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20 Flowers & Plants That Attract Butterflies (With Pictures)

Beautiful tulips flower in tulip field and butterfly

Butterflies are beloved for their appearance, their movement in flight, and their benefits as a pollinator. Many people plant gardens aimed at attracting as many butterflies as possible. In order to ensure that you can see numerous butterflies in the warm months, you need to have plants that are favorable to butterflies. Not all plants attract butterflies.

If you are looking to fill out a butterfly garden or find some unique options to add to your yard that will help bring in your favorite flying insects, this list has you covered. This list features ten non-traditional plants that are sure to attract butterflies, as well as ten types of vibrant flowers. Here are twenty flowers and plants that attract butterflies that will be perfect for your yard or garden.

garden flower divider

10 Plants That Attract Butterflies

There are plenty of flowers that attract butterflies, but what about regular plants? Not every butterfly-attracting plant has to be the same flower that all of your neighbors have. There are plenty of unique and interesting plants that are not necessarily flowers that will still attract plenty of butterflies to your garden. Here are ten regular plants that will attract butterflies.

1. Milkweed

milkweed
Image Credit: Heather Griesbach. Pixabay
Scientific name: Asclepias
Type: Perennial

Milkweed is a classic butterfly attracting plant. Famous butterflies, such as the monarch butterfly, love milkweed. In fact, monarch caterpillars will only eat from the milkweed plant. Milkweeds are named for a thick milky substance that the plant secretes that butterflies and caterpillars love. If you want to attract butterflies, especially monarchs, you definitely need to learn how to cultivate and raise milkweeds in your garden.


2. Tulip Tree

tulip poplar tree
Image Credit: wal_172619, Pixabay
Scientific name: Liriodendron
Type: Tree

The tulip tree is a towering deciduous tree that produces a large number of fragrant blooms. The tree gets its name from the fact that the flowers it produces look like tulips. These flowers attract butterflies like crazy. The tulip tree is a unique plant to put in your butterfly garden that will attract pollinators when the tree is in bloom. These trees can grow extremely large when thriving, so you might need to prune them to keep them back.


3. Black Willow

Black Willow Tree
Image Credit: Sue Burton Photography, Shutterstock
Scientific name: Salix nigra
Type: Tree

The black willow is a common species of willow tree found throughout the United States. These trees need a lot of water to thrive. They typically grow along the banks of rivers, lakes, ponds, and streams. If you have a location where a black willow can thrive, they are an interesting and unique addition to any yard. They attract numerous butterflies during the summer when the tree is in bloom.


4. Flowering Dogwood

flowering dogwood tree
Image Credit: Jana McLain, Pixabay
Scientific name: Cornus florida
Type: Tree

Flowering dogwood trees are simply stunning. When they are in bloom, the whole tree becomes covered in fragrant flowers. The tree can produce flowers of many different colors, including white and yellow. Butterflies love these trees, and a flowering dogwood will add an amazing pop of color to your garden to complement your other plants. If you like flowers and pollinator-attracting plants, the flowering dogwood tree is a no-brainer.


5. Fennel

fennel bulb in garden bed
Image Credit: nnattalli, Shutterstock
Scientific name: Foeniculum vulgare
Type: Perennial herb

Fennel is a great plant to have to switch up your garden. Fennel is in the carrot family, meaning they are very hardy and easy to grow. They can also be used in cooking and as a staple in an herb garden. Butterflies love fennel. When the herb flowers, it will be a strong pull for nearby butterflies.


6. Firebush

firebush close up
Image Credit: Zellma, Pixabay
Scientific name: Hamelia patens
Type: Shrub

Firebush is a flowering shrub that produces numerous red flowers. It is native to the southern United States, the Caribbean, and Central America. The small pleasing flowers on the firebush are beloved by butterflies, and these hardy shrubs are great for people who live in a warm subtropical climate. Firebushes are perfect as a backstop or border for your flowering butterfly garden.


7. Butterfly Sage

Bloodberry
Image Credit: Marzena P., Pixabay
Scientific name: Varronia globosa
Type: Shrub

Butterfly sage, or the Curacao bush, is a small shrub that produces dainty white flowers that butterflies love. Butterfly sage makes a perfect background shrub that is not too obtrusive. In the right conditions, these bushes can spread and become weedy, meaning you have to prune them to keep them under control. These shrubs are evergreen and will produce annual flowers that attract pollinators to your garden.


8. Mint

mint plants
Image Credit: Photosforyou, Pixabay
Scientific name: Mentha
Type: Herb

Mint is one of the safest plants in the world. It has been used by humans for thousands of years for a variety of different purposes, from recreational to medicinal. Mint is a great herb to grow in your garden. It has a pleasant aroma that is adored by people and butterflies alike. This is a classic plant that most people don’t think about when building a butterfly garden, but it definitely has a place among the more traditional plants.


9. Catnip

catnip plants
Image Credit: snd_nrdc, Pixabay
Scientific name: Nepeta cataria
Type: Herb

Catnip is an herb most associated with cats, but it is also pleasing to butterflies as well. Catnip has a strong aroma that attracts butterflies and makes cats go wild. This is a great herb to put in your butterfly garden. If you have cats, you can also harvest the plant to use for your feline friends giving it double the potential for your garden. Catnip is unobtrusive and easy to grow.


10. Dill

dill herbs
Image Credit: MMWoolly, Pixabay
Scientific name: Anethum graveolens
Type: Annual herb

Dill is a popular herb that can double as a butterfly-attracting plant. Dill has been a cornerstone of herb gardens for generations. Dill is great because it will attract butterflies to your herb garden and help your garden thrive. Dill can also be used in cooking when the plant is mature.

