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Butterflies and Gardening to Attract Them

Updated on November 22, 2014
naturegirl7s profile image

Since the mid-1980s Yvonne has maintained a registered NWF backyard wildlife habitat where a variety of birds, insects and frogs abound.

Butterfly Gardens

What is more beautiful than a garden full of colorful flowers with gorgeous butterflies flitting around? It's really not that hard to create a haven for these lovely insects right in your own yard. All you need to create this sanctuary for you and the butterflies are some nectar plants, host plants and a little elbow grease.

Here you'll find lists of many butterflies and their host (larval) plants and photographs of both. Lots of easy to grow nectar plants are listed as well. You'll also find books about butterflies and gardening to attract them for both adults and children.

Many of the photos seen here can be purchased in Naturegirl7's Zazzle Shop as print-on-demand products such as posters, cards, apparel, mugs, and all sorts of wonderful items. Just click here to go to Zazzle.


May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun

And find your shoulder to light on,

To bring you luck, happiness and riches

Today, tomorrow and beyond.

An Irish Blessing


Monarch on Purple Wild Asters


Sulfur on Salvia coccinea


Butterfly Nectar Plants

A garden filled with beautiful, nectar rich flowers will attract butterflies to your yard. Butterflies require much smaller amounts of nectar than do hummingbirds, so almost any flower that is used by hummingbirds will be used by butterflies. Butterflies like flat-topped, composite flowers that are easy to sit on. A rule of thumb when choosing nectar plants for the butterfly garden is to stick to native and "old-fashioned" imported plants. Most of the newer, showy hybrid plants were bred for color or flower size, not nectar content and seed production as Mother Nature intended, so most have very little nectar.

Butterfly Gardening for the South

Sulfur on Firespike


Louisiana Blue Phlox


Some of our favorite butterfly nectar plants are Zinnas, Coreopsis, Marigolds, Cypress Vine, Red Morning Glory, Day Lilies, Irises, Butterfly Bush, Turk's Cap, Phlox, Black Eyed Susans and other members of the Rudbeckia family, Salvia, Tithonia, Azaleas, Mist Flower, Pickerel-weed, Lantana, Jamaican Vervain and wild Asters.

Most of these are perennials and easy to grow annuals. Our yard is large and there are only the two of us to plant and maintain it, so we try to keep it simple. No fussy, wilting Nellies are allowed in our yard. We'll try almost anything once, but if it doesn't do well in our hot, humid climate, then we try something else, or we just plant a native in it's place.

The photos of the butterflies on various flowers show many of the nectar plants that butterflies use. I think I have included one of each of the favorite nectar plants that we grow in our garden. Just put your mouse on the photo to see the name of the butterfly and the plant.

Black Swallowtail on Zinnias




Features of a Butterfly Garden

Besides plenty of nectar plants for the adults and host plants for the caterpillars, there are some other important elements that should be present in the Butterfly Garden.

Pink Native Azalea


Red Bud Tree

Shelter from the Wind is important because a butterfly's wings are fragile. A fence or group of evergreen shrubs that form a wind break on the north side of the garden will be appreciated by the butterflies. It will also help to reduce energy costs in winter.

A Shallow Water Feature or Boggy Area with a sandy or muddy bottom for those butterflies that like to "puddle".

Large Rocks for basking in the sun. Because butterflies are cold-blooded creatures, they need to warm up in the sun on cool spring mornings.

A Compost Pile or Overripe Fruit will be appreciated by some kinds of butterflies like Snout-nosed and Red-spotted Purple.

Rocks for Sunning


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Species of Butterflies and Their Host Plants

Monarch on Purple Asters


Swallowtail on Tithonia


Available at Naturally Native Creations

While beautiful nectar rich flowers planted in large groups will attract butterflies to your garden, just that alone is not enough to keep them there. The most important plants in a butterfly garden are those "weeds", herbs, shrubs and trees that provide food for butterfly larvae. Many of these host plants have beautiful flowers.

Some examples are Passion Vine, the viola (Violet) family, snapdragons and False Foxglove. Most plants that are used by butterfly larvae and other insects are native to the United States.

