checkerspot

 

 


#13. Swamp Verbena (Blue Vervain)

butterfly host plants and flowers

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Swamp Verbena is native to North America. This versatile plant makes it home in many gardens due to its ability to thrive in hot conditions and its tendency to attract butterflies with its beautiful clusters of small flowers. Verbenas have a long blooming season and come in a variety of colors. 

 

Adult butterflies are drawn to the nectar-rich verbena flowers while serving as a host plant for a few species. As a bonus, the plant acts as a deterrent for deer and rabbits. 

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 2-5’ tall, 1’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September, October

Light Requirements: Sun to Partial Shade

Scientific Name: Verbena hastata

Larval Host To: Common Buckeye

 


#14. Great Water Dock

 

Unlike some of the other flowers that thrive in dry conditions, water dock likes soils that are quite wet. Distinctive long, broad leaves give way to greenish flowers and brown seed heads that form in late summer. The roots can be dried down to use as an astringent, and the leaves are known to be an excellent treatment for eye ulcers.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 3-6’ tall

Bloom Time: April, May, June, July, August

Light Requirements: Full sun

Scientific Name: Rumex britannica

Larval Host To: American Copper, Purplish Copper

 


#15. Wild Senna

senna native flower

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Also known as American Senna, this legume plant is native to the northeastern United States. Clusters of light yellow to orange flowers attract native bumblebees and butterflies. A horizontal root system strengthens the plant, making it an excellent specimen for windy locations.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: Up to 6’ tall

Bloom Time: July, August

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Senna hebecarpa

Larval Host To: Cloudless Sulphur, Orange-barred Sulphur, Sleepy Orange

 


#16. Sedum (Woodland stonecrop)

the best host plants for butterflies and caterpillars

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Fleshy sedum plants provide a long season of flowers that often change color as the season progresses. This long-blooming period makes them a great plant to use to attract butterflies and bees.

 

Sedums like lots of sunlight and grow well in moderate to even poor soil, as long as it’s well-drained. Richer, heavy soil causes plants to grow tall, toppling, or snapping under the weight of the flower clusters.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 4”-2’ tall, 1-2’ wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July, August

Light Requirements: Full Sun 

Genus: Sedum ternatum

Larval Host To: Buckeye, Phoebus Parnassian

 


Grasses as host plants:


#17. Little Bluestem Grass

butterfly host plants

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Commonly found in the Midwestern prairies, little bluestem grass is native to most parts of the United States. Slender stems of blue-green form beautiful bunches reaching up to 3’ in height by early fall when they then turn to mahogany red with white seed tufts. It is tolerant of drought conditions and soils with higher pH levels; there are no serious pests or disease threats to this perennial grass either.

 

As you can see below, it is a host plant for many butterfly species.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 3’ tall, 1’ wide

Bloom Time: June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Schizachyrium scoparium

Larval Host To: Cobweb Skipper, Common Wood Nymph, Crossline Skipper, Dakota Skipper, Dusted Skipper, Indian Skipper, Leonard’s Skipper, Ottoe Skipper, Swarthy Skipper, and many others.

 


#18. Panic Grass

butterfly host plants - grasses

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Commonly called switchgrass, this grass is a significant component of the tall-grass prairies of the Great Plains. Narrow, deep-green leaves are topped with lacy sprays of pinkish-purple seedheads; foliage turns bright yellow in the fall.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 4-7’ tall, 2-4’ wide

Bloom Time: July, August, September, October, November

Light Requirements: Sun, part shade 

Scientific Name: Panicum virgatum

Larval Host To: Delaware Skipper, Hobomok Skipper, and many others.


