Butterfly Host Plants

Even though host plants aren’t top-of-mind when planning a butterfly garden, no butterfly garden is complete without these important, ‘behind-the-scenes’, plants.

Host plants are the nurseries of the garden. If you keep an eye out you’ll see the female as she flits around the plant, gently laying her next brood’s eggs, sometimes on the top of leaves but usually on the bottom, hidden from predators.

Then, in 10 to 14 days, the tiny larvae, less than an eighth inch long, emerge and begin eating the plant. It’s a fascinating process as they munch away, growing larger everyday. Equally fascinating is watching the caterpillar leave the plant to form a chrysalis.  

Host plants range from flowering plants like Milkweed and Passion Vine, to herbs like Fennel, to bushes as well as trees like Sweet Bay Magnolia.

By including both host plants and nectar plants in your garden, you can attract a wider selection of butterflies while providing an environment that supports their entire life cycle.

Common Host Plants

Flowers:
Aster (Aster spp.)
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)
False Nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica)
Hollyhock (Alcea rosea)
Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja spp.)
Mallow (Malva spp.)
Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Pussy-toe (Antennaria plantaginifolia)
Rue (Ruta graveolens)
Ruellia (Ruellia spp.)
Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum spp.)
Silver Brocade (Artemisia stellariana)
Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)
Spider flower (Cleome hasslerana)
Sunflower (Helianthus spp.)
Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Swamp Verbena (Verbena hastata)
Tall Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
Violet (Viola spp. )
Water Dock (Rumex verticillatus)
Wild Senna (Senna hebecarpa)
Woodland Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum)

Herbs:
Dill (Antheum graveolens)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Grasses:
Little Bluestem Grass (Schizachyrium scoparium)
Orchard Grass (Dactylis glomerata )
Panic Grass (Panicum spp.)

Shrubs:
Coontie (Zamia pumila)
False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin )

Vines:
Passion Flowers (Passiflora spp.)
Pipevine (Aristolochia macrophylla)

Trees:
Aspen Tree (Populus spp.)
Common HopTree (Ptelea trifoliata)
Elm Tree (Ulmus spp. )
Flowering Dogwood (Cornus)
Pawpaw (Asimina triloba)
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
Sweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana)
Willow (Salix)

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