Many scientists believe that the increase in alien (imported) plants directly affects the decline of butterflies and other insects because most of the alien plants that are not related to any of our natives can not be eaten by these insects. This, in turn, affects the number of birds and other animals that an area can support; when the insects leave or die out, the birds move to another area where insects are prevalent.

Members of the Citrus family, like this imported Satsuma, are the host plant of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly. These imported Citrus trees are related to some of our native plants, so they can be used by this butterfly.

Citrus Flowers

Planting native perennials, shrubs and trees will have many positive effects on your yard. In addition to providing food for beautiful butterflies, natives will improve the soil, help conserve water, alleviate flooding, save money and decrease pollution. If you are concerned about the holes that the larvae make in the leaves, then hide the host plants away in a back corner.

As with other wildlife gardening, pesticides of all kinds are prohibited. Bacillus thuringiensis should definitely not be used anywhere in a butterfly garden. This bacillus attacks caterpillars, the larval stage of butterflies and moths. It does not discriminate between a cabbage loper and a Tiger Swallowtail.

Gulf Fritillary on Maypop Passion Vine


Painted Lady on Cat's Whiskers


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Continue reading to see pictures of many of the butterflies which are common to Southeastern Louisiana and some of their larval food plants.

List of Host Plants by Butterfly

Various Butterflies and Their Host Plants

Each kind of butterfly needs a specific group of plants on which to lay its eggs. Providing these larval food plants will increase the number of butterflies in your garden. Here is a list of southern U.S. butterflies and some of their most common host plants.


Eastern Tiger (Papilia glaucus) - Leaves of Cottonwood, Tulip Tree, Sweet bay, Cherry and others

You can find more information about the Eastern Tiger on Butterflies - Tiger Swallowtail.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail on Pickerel Weed


Available at Naturally Native Creations on Zazzle

Zebra (Eurytides marcellus) - Paw Paw

Zebra Swallowtail


Pipevine on Coral Vervain


Pipevine (Battus philenor) - Pipevines

Available at Naturally Native Creations

Spicebush (Papilio troilus) - Spicebush, sassafras & other laurels

For more information about the Spicebush Swallowtail, you may want to check out, Butterflies - Spicebush Swallowtail Pictures and Plants.

Spice Bush Swallowtail


Adult Black Swallowtail

Available at Naturally Native Creations

Black (Papilio polyxenes) - Parsley family (dill, fennel, carrots, both cultivated and wild)

The Life Cycle of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly

Laying Eggs

Black Swallowtail Caterpillars

We plant a patch of parsley, fennel or dill in an area away from the garden just for the swallowtails.

Black Swallowtail Chrysallis

Palamedes Swallowtail on Vervain

The vertical striping on the body is an identification key.
The vertical striping on the body is an identification key. | Source

Palamedes (Papilio palamedes) - Red bay & other laurels

Palamedes on Coral Vervain


Satsuma is a type of Mandarine orange. It is cold hardy to about 20 degrees F.

Giant Swallowtail


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Giant (Papilio cresphontes) - Citrus, wild lime, hop tree & other citrus relatives

The Life Cycle of the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

Giant Swallowtail Lays Egg on Citrus Plant

The Egg

Caterpillar Looks Like Bird Poop


The caterpillar does all the work but the butterfly gets all the publicity.

Attributed to George Carlin


Whites, Sulphurs, Hairstreaks, Blues and Azures

Sulphur on Coral Nymph Salvia coccinea


Sulphur on Turk's Cap


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Whites and Sulphurs

  • Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) - Cabbage, nasturtium, watercress, various capers and mustards
  • Checkered White (Pontia protodice) - Many native and exotic mustards
  • Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae), Little Yellow (Eurema lisa), Sleepy Orange (Eurema nicippe) - Senna (Cassia family)
  • Southern Dogface (Colias eurydice) & Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) - Indigo Bush, clovers & other legumes

Hairstreak on Goldenrod Mousepad


Available at Naturally Native Creations


  • Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus) - Flowering parts of legumes, mallows and other plants
  • White M Hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album) - Oaks

Blues and Azures

  • Eastern Tailed-blue (Everes comyntas) - Flowers and seeds of many legumes

Eastern Tailed Blue Poster


Buy Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterfly by naturegirl7

  • Spring Azure Complex (Celastrina ladon) and "Summer" Azure (Celastrina ladon neglecta) - Flowering parts of many plants

Kaufman's is my favorite butterfly guide. It has detailed illustrations from different angles, accurate information and great maps.