Shrub host plants:


#19. Blue Wild Indigo

 

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Also known as false blue indigo, or false lupine, this shrub is particularly common in the Midwest. It is typically found growing along streams, the edges of woods, or in open meadows. This bushy, robust plant has pea-like flowers in bluish-purple. In fall, the foliage turns a silvery grey and dies back to the ground over the winter.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 3-4’ tall, 3-4’ wide

Bloom Time: May, June, July

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Baptisia australis

Larval Host To: Clouded Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, Frosted Elfin, Eastern-tailed Blue, Hoary Edge Skipper, Wild Indigo Duskywing

 


#20. Spicebush

 

Named for its spicy, fragrant leaves and stems, spicebush is an excellent host plant that is native to moist locations in the Midwest, such as streambanks, ravines, valleys, and wooded areas. The fast-growing shrub has no serious pest or disease problems. Yellow clusters of flowers appear in early spring before the leaf buds open; berry-like fruit ripens to a bright red, attracting birds.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 6-12’ tall, 6-12’ wide

Bloom Time: April

Light Requirements: Sun, part shade, shade 

Scientific Name: Lindera benzoin

Larval Host To: Cynthia Moth, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Imperial Moth, Promethea Moth, Spicebush Swallowtail, Tulip Tree Beauty

 


Vines:


#21. Passion Flowers

passion flowers - butterfly host plants

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These exotic beauties look like they should be tropical plants, but surprisingly there are many species native to North America. Flowers across all of the 500+ species are similar but only stay in bloom for about a day. The best way to describe the flower is a broad base with 5 to 10 petals in a flat circle, a tall stalk holding the ovary and stamens encircled by delicate filaments. 

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 10-25’ feet

Bloom Time: June, July, August

Light Requirements: Sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Passiflora spp.

Larval Host To: Crimson-patched Longwing, Gulf Fritillary, Julia, Plebeian Sphinx, Variegated Fritillary, Zebra Longwing, Brush-footed Butterflies

 


#22. Pipevine

 

An east coast native, these fast-growing vines grow well on a trellis, fence, or arbor. The stems bear large – up to 12” across – heart-shaped leaves and pipe-shaped flowers in mottled green and burgundy. Pipevine is a host plant that prefers moist soil and can be found growing wild along riverbanks and in wooded areas.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 25-30’ tall, 10-20’ wide

Bloom Time: May, June

Light Requirements: Part shade 

Scientific Name: Aristolochia macrophylla

Larval Host To: Pipevine Swallowtail

 


Trees:


#23. Aspen Tree

aspen trees - native

If you’re looking for a fast-growing tree, look no further than aspens. These medium-sized deciduous trees have small, round leaves that quiver, or “quake” in the slightest breeze; leaves turn a striking yellow color in the fall before dropping. Aspens are known to thrive in cold climates and poor soil. 

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 1-7

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 40-50’ tall, 20-25’ wide

Bloom Time: April, May

Light Requirements: Sun, part shade, shade

Scientific Name: Populus spp.

Larval Host To: Tiger Swallowtail, Weidemeyer’s Admiral, Lorquin’s Admiral, White Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, Western Admiral, Viceroy, Mourning Cloak, Western Tiger Swallowtail

 


#24. Oak

 

In my opinion, the best tree to have around is an oak. First, these native trees are a butterfly host plant for dozens of species. But they also produce acorns which help feed many types of birds and mammals. Lastly, if you leave their leaves on the ground, they provide a valuable habitat for many beneficial insects!

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-10

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: From 6 feet high to more than 100 feet, depending on species. 

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Quercus spp.

Larval Host To: Banded Hairstreak, Black-waved Flannel Moth, Blinded Sphinx, California Hairstreak, Golden Hairstreak, Gold-hunter’s Hairstreak, Horace’s Duskywing, Imperial Moth, Io Moth, Juvenal’s Duskywing, Mournful Duskywing, Oak Hairstreak, Polyphemus Moth, Propertius Duskywing, Red-banded Hairstreak, Rosy Maple Moth, Sleepy Duskywing, Stinging Rose Caterpillar Moth, Striped Hairstreak, Waved Sphinx, White M Hairstreak, and more.