10 Flowers That Attract Butterflies

These plants are traditional butterfly-attracting flowers that are present in many butterfly gardens around the world. These plants are known primarily for their blooms and are guaranteed to add tons of color, texture, and butterflies to your yard.

11. Salvia

salvia flowers
Image Credit: GoranH, Pixabay
Scientific name: Salvia
Type: Flowering sage

Salvia is a family of sage plants that produce abundant numbers of fragrant flowers. There are hundreds of species of salvia that grow all over the world. It is almost guaranteed that you can find a species of salvia at your local garden center that will thrive in your garden. Salvia flowers typically grow in long narrow stalks, which can be a nice contrast to small flat flowers like lantana.


12. Lavender

bumblebee-pixabay
Image Credit: Hans, Pixabay
Scientific name: Lavandula
Type: Flowering mint

Lavender is in the mint family and is known for its iconic color and scent. Lavender has a ton of great uses, from soaps to dyes and oils. They are also nice to look at, easy to grow, and will serve as a classic pollinator-attracting plant for your garden. Lavender can be planted in an individual pot, in an herb garden, or in a flower garden.


13. Marigolds

Marigolds
Image Credit: Marjonhorn, Pixabay
Scientific name: Tagetes
Type: Flowering herbaceous annual or perennial

Marigolds are one of the most iconic and widespread flowers in the United States. It is prized for its hardy nature, ease of growth, and appearance. Marigolds can be annuals or perennials, depending on the cultivar and the climate. Marigolds have been a staple of butterfly gardens for generations. Their bright colors and distinctive smells attract butterflies from all over. Marigolds are also unique in that they deter bees, making them a perfect addition to a bee-free garden.


14. Goldenrod

goldenrod flowers
Image Credit: Gabriela Beres, Shutterstock
Scientific name: Solidago
Type: Herbaceous perennial flower

Goldenrod, also known as solidago, is a widespread perennial flower. The plant gets its name from the dainty and feathery yellow flowers that it produces in large quantities. Goldenrods are easy to grow, have a bright color, and are great for butterflies. Goldenrods make a great foil to the numerous pink, purple, and green colors often present in a butterfly garden. Goldenrod blooms also feature a unique texture.


15. Sunflowers

sunflowers in pots
Image Credit: BBA, Shutterstock
Scientific name: Helianthus annuus
Type: Annual forb

Sunflowers are classic plants that can be found throughout the United States. Sunflowers are large, hardy, and can quickly proliferate. Sunflowers also have a quintessential Americana look and feel that is perfect for many home gardens. Humans love sunflower seeds, and butterflies love sunflower blooms. The common sunflower grows with just a single large bloom in comparison to the wild sunflower, which typically grows with numerous small blooms. Either variation can be grown in a butterfly garden.


16. Butterfly Bush

Butterfly bush
Image Credit: Wut_Moppie, Shutterstock
Scientific name: Buddleja
Type: Flowering bush

The butterfly bush is a common flowering shrub prized for its ability to attract flying pollinators in large numbers. Butterfly bushes are easy to care for and make a great border or backstop for a thriving butterfly garden. The flowers of the butterfly bush grow in narrow, brightly colored stalks that are often filled with fluttering butterflies during the summer. The flowers are so beautiful and so effective that the bush has become synonymous with butterflies, hence the name.


17. Aster

new england asters
Image Credit; Nikolett Emmert, Pixabay
Scientific name: Aster
Type: Perennial flower

Aster is a family of flowering plants that are favored by butterflies. Aster contains over 170 species of aromatic perennial flowering plants. Aster flowers can be an amazing addition to any butterfly garden. Aster typically blooms in late summer through fall, making them a great foil for plants that generally flower in the spring and early summer, giving you the ability to have flowers in your butterfly garden for longer periods of time.


18. Yarrow

pink yarrow
Image Credit: JamesDeMers, Pixabay
Scientific name: Achillea millefolium
Type: Perennial flower

Yarrow is one of the most common plants in the world. It can be found in Asia, Europe, and North America, and it was recently introduced to Australia and New Zealand. This plant is also known as common yarrow or devil’s nettle. These plants have been used as butterfly attractors for hundreds of years. The flowers are not the most eye-catching, but these plants are extremely effective at attracting butterflies. They are also very easy to grow and cultivate.


19. Bee Balm

bee balm plant
Image Credit: Pam Carter, Pixabay
Scientific name: Monarda
Type: Perennial herbaceous flower

Bee Balm is a famous plant with a recognizable bloom that is perfect for attracting bees and butterflies alike. This plant is also known as bergamot and Oswego tea. Bee Balm has a regal purple flower with a pleasing aroma. It likes the sun and will produce beneficial flowers in the spring and summer.


20. Cornflower

mountain bluets perennial cornflowers
Image Credit: Ralphs_Fotos, Pixabay
Scientific name: Centaurea cyanus
Type: Annual flower

Cornflowers were once considered a weed by farmers. These plants would appear in cornfields and sap important nutrients from food crops, but for butterfly gardeners, these plants are great. The flowers have a distinctive cornflower blue color, and they are highly appealing to butterflies. The blooms have a unique shape and make a great addition to any butterfly garden. You will have to replant these flowers each year as they are annuals.

garden flower divider

Conclusion

Whether you are looking for a unique tree or shrub, or a classic flower, there are plenty of plants to choose from when it comes to filling out a butterfly garden. Not every butterfly garden has to have lantana and milkweed. You can build a garden around shrubs, trees, or herbs that will still attract a large number of butterflies. The possibilities are nearly endless.


Featured Image Credit: NH, Shutterstock

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