Fly Away With the Butterflies

Butterfly gardens are one of my specialties. I started butterfly gardening in Illinois, and it was the first garden design I created in Florida. I love the colorful flowers, the colorful butterflies, and it’s a huge hit with kids. Plus many of the plants are perennials making it a low maintenance garden. There are two types of plants required in a butterfly garden: host plants (plants the caterpillars need) and butterfly nectar plants (plants the butterflies need).

Host plants:

Host plants not only provide food for butterflies in their larvae stage, but also provide camouflage, shelter, chemicals used for protection, courtship, and reproduction.

  • Cassias
  • Passion flower
  • Milkweed
  • Sassafras
  • Sweetbay magnolia
  • Patridge pea
  • Coontie
  • Blueberry
  • False foxglove
  • Coral honeysuckle

Butterfly nectar plants:

Butterflies like flowers in clusters in shades of pink, red or purple.

  • Asters
  • Liatris
  • Firebush
  • Milkweed
  • Spanish needle
  • Wild coffee
  • Dahoon holly
  • Necklace pod
  • Fiddlewood
  • Lantana
  • Summersweet
  • Bloodberry
  • Beautyberry
  • Porterweed
  • Florida paintbrush
  • Eryngium
  • Coreopsis

Some of the butterflies you may see:

Some butterflies, especially in their larvae stage, need particular plants. If you are looking to attract a particular species, check the resource link below as a guide.

  • Monarchs
  • Zebras
  • Sulphurs
  • Skippers
  • Ruddy daggerwings
  • Swallowtails
  • Hairstreaks
  • Malacites
  • Queens
  • Viceroys
  • Julias
  • Atalas

Butterfly gardens not only attract butterflies, but also hummingbirds and other beneficial bugs. Butterflies are sensitive to pesticides. I would suggest not using any pesticides. In my experience, these gardens usually take care of themselves and don’t need any chemicals. I also like to include a clean water source. This will help attract other backyard wildlife as well. Be sure to watch for mosquito breeding if you choose to do this. Constantly flowing fountains can limit mosquito larvae since they prefer standing water. Butterflies need shelter from predators, which can be accomplished by plantings at diverse heights. Get out there and enjoy some beautiful colors both in plants and the wildlife they attract!


Haehle, R. and Brookwell, J. Native Florida Plants: Low-Maintenance Landscaping and Gardening. Lanham, MD: Taylor Trade Publishing, 2004.

Butterfly Gardening in Florida

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