Brush Footed Butterflies

Longwings and Fritillaries

  • Zebra Longwing (Heliconius charithonia) Occasional visitor - Passion Vines

Zebra Longwing


Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae) - Passion Vines (including the wild tiny yellow flowered Passiflora lutea L.)

Variegated Fritillary


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) - Passion vine, flax and viola family

Available at Naturally Native Creations

The Folsom Native Plant Society has a good page about growing Passion Vine. You will also find more information on Butterflies - Gulf Fritillary

The Life Cycle of the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly

Gulf Fritillary Lays an Egg on Passion Vine


Gulf Fritillary butterflies love warm weather. Here in Louisiana, they reach peak numbers in the fall. One year there were hundreds of chrysalises hanging from the eaves and slats of the house. They looked like tiny ornaments. The yard was ablaze with the fluttering orange wings.

Egg is on a Tendril of the Vine


Caterpillar Sheds Skin as It Grows

Stokes Butterfly Book

Stokes Butterfly Book : The Complete Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior
Stokes Butterfly Book : The Complete Guide to Butterfly Gardening, Identification, and Behavior

Besides having good information about Butterfly Gardening, this book has excellent photos of many common butterfly larvae.


Almost Ready to Make a Chrysallis

Caterpillars of Easter North America Guide

Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides)
Caterpillars of Eastern North America: A Guide to Identification and Natural History (Princeton Field Guides)

A very thorough guide for Eastern North America caterpillars, containing good pictures and information. You need to be able to recognize the caterpillars of the butterflies that you are trying to attract.


Pearl Crescent


Available at Naturally Native Creations

  • Pearl Crescent (Pyciodes tharos) - Asters

Coma Butterfly Poster


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis) and Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) - Hops, nettles, elms & hackberries

Available at Naturally Native Creations

Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) - Willows, cottonwoods, elms, birches & hackberries

Mourning Cloak


Red Admiral


Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - Nettles and false nettles

Painted Lady Poster


Available at Naturally Native Creations

American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) - Thistle and mallows

Buckeye Poster


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) - Plantains, snapdragons and False Foxglove

Peterson First Guide to Butterflies and Moths

Red Spotted Purple Postcard


Available at Naturally Native Creations

Red Spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis (in part)) - Willows, cottonwoods and poplars



Available at Naturally Native Creations

Viceroy (Limenitis archippus) - Willows, sometimes poplars and others

Monarch on Lantana


Emperors (Asterocampa spp) and Snouts (Libytheana spp.) - HackberriesMonarch (Danaus plexippus) and Queen (Danaus gilipus) - Milkweeds

You can find more information on Monarchs and Milkweed

Wintering Monarch Butterflies Video


Satyrs, Wood-Nymphs, Browns, Pearly-eyes & Skippers

Satyrs, Wood-Nymphs, Browns & Pearly-eyes - Grasses

Posters and Postcards are Available at Naturally Native Creations

Long-tailed Skipper Poster


  • Silver-spotted - Locusts, wisteria & legumes
  • Long-Tailed & Cloudy wings - Legumes, especially beans

Checkered Skipper on French Marigolds


Common Checkered Skipper - Mallow Family

Clouded Skipper on Coral Vervain


Grass Skippers (Fiery Skipper & others) - Bermuda grass & other grasses

Clouded Skipper

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis Plant

Stachytarpheta Jamaicensis Blue Porterweed Butterfly Attracting
Stachytarpheta Jamaicensis Blue Porterweed Butterfly Attracting

Also called porterweed, Stachytarpheta jamaicensis comes in blue and coral and is an excellent butterfly and hummingbird nectar plant


Whirlabout on Ham & Eggs Lantana



Brazilian - Cannas

This is the introduced butterfly whose larvae rolls up and eats the leaves of Canna lilies.

Hummingbird Moth on Monarda


Hummer Moth on Pickerel Weed


Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

One may think there's a tiny little baby hummingbird flying among the flowers, but more than likely it's a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth. This moth will feed during the day and it's shape, coloration and scaleless wings give it the appearance of a small hummingbird. There are two common varieties of this attractive and interesting member of the Sphinx moth family.

