Thanks to our wonderful Horticulturalists, who made a butterfly garden planting guide. For a PDF version, click here.
over to your own backyard.
Plant your own butterfly
garden at home! Follow these simple suggestions to attract these beautiful and colorful
insects to your own yard.
PICK a sunny spot.
Butterflies need sun to keep their bodies warm enough to fly. Most of their
favorite flowers like lots of sun, too.
CHOOSE bright colors.
Butterflies are more likely to notice and visit brightly colored flowers,
rather than subtler shades.
PLANT in groups. Masses of
the same flower are easier for butterflies to find than single flowers.
SELECT plants that bloom at
different times. Butterflies need food spring through frost, so your garden
should always have something in bloom. Try a mix of annuals (which bloom spring
to frost, but must be replanted each year) and perennials (which have shorter
bloom times, but once planted will return year after year).
INCLUDE both nectar plants,
whose flowers provide nectar, the main food of adult butterflies, and host
plants, which serve as home and food to the caterpillars that grow up to become
PROTECT your butterflies,
birds, and other wildlife by avoiding pesticides in your butterfly garden.
Chemicals that kill insects will harm caterpillars.
what they like, and they’ll come for a visit. Make them comfortable, and
they’ll stay forever.
Here’s what we plant in the
zoo’s garden to attract butterflies and make them feel at home:
Bloom spring through frost.
Annuals do not survive over the winter and are planted each year.
- Ageratum Floss Flower
- Asclepias curassavica Tropical
- Cosmos Cosmos
- Cuphea hyssopifolia Mexican Heather
- Cuphea lanceolata Cigar Plant ’Starfire’
- Gomphrena Globe
- Lantana camara Lantana
- Helianthus annuus Sunflower
- Melampodium Melampodium
- Nicotiana Flowering Tobacco
- Pentas lanceolata Pentas
- Salvia coccinea Scarlet Sage
- Stachytarpheta mutabilis Porterweed
‘Fiesta del Sol’ Dwarf Mexican Sunflower
- Tithonia ‘Torch’ Mexican Sunflower
- Verbena Annual
- Zinnia angustifolia Star Zinnia
- Zinnia elegans Zinnia
Grow quickly to give height
and color to the garden.
Hardy root system survives
through the winter.
- Aristolochia macrophylla Dutchman’s Pipe
Are hardy through the winter
and return year after year. Each one may bloom for a few weeks or a few months,
depending on species and variety.
- Achillea Yarrow
- Agastache Hummingbird
- Asclepias incarnata Swamp
- Asclepias tuberosa Butterfly
- Aster Hardy
- Coreopsis verticillata Threadleaf
- Echinacea purpurea Purple Coneflower
- Eupatorium fistulosum Joe
- Gaillardia Blanket Flower
- Hamelia patens Firebush
- Hemerocallis Daylily
- Kniphofia Red Hot Poker
- Lantana ‘Pink Caprice’ Perennial Lantana
- Leucanthemum x superbum Shasta
- Liatris spicata
- Malvaviscus Turk’s Cap
- Monarda Bee Balm
- Phlox paniculata Garden
- Rudbeckia fulgida Black-eyed
- Rudbeckia laciniata Cutleaf Coneflower
- Ruellia brittoniana Mexican Petunia
- Ruellia elegans ‘Rajun Cajun’ Elegant
- Salvia elegans Pineapple Sage
- Salvia greggii Autumn Sage
- Salvia leucantha Mexican Bush Sage
- Salvia madrensis ‘Red Neck Girl’ Forsythia Sage
- Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ Hot Lips Sage
- Salvia uliginosa Bog
‘Autumn Joy’ Autumn Joy
- Verbena bonariensis Brazilian
- Verbena canadensis ‘Homestead Purple’ Homestead
Shrubs and Trees
Give permanent height and
structure to the garden. Many have blooms that provide nectar. Many shrubs and
trees are “host plants” for butterflies: butterfly caterpillars use the leaves
as a food source.
* Those marked with an
asterisk are nectar plants when in bloom.
** Those marked with a double
asterisk are host plants for caterpillars.
* ** Those marked with a
triple asterisk are both nectar plants and host plants.
- Abelia grandiflora Abelia *
- Asimina triloba Pawpaw **
‘Honeycomb’ Butterfly Bush
- Callicarpa American Beautyberry*
- Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’ Forest Pansy
Redbud * **
- Cornus florida Dogwood
- Itea virginica Virginia Sweetspire*
- Lindera benzoin Spicebush
- Magnolia virginiana Sweetbay
- Ulmus americanus American Elm **
- Viburnum dentatum ‘Chicago Luster’ Arrow-wood Viburnum *
- Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum Doublefile Viburnum *
- Viburnum rhytidophyllum Leatherleaf Viburnum *
- Vitex agnus-castus Chaste Tree
- Vitex agnus-castus ‘Shoal Creek’ Chaste Tree *
Don’t forget the Host Plants!
When planning your own
garden, it’s easy to get caught up in the colorful blooms of the nectar plants,
but don’t forget to include HOST PLANTS in your garden too! Female butterflies
will be drawn to them (and therefore, spend more time in your yard), and will
lay their eggs on the leaves. Then you get the great fun of watching the
amazing caterpillars munch away, get bigger and bigger, each form a chrysalis,
and then emerge as adult butterflies! Try some of the following host plants in
- American Elm host plant for Question Mark
- Dill host plant for Black Swallowtail
- Dutchman’s Pipe host plant for Pipevine Swallowtail
- Fennel host plant for Black Swallowtail
- Milkweed host plant for Monarch
- Parsley host plant for Black
- Passionflower host
plant for Gulf Fritillary and Variegated Fritillary
- Pawpaw host
plant for Zebra Swallowtail
- Spicebush host
plant for Spicebush Swallowtail
- Sweetbay Magnolia host plant for Tiger Swallowtail
- Tulip Poplar host
plant for Tiger Swallowtail, Red-Spotted Purple, and Viceroy
For a PDF version, click here