Which Plants Attract Butterflies? Support Pollinators With a Butterfly Garden on Your Lawn

Butterflies are attracted to a number of flowers and other plants — here's why it's beneficial to plant them.

Sophie Hirsh - Author

Sep. 4 2019, Updated 4:29 p.m. ET

plants attract butterflies
Source: istock

Most people would be happy to have more butterflies flying around their property, purely based on how beautiful they are. But did you know that there are so many benefits to supporting butterflies besides aesthetics? Butterflies and other pollinators do so much for the planet — namely, they pollinate the plants that give us food. And one of the easiest ways to support butterflies is by planting flowers and other plants that attract butterflies.

Read on for a list of some of butterflies’ favorite plants and other ways you can support pollinators.

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Why Do Butterflies and Plants Need Each Other?

Butterflies are pollinators, meaning they transfer pollen from one flower to another, encouraging fertilization, seed production, and fruit production for plants, according to Pollinator.org

Many of the plants we depend on for food, fabric, medicine, and other uses require pollination by butterflies or other pollinators, so it’s vital that we support pollinators — not only for their survival (because butterflies' diets mostly consist of plant nectar; and also because there is evidence that butterflies and other pollinators’ populations are suffering, Pollinator.org noted), but also for our own survival. One way to do this is by planting butterflies’ native plants in our yards.

Which Plants Attract Butterflies?

which plants attract butterflies
Source: istock

When building out a butterfly garden, it’s important to plant a mix of blooming annuals and perennials, as explained by Gardeners.com. Annual plants are planted in the spring or summer, then bloom, then die at the end of the season, and never grow back. Perennial plants need only be planted once — they bloom every year in the spring or summer, then seemingly die during the winter, and bloom once again once the weather gets warmer.

This mix of annuals and perennials ensures that there will be plenty of nectar and pollen for butterflies for the entire growing season. It’s also good to plant flowers of all different colors, especially colors like white, yellow, orange, pink, red, and purple, SFGate noted. Butterflies’ favorite plants are ones packed with nectar, open petals, and short tubular blooms (which are the easiest for them to eat from), as per American Meadows.

According to Gardeners.com and The Old Farmer’s Almanac, here are some of the plants that do well at attracting butterflies:

  • Allium
  • Alyssum
  • Aster
  • Bee balm
  • Black cherry
  • Blue wild indigo
  • Butterfly bush
  • Buttonbush
  • Calendula
  • Catmint
  • Clove pink
  • Cornflower
  • Cosmos
  • Daylily
  • Delphinium
  • Dianthus
  • False indigo
  • Fennel
  • Floss flower
  • Globe thistle
  • Goldenrod
  • Grey dogwood
  • Helen’s flower
  • Hoptree
  • Hollyhock
  • Joe-Pye weeds
  • Lavender
  • Liatris
  • Lilac
  • Lupine
  • Lynchis
  • Mallow
  • Marigold
  • Milkweed
  • Mint
  • Musk mallow
  • Nasturtium
  • New York ironweed
  • Ninebark
  • Northern Spicebush
  • Oregano
  • Pansy
  • Phlox
  • Pipevine
  • Privet
  • Purple coneflower
  • Queen Anne's lace
  • Rock cress
  • Sage
  • Scabiosa
  • Sea holly
  • Shasta daisy
  • Snapdragon
  • Stonecrop
  • Sweet rocket
  • Tickseed
  • Tulip tree
  • Trumpet vine
  • Verbena
  • Yarrow
  • Zinnia
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Other Tips for Attracting Butterflies

Besides planting flowers that attract butterflies, there are a few other things you can do to your lawn to help provide butterflies with the habitat they need. The David Suzuki Foundation’s No. 1 tip is to leave your leaves, and let your lawn grow wild.

Instead of raking and getting rid of the leaves that naturally fall on your lawn, just leave them be. As the foundation explains, dead leaves are the perfect habitat for butterfly larvae and pupae, as well as microbes, worms, toads, salamanders, and other critters. If you are unable to leave dead leaves on your lawn due to your homeowner’s association, the David Suzuki Foundation recommends collecting them and filling up planter beds with the dead leaves. Additionally, the foundation recommends letting puddles of mud form and letting some fruit from fruit trees rot on your lawn, as some butterflies prefer to eat mud puddles and rotting fruit.

What Other Animals Are Pollinators?

butterflies pollinator
Source: istock

Other pollinator animals include bees, hummingbirds, beetles, moths, flies, and bats. When you think of pollinators, you may mostly think about butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees — and the other animals on the above list may strike you as pests. However, they are all pollinators, and extremely important to our planet.

Other Ways to Support Pollinators

Besides planting flowers and other plants that pollinators love, there are a few other things you can do to support pollinators, according to the USDA. For example:

  • As mentioned above, let your lawn grow wild by letting dead leaves, grass, weeds, and other plants run amok. Bonus: you can sell the old lawnmower!
  • In addition to letting puddles of mud form, you can create some of your own by dripping a bit of water onto the dirt.
  • Do not use pesticides, especially synthetic ones, since they can kill pollinators.
  • Put out basins filled with water (and a few rocks) for pollinators to drink from, or invest in an official puddling stone for pollinators.
  • If you don’t have a garden of your own, consider bringing your knowledge to your community. Work with local leaders to institute butterfly gardens at your community garden, golf course or country club, school (or your child's school), or anywhere else with a lawn.
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