The two types of North American Hummingbird Moths are very hard to tell apart. One type is the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth or Clearwing Hummingbird Moth, which (as you can tell by its name) resembles a small hummingbird. The other is the Snowberry Clearwing Moth which actually looks more like a large bumblebee, than a hummingbird. The ranges of both species overlap quite a bit, so you can have both in a given location. Here are a couple of photos of the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth:

For more information about Hummingbird Moths, visit our Clearwing Hummingbird Moth lens.

Butterfly Gifts for All Ages

Gifts for Butterfly Lovers

Here you'll find some lovely butterfly and flower jewelry, shirts, mugs, posters and other creations that would make nice gifts for Christmas, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, birthdays or any special occasion.


I've watched you now a full half-hour;

Self-poised upon that yellow flower

And, little Butterfly! Indeed

I know not if you sleep or feed.

How motionless! - not frozen seas

More motionless! and then

What joy awaits you, when the breeze

Hath found you out among the trees,

And calls you forth again!

William Wordsworth, "To a Butterfly"


Red-spotted Purple Shirt


Butterflies to Wear, Use and Enjoy

Zazzle Products Designed by naturegirl7

We love to take photographs and draw and paint the natural world so we put together some products on Zazzle. Here are a few examples:

Monarch on Asters Mug


Buckeye on Wild Asters Stickers


Louisiana Butterflies Poster


For More Designs and products, please visit our Naturegirl7 Creations Gallery.


Pearl Crescent on St. John's Wort by naturegirl7


Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.

Jeffrey Glassberg


Butterfly Plant Video

Kid's Corner

Children find butterflies fascinating and what better way to teach them about insects and the cycle of life, than to observe the process of metamorphosis first hand. Get them out in the garden or bring a large caterpillar inside with lots of its host plant and keep it in a terrarium so the children can watch it make a chrysalis. If you keep the host plant in water, make sure that the caterpillar can't fall in and drown. Use a mason jar and punch holes in the jar lid so that the plant stems can go through, but the caterpillar can't. Also put in some woody branches so that it can crawl up and attach the chrysalis.

When the metamorphosis is complete and the butterfly exits the chrysalis and dries its wings, then the terrarium can be taken out into the garden so the butterfly can be released. Now the cycle is complete and it will reproduce as nature intended.

Monarch butterfly numbers are in peril. It's important that children learn the importance of butterflies and other insects in the ecosystem.

Eastern Tailed-Blue Butterfly by naturegirl7

© 2008 Yvonne L B

Flutter over and leave us a line.

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    • mel-kav profile image


      7 years ago

      Great lens. Love the beautiful butterfly photos! There's nothing like a garden filled with beautiful flowers and butterflies!

    • mbgphoto profile image

      Mary Beth Granger 

      8 years ago from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA

      Love this lens...great photos and great information. Thank you. Blessed by a Squidangel

    • ellagis profile image


      8 years ago

      Congratulations, really a beautiful lens, with some brand new suggestions. I'd never heard about "butterfly feeders", for example.

      Thank you for writing it!

    • naturegirl7s profile imageAUTHOR

      Yvonne L B 

      8 years ago from Covington, LA

      @bames24 lm: Thanks so much. Butterflies and flowers have such a calming influence.

      This year I'm planting twice as many butterfly flowers and host plants, especially milkweed for the Monarchs.

      We've already had some Monarch caterpillars make beautiful, green chrysalises.

    • bames24 lm profile image

      bames24 lm 

      8 years ago

      beautiful lens... I love butterflies and it makes my day watching them flit from flower to flower in my Dad's garden :)

    • Ellen Mitchell profile image

      Ellen Mitchell 

      8 years ago

      Very nice lens. Beautiful pictures. I love butterflies in my garden.

    • encouragingwords profile image


      9 years ago

      Lovely lens; 5*s and lensrolled on Butterfly Quotes and Sentiments!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      10 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      Back again to let you know that I really, really like your lens and have featured it in my Locust lens. Cheers!

