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Last Update 06/03/08
Butterfly Plants for Your Garden

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  1. Adult nectar sources (N) - attract and nourish adult butterflies.
  2. Larval host plants (H)- attract ovipositing female butterflies, food source for developing larvae.
  3. Shelter - vegetation that provides protection from temperature extremes, storms/rain, predators as well as locations for roosting/sleeping.
  4. Water source with fountain - allows for easy and consistent access to water for drinking and thermoregulation.


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  1. Provide a combination of adult nectar sources and larval host plants - attracts maximum variety of butterfly species; encourages butterflies to remain in your yard, reproduce and build populations instead of just passing through; allows gardener to appreciate all life history stages.
  2. Incorporate native plants into the landscape whenever possible - most larval host plants are natives; adapted to region; produces a small but representative extension of the natural ecosystem; attracts other wildlife.
  3. Create horizontal and vertical heterogeneity - choose plants that have different heights and growth habits; creates numerous microclimates which in turn appeal to a greater diversity of butterfly species; provides shelter; creates levels/strata of feeding opportunities).
  4. Aim for a consistent host plant and floral venue throughout the growing season - choose plants that have different blooming times; ensures that garden remains attractive and productive as long as possible; provides food for butterflies during periods of low natural availability.
  5. Provide a number of different flower colors - different butterfly species are attracted to different flower colors so include yellow, orange, white and blue flowers as well as reds, pinks, and purples.
  6. Provide a mix of flower shapes - the feeding behavior and proboscis length of a butterfly dictate which flowers will be visited: long-tubed flowers, for example are typically more accessible to species with long probosces whereas many composites (daisy-like flowers) provide a feeding platform and easy nectar accessibility for smaller species.
  7. Plant in shade as well as full sun - appeals to more butterfly species; many forest species prefer shadier locations.
  8. Plant in groupings - aesthetically pleasing; provides masses of color; more apparent in landscape; allows larvae to locate additional food resources in event of shortage.
  9. Choose appropriate plants for each location - understand each plan's basic water, light, and soil requirements; will perform and grow to its maximum potential.

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  1. Give new plants a good start - water and mulch new plantings to insure firm establishment.
  2. Fertilize - a regular fertilizing regiment will produce maximum growth and flower production.
  3. Avoid pesticide application when possible - all butterfly life history stages are very sensitive to pesticides; avoid Bacillus thuringiensis; when pest problem arises treat it locally; use beneficial insects/natural enemies.
  4. Learn to identify the butterfly species in your garden - provides greater enjoyment; allows for gardener to "plant" for particular local species.

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  1. Attract wildlife - bring butterflies and other wildlife into your garden for purposes of enjoyment, observation, study, and photography.
  2. Ecosystem/habitat conservation - a well-planned butterfly garden becomes a small, but representative sample of the surrounding habitat and as such provides a safe haven for butterflies and other wildlife to gather, seek shelter, acquire food and water, reproduce and build populations; do not underestimate the importance of even a small garden.
  3. Practical benefits
    • Use of native plants - hardy and drought-tolerant, disease/pest resistant, adapted to region so perform better under local conditions.
    • Food for natural enemies - healthy butterfly populations attract and sustain healthy populations of beneficial insects/organisms as well as provide food for birds, lizards, mammals, etc. which in turn help control garden pests; most butterfly nectar sources also attract beneficial insects.
    • Plant diversity - less susceptible to pests/individual plants less apparent in landscape; large number of microclimates provide home and shelter for other insects including beneficial insects.
  4. Scientific - keeping detailed logs on the butterfly species encountered, times, abundance can provide important and useful information on butterfly population numbers nationwide.
  5. Therapeutic - provide soothing retreat from every day life
    • Herbs - most herbs are also excellent butterfly attractants; useful culinary plants and provide wonderful aromatherapy.

    Source:  Jaret C. Daniels
    7953 SW 47th Ct.
    Gainesville, FL 32608


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  • Cape Sable Whiteweed, Ageratum iittoraie N

  • Climbing Aster, Aster carolinianus N

  • Browne's Blechum, Blechum pyramidatum H

  • False Nettle, Boehmeria cylindrica H

  • American Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana N

  • Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata H

  • Florida Fiddlewood, Citharexylum spinosum N

  • Blue Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum N

  • Curacao Bush, Cordia globosa H

  • Golden Dewdrops, Duranta erecta N

  • Coastal Mock Vervain, Glandularia maritima N

  • Firebush, Hamelia patens N

  • Railroad Vine, Ipomoea pes-caprae N

  • Shrub Verbena, Lantana depressa N

  • Buttonsage, Lantana involucrata N

  • Southern Bayberry (Wax Myrtle), Myrica cerifera H

  • Corkystemed Passionflower, Passiflora suberasa H

  • Pentas, Pentas lanceolata N

  • Red Bay, Persea borbonia H

  • Florida Keys Blackbead, Pitheceliobium keyense H

  • Doctorbush (White Plumbago), P1umbago scandens N

  • Wild Coffee, Psychotria nervosa N

  • Live Oak, Quercus virginiana H

  • White Indigoberry, Randia aculeata H

  • Fogfruit (Capeweed), Rhyla nodiflora N

  • Cabbage Palm (Sabal Palm), Sabal palmatto N

  • Privet Wild Sensitive Plant, Senna ligustrina H

  • Chapman's Wild Sensitive Plant, Senna mexicana H

  • Yellow Necklacepod, Sophora tomentosa H

  • Nettleleaf Velvetberry (Porterweed), Stachytarpheta urticifolia N

  • Wild Lime, Zanthoxylum fagara H

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  • Yarrow, Achillea spp.
  • Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum
  • Elephant Garlic, Allium ampeloprasum
  • Chives, Allium schoenoprasum
  • Dill, Anethum graveolens
  • Angelica, Angelica spp.
  • Wild Celery, Apium graveolens
  • Dogbane, Apocynum cannabinum
  • Caraway, Carum carvi
  • New Jersey Tea, Ceanothus americanus
  • Queen Anne's Lace, Daucus carota
  • Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
  • Eupatorium, Eupatorium spp.
  • Fennel, Foeniculum vulgare
  • Cow Parsnip, Heracleum spp.
  • Hyssop, Hyssop officinalis
  • Lavender, Lavedula spp.
  • Lovage, Levisticum officinale
  • Mints, Mentha spp.
  • Bee Balm, Mondara didyma
  • Wild Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa
  • Horsemint, Monarda punctata
  • Basil, Ocimum spp.
  • Oregano, Origanum spp.
  • Parsley, Petroselinum crispum
  • Anise, Pimpinella anisum
  • Plantain, Plantago spp.
  • Rosemary, Rosmarinus spp.
  • Scarlet Sage, Salvia cocinea
  • Pineapple Sage, Salvia elegans
  • Virginia Skullcap, Scutellaria laterifolia
  • Thyme, Thymus spp.
  • Culver's Root, Veronicastrum virginicum
  • Chaste Tree, Vitex agnus-castus

    Umbelliferous herbs   provide nectar and act as larval host plants.  Herbs in general are excellent nectar sources for butterflies.


SOURCES: Gardening for Florida's Butterflies; Florida Butterfly Gardening; Florida Butterfly Caterpillars and Their Host Plants

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More: Butterfly Index, Butterfly Plants, Brushfoots, Milkweeds, Swallowtails

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