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If you are looking to make a pollinator-friendly garden, having a diversity of annuals, perennials, and shrubs is vital. It will keep the garden buzzing with bees, butterflies, and pollinators, who will be attracted to your garden throughout the year. Apart from nectar-filled flowers, shrubs and non-flowering plants are also essential for the life cycles of butterflies, where they can attach their larva for further growth.
Top Plants That Attract Butterflies to Your Garden
There can be several plants and shrubs that attract butterflies. But keep in mind that some might be toxic, and some might be invasive to your region, while the rest might not suit the climate entirely. So read along to find the ones that suit your preferences, for there always will be some plants for butterflies!
1. Butterfly Bush
One of the most popular deciduous shrubs, Buddleia davidii, blossoms in masses and attracts butterflies. Their growing season spans over several weeks, from summer to autumn. However, they are marked as invasive species imported from China and can overthrow native plants. Buddleia are not host plants of butterflies, i.e., they do not support any part of the lifecycle of a butterfly – only adult butterflies swing by for nectar. While growing them in summers, it is essential to ensure that they do not turn into an invasive weed or opt for a non-invasive variety like ‘Blue Chip.’
2. Bee Balm
These varied-colored flowers attract hummingbirds in addition to butterflies and bees. They are available in shades of red, pink, white, and violet. Monarda, also known as Wild Bergamot, are perennial and native to North America. Bee balms like the sun and a wet soil bed. They tend to develop powdery mildew on their leaves. Therefore proper air circulation is a must. The foliage is intensely aromatic and attracts butterflies.
Belonging to the daisy family, aromatic Aster has a similar starry shape and is found in white, blue, and purple shades. Symphyotrichum oblongifolium are perennial and native to North America. They are drought resistant and can grow in poor soil. However, such characteristics differ among the different varieties of asters available. Asters have a late bloom time – mid to late spring, playing the role of providing nectar to pollinators like butterflies in the late season.
4. Butterfly Milkweed
In contrast to Buddleia, Butterfly Milkweed are host plants to butterflies. These orange to yellow blooms are a gardener’s favorite as they are essential to the life cycle of monarch butterflies. While a butterfly can consume nectar from various plants, they can breed only in host plants, like Asclepias tuberosa. These native to America perennial flowers need sunlight in plenty and a well cared for soil bed. Butterfly weed sap is a favorite for many pollinators and even butterflies like tiger swallowtails. But its cousin, Common Milkweed, is superior for monarch butterflies as they lay their eggs on the leaves and the larvae munch on the leaves.
Succulent, bushy, perennial, and clusters of star-shaped flowers are also called sedums. Sedums are of different varieties with colors ranging from red and pink to chocolate. It is the pink variety that produces the most nectar. They are low maintenance, but sufficient drainage should be ensured. Ample sunlight and no standing water is all that it takes to grow Stonecrops. Sedums grow of two kinds – low spreading and upright. The former is better to cover an area, the latter to form a border of gardens. The bright color and sweet smell make them a preferred candidate for pollinating gardens.
6. Wild Sage
These are brightly colored vine-like shrubs mostly found in container gardening and treated as annual plants. It is a hardy perennial plant but is treated as an invasive species in frost-free areas like Florida, Arizona, and Hawaii. Also known as the Lantana camera, it comes in yellow, red, orange, and purple shades and is almost fluorescent. Often, it can be dual-toned too. While humans might not like its smell, butterflies love its aroma, and these are very butterfly friendly plants! It is a good choice for native garden making and has a strong affinity for the sun.
7. Perennial Cornflower
This perennial plant is known as a Knapweed, Star Thistles, Bluets, and Bachelor’s Button. Centaurea is a genus of plants filled with nectar, attracting multiple pollinators – both butterflies and moths. The sun-loving plant comes in various colors, including white, blue, pink, and red. Cornflowers prefer well-drained soil beds but are well resistant to drought and heat. It being resistant to deer is an added benefit.
8. Joe Pye Weed
Less ideal for a formal garden, Joe Pye weed can be found of varying lengths. It is a native of North America. Their varieties are based on their sizes – from 3 feet (dwarf, gateway variety) to 10 feet. Belonging to the genus Eupatorium, this plant loves sunlight bears flowers ranging from purple to rose pink shades. They can grow and spread their foliage in wild gardens and meadows. The purple variety attracts most butterflies because of its vanilla fragrance and bright color. They grow best in fertile and moist soil beds. The flowers begin to bloom from late summer to frost, and early pruning is recommended to control its growth. These attract butterflies, like swallowtails, dusky wings, America lady, and Skipper.
Also known as Lavandula, this native to fragrant European herb with blueish gray-green foliage is an excellent addition to gardens. Not only does it have superb medicinal properties, but it is also recognized as one of the plants good for butterflies. It is perennial and can be planted during spring or once the winter is over. The herb enjoys the sunlight and is drought tolerant, apart from being rabbit- and deer-resistant. They prefer a well-drained soil bed, sometimes surviving well in sandy, loose, and lime soil. It has attractive blue-purple flowers in upright spikes. Even when flowers have not bloomed, Lavandula has a heady aroma that attracts pollinators.
These annual summer-loving flowers are a must-have for butterfly garden plants. They have nectar that is readily available to butterflies. Although multiple variants of Zinnia are present, butterflies are mostly found around taller varieties with a yellow center. Along with Asters and Sedums, Zinnia has a long blooming season providing pollinators food in later seasons. Zinnia elegans survive best when sewn directly into the soil bed. They like the sun in addition to well-watered soil beds that also go dry between watering sessions. Primarily, a soil of sandy and loamy texture is preferred. As they are pretty easy to grow, they are a good choice for newbies!
Along with the plants mentioned above, try to keep your garden as organic as possible and put away chemical pesticides! Remember to provide shelter, food, and water for your targeted pollinators and look at your garden bloom with brightly colored butterflies and bees. Happy gardening!