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 

      10 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      What an education you have given us in butterflies! We have many of the butterflies pictured here come to our yard. Of course I encourage them by planting a lot of flowers. We even have a bush called, The Butterfly bush. Will takes a lot of photos of butterflies on it. Hours and hours of time goes into taking photos of butterflies as they flit when you just think you've got that perfect shot. 5*s and favored.

    • Lee Hansen profile image

      Lee Hansen 

      10 years ago from Vermont

      Butterflies are one of my favorite creatures - little flowers with wings! I plant flowers and shrubs to attract butterflies to the garden, then follow them around with my camera all summer long. Lovely lens - faved and fived.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing!

    • ShariBerry profile image

      Sharon Berry 

      10 years ago from Michigan

      I really enjoyed all the useful information along with the beautiful photo's. What a great lens.

    • CoolFoto profile image


      10 years ago

      Delightful lens! I love to watch butterflies. I raised over 100 monarch butterflies when I lived in Orlando. We spent $75 on milkweed plants that summer.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Butterflies also help us understand the interaction of plants with other organisms.

      Butterfly watching also offers us an escape. Watching butterflies is an opportunity to slow down, breathe deeply and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature at her best. This is a pretty awesome thing watching caterpillars become chrysalis and then hatch into butterflies.I really enjoyed reading about live butterfly garden on your page.This is interesting stuff to consider buying for the kids.Well done.

    • teamlane profile image


      10 years ago

      Love all these gorgeous pics!

      Blessed by a SquidAngel today!

      ~ Colleen :o)

    • dustytoes profile image


      10 years ago

      A beautiful lens. You sure have fun with your butterflies! Super photos.

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 

      10 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Nice lens. The photos are beautiful.

    • monarch13 profile image


      10 years ago

      How beautiful! 5 stars and rolled to "Feng Shui Garden", butterflys are a great way to add "fire" or "yang" energy to your garden.

    • SilvaraWilde profile image


      10 years ago

      Like everyone else, I love all the photos you've included, but I also like that you really packed in the information without making it boring. Great job!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Nice lens - love the photos!

    • seashell2 profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful lens... love the photography! All the best!

    • seashell2 profile image


      10 years ago

      Beautiful lens... love the photography! All the best!

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Butterflies add life to your yard and the caterpillars don't eat too much.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      This is a great lens. I moved from San Antonio to a house in the middle of a hayfield in east Tennessee. This summer I was amazed at all the different varieties of butterflies I saw.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Your lens is beautiful -- I am a huge fan of butterflies -- and actually have a couple butterfly tattoos -- ssshh, don't tell anyone. Some wonderful photos!

    • crystalguy profile image


      11 years ago

      Very nice lens, and beautiful pics of butterflies!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Love it! Thank you for joining my Nature Lovers group :)

    • piedromolinero profile image


      11 years ago

      A very nice lens about butterfly gardening. Fav'd, lensrolled to my butterfly gardening lens and 5*.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thanks for sharing these great tips on gardening. I found a list of good articles here too:

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      You have some great lenses, this one being one of them, I've always wanted to put in a flower garden to attract butterflies, and have marked this one in my favorites!

    • makingamark profile image

      Katherine Tyrrell 

      11 years ago from London

      Great lens - what a lot of butterflies! 5*

    • sisterra profile image


      11 years ago

      I loved your lens! The photos are beautiful! 5 Stars.

    • James20 profile image


      11 years ago

      When I was little I used to raise monarch butterflies. I love to see the changes.


    • profile image


      11 years ago

      My butterfly garden didn't do very well this year. We have lots of hummingbirds but very few butterflies. Another lovely lens! Welcome to the Going Buggy group.

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image


      11 years ago

      I love to watch the butterflies flutter around my flowers. I don't see nearly enough of them in my garden.

      Great lens



    • Orphie G profile image

      Orphie G 

      11 years ago

      Very nice lens from one butterfly lover to another.

    • SPF profile image


      11 years ago

      Love it!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I love butterflies and I loved your lens! Thank you for sharing :) diana

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Nice butterfly lens!

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      11 years ago from Royalton

      The Bluebird of Happiness loved your lens so much that she is sending you a virtual Heart Shaped Waffle and a cup of coffee to hang on your wall.


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