 


#25. Elm Tree

elm tree for caterpillars and butterflies

These large, handsome trees were widespread as cities sprang up in the 19th century. Dutch elm disease ravaged many species in the 1930s, but scientists have worked diligently to breed resistant cultivars. Elms can withstand winter temperatures well below zero, and if unaffected by Dutch elm disease, can thrive for several hundred years.  

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 40’+ tall

Bloom Time: February, March, April

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade

Scientific Name: Ulmus spp.

Larval Host To: Question Mark, Comma, Zephyr Anglewing, Mourning Cloak

 


#26. Flowering Dogwood

flowering dogwood as butterfly host plant and caterpillars

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To some, the flowering dogwood is considered the most spectacular native flowering tree. Dogwoods feature beautiful white flowers in the spring, vibrant red-purple fall foliage, and glossy red fruit. They prefer moist, slightly acidic conditions but grow in a variety of soils. 

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 20-40’ tall, similar width

Bloom Time: March, April, May

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade, shade

Scientific Name: Cornus florida

Larval Host To: Spring/Summer Azure

 


#27. Pawpaw

 

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Even though the pawpaw tree is native to the United States, it isn’t a very popular tree amongst homeowners. It produces the largest edible fruit on a native tree, which looks like small green potatoes. The Pawpaw fruit tastes similar to bananas with hints of mango, vanilla, and citrus. Large, drooping leaves turn a stunning golden yellow in the fall. 

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: Up to 30’ tall, 20’ wide

Bloom Time: April, May

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade, shade

Scientific Name: Asimina triloba

Larval Host To: Zebra Swallowtail

 


#28. Prickly Ash

Surprisingly, the prickly ash isn’t a close relative to the more common ash tree. Prickly ash is an aromatic, many-branched shrub that creates dense thickets. It prefers rocky, calcareous soils encouraging wild growth along roadsides and rocky hillsides. Because of its thorns and dense-growing nature, prickly ash is best used to create barriers in a yard or landscape.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-7

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 4-25’ tall 

Bloom Time: April, May

Light Requirements: Full sun

Scientific Name: Zanthoxylum americanum

Larval Host To: Giant Swallowtail

 

 


#29. Sassafras

trees that caterpillars eat

Known for its aromatic oils, sassafras makes a great addition to backyards looking for butterfly host plants. It grows best in slightly acidic, well-drained, fertile soils but will tolerate even infertile conditions, suckering to create a small grove. Leaves have a unique three-lobe or mitten pattern that turns yellow, deep orange, scarlet, and purple in the fall.

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: 30’–60′ tall, 25’–40′ wide

Bloom Time: March, April, May

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade, shade

Scientific Name: Sassafras albidum

Larval Host To: Spicebush Swallowtail, Palamedes Swallowtail

 


#30. Willow

willow tree as butterfly host plant

With over 400 species of deciduous trees and shrubs, willows make a great addition to your landscape and grow very quickly. Willow branches are filled with watery bark sap making them soft and pliable. Leaves are typically narrow and elongated. Willows are hosts to many butterfly species!

 

USDA Hardiness Zone: 2-9

Life Cycle: Perennial

Approximate Mature Size: up to 50’ tall depending on the variety

Bloom Time: March, April, May

Light Requirements: Full sun, part shade 

Scientific Name: Salix spp.

Larval Host To: Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak, White Admiral, Red-spotted Purple, Viceroy, Lorquin’s Admiral, Western Admiral, Lorquin’s Admiral, Western Tiger Swallowtail

 


Herbs:


 

The person who got me interested in providing host plants in my backyard was none other than my grandma.

 

She kept telling me about all these caterpillars that she and my grandma were finding in their garden. They would capture the caterpillars and then raise them until they turned into adult butterflies. My grandpa even made a specially built, screen butterfly house in their garage that has several different compartments for different species!

 

Some of my grandma’s favorite plants to use as host plants are herbs. Because of this fact, I have to mention some of the favorite herbs that she uses.

 

Please note that some of the herbs listed below are NOT native to North America, so I’m breaking my rules a bit about only including native plants. But these herbs are so common that I didn’t see a problem. It’s best to grow them in pots around your house, so they don’t spread everywhere!

tiger swallowtail feeding on butterfly host plant

Interestingly, all of the below herbs are great host plants for swallowtails, which are some of the most beautiful butterflies you will find!

  • #31. Dill

    • Black Swallowtail, Anise Swallowtail
  • #32. Parsley

    • Black Swallowtail, Anise Swallowtail
  • #33. Rue

    • Giant Swallowtail, Black Swallowtail
  • #34. Fennel

    • Black Swallowtail, Anise Swallowtail

 


Recommended books about butterfly host plants:

 

If you are interested in learning more about host plants and how to attract them, here are some of my favorite books that I reference often. (Affiliate links take you to Amazon)

 

 

 

You may also want to check these blog posts that I have written:

 


How did I choose these butterfly host plants?

 

When I sat down to compile a list of the best plants for drawing butterflies into your garden, a few criteria came to mind:

 

1. Native to North America

 

I believe it’s best to plant specimens native to North America to attract butterflies. They provide excellent sources of energy for caterpillars but are also preferred by other pollinators, spiders, etc. The fact that voracious young caterpillars prefer native plants to munch on helps make it easier to put this list together.

But the line between what is native and what is not is a bit unclear. Some plants originate from other continents but have been in North America so long that they are considered “naturalized” in the wild. Also, most plants you see in nurseries are not what you would find in nature anyway, but some cultivar of the wild version of that flower species.

 

So I did my best when trying to make sure the following plants are all native. Forgive me if it’s not perfect. 🙂

 

How do you know if a plant is native?

 

There are a couple of helpful search tools you can use to check to see if a plant is native. One is located on the United States Department of Agriculture website, the other is on the website for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Type in the scientific name or common name in the search bar, and the results will show you whether the plant is native to North America, introduced, or both.

 

2. Easy to Find

 

To make it easier for you, I wanted to stick to plants that are readily available at your local nursery or easy to buy from a reputable online retailer. I also tried to compile a list of butterfly plants that you didn’t have to order a year in advance from a specialty nursery and then have it shipped across the country. 

 

3. Relatively Simple to Grow

 

I am certainly not a master gardener. When considering plants, I wanted them suitable for gardening amateurs. Most of these host plants don’t require a lot of attention once they are in the ground, albeit the basics such as watering, fertilizing, and pruning.

 


How to choose butterfly host plants for your hardiness zone?

 

It’s also imperative to consider your Plant Hardiness Zone when selecting any flowers, shrubs, or trees to use as butterfly host plants. This will ensure the plant is appropriate for your local climate.

 

Whenever you buy a plant, it displays the hardiness zones on the plant tag. This explains what climates/areas it will thrive in.

 

For example, I live in Northeast Ohio, which is zone 6a. If I bought a flower that had a plant hardiness zone range of  8a – 12a, then I know it won’t survive our cold winters. Many plants only thrive in colder (lower) zones and can’t live through the hot summers of the south.

 

Making sure your butterfly host plants are appropriate for YOUR hardiness zones is extremely important! And it’s the reason that a butterfly garden in Alabama will look completely different than the butterfly habitat I have created in my backyard in Ohio.

 

But creating your own regionally unique destination for butterflies is part of the fun!

hardiness zone for flowers and plants

Check out the USDA website to find your hardiness zone by typing in your specific zip code.

 

One response to “34 Host Plants For Butterflies & Caterpillars (New Guide)”

  1. Jessica Duquette says:

    Hey Scott, one flower I can tell you that our hummingbirds love is fuschias. You should check that out and add it to your list!

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