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31 Easy Care Plants That Butterflies Love

Looking for ways to attract more butterflies to your garden? Here are 31 easy-care plants that butterflies love.

Since I’m often asked about plants that attract butterflies, I created a top 10 list of easy-care perennials that they love.

When I started my flower garden, it was really important to me to attract pollinators.

Before planting, I researched butterfly and hummingbird attracting plants that grow well in my area to entice them to my yard.

Thankfully, there are lots of gorgeous flowers that attract both so this list is a great start to growing a pollinator garden.

Here’s what you need to know!

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What is Butterfly Gardening and Why Should I Plant a Butterfly Garden?

Butterfly gardening is the practice of creating a garden that is specifically designed to attract and support butterflies. This is done by planting a variety of nectar plants that provide food for adult butterflies and host plants that provide food for their caterpillars.

There are many reasons why a gardener might want to create a butterfly garden.

  • Conservation: Butterflies are important pollinators, and many species are in decline due to habitat loss and other factors. By creating a butterfly garden, you can help support butterfly populations and promote conservation efforts.
  • Beauty: Butterflies are one of nature’s most beautiful creatures, and watching them flutter around your garden can be a delight. By planting a butterfly garden, you can create a beautiful and tranquil space in your yard.
  • Education: Butterfly gardening can be a fun and educational activity for children and adults alike. By learning about the life cycle of butterflies and the plants they rely on, gardeners can gain a deeper appreciation for the natural world and the importance of conservation.
  • Low-maintenance: Butterfly gardens can be relatively low-maintenance, as many of the plants that attract butterflies are easy to grow and require little care. This makes butterfly gardening an excellent choice for gardeners who want to create a beautiful and functional garden without spending a lot of time or money.
swallowtail butterfly on zinnias in cottage garden

It’s also important to note that Planting a butterfly garden not only attracts butterflies but also attracts hummingbirds too.

Because every butterfly garden has bright and beautiful nectar-loving plants that feed both butterflies and caterpillars.

And the more plants for butterflies you grow, the more butterflies you will attract to your garden.

In summary, butterfly gardening is a great way to support butterfly populations, create a beautiful garden, educate yourself and others, and enjoy a low-maintenance gardening experience.

With a little planning and some basic knowledge, anyone can create a butterfly garden in their own backyard.

Backyard cottage garden in front of garden shed -cut flower garden in my gardening zone 6a backyard border. This is my favorite cottage garden in the landscape in front of the garden shed

What is Needed to Make a Butterfly Garden?

Creating a butterfly garden is a fun and rewarding way to attract butterflies to your yard and help support their populations.

Here is what you need to make a butterfly garden.

  • Location: Choose a sunny spot in your yard for your butterfly garden, as butterflies love basking in the sun. Ideally, the garden should receive at least six hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • Plants: Choose plants that provide nectar for adult butterflies and host plants for their caterpillars. Some examples of nectar plants include butterfly bushes, milkweed, zinnias, and coneflowers. Examples of host plants include milkweed for monarch butterflies, parsley for swallowtails, and fennel for black swallowtails.
  • Water: Butterflies need water, but they can’t drink from deep pools. Provide a shallow dish of water filled with sand or stones so that butterflies can land and drink safely.
  • Shelter: Butterflies need shelter to escape from predators and harsh weather conditions. Shrubs, trees, and tall grasses provide shelter and roosting spots for butterflies.
  • Avoid pesticides: Pesticides can be harmful to butterflies and other pollinators. Avoid using pesticides in your butterfly garden and opt for natural pest control methods instead.
  • Maintenance: Regular maintenance is important to keep your butterfly garden healthy and thriving. Deadhead flowers to encourage more blooms, weed regularly, and prune shrubs and trees as needed.
7 Lessons I Learned From Growing a Flower Patch

How Much Sunlight Do Butterfly Gardens Need?

Butterfly gardens need full sun because the flowers that attract butterflies need full sun.

And the butterflies themselves need the warmth from the sun to warm their muscles for flight.

So growing plants for butterflies in full sun is a must.

6 Simple Tips for Attracting Butterflies with Plants

  • Select plants with varying bloom times so butterflies are fed from spring through fall. Check the plant tag for bloom times. Butterflies are drawn to clusters of like colors so it is important to plant enough of the same flowers together.
  • Butterflies favor native plants.
  • Where possible, avoid pesticides in your gardens because they can wipe out butterflies and other pollinators.
  • Butterflies are drawn to brightly colored purples, blues, yellows, whites, and pinks.
  • Focus on plants with multiple florets as well as composite flowers, because they can get more nectar at one time.
  • Avoid double-flowering varieties because they carry less nectar.

Read this post for more information about butterfly gardens.

Close up of Sunflowers 'panache' in the flower patch

My Top 11 List of Easy Care Plants that Attract Butterflies

In my gardens, butterflies love:

  • Bee Balm
  • Echinacea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Liatris
  • Coreopsis
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • Tall Phlox
  • Sedum Autumn Joy
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Milkweed
  • Zinnias

But there are so many more!

And the best part?

Most of these blooms over the course of a few months, so your garden will bloom from spring through fall.

While most of the plants on this list will do well in a range of zones, keep in mind that I garden in hardiness zone 6a New Jersey.

Before planting, check your hardiness zone to be sure these plants will do well in your climate.

Flowering hostas, monarda and joe pye weed flowers -Shade Garden in the back border

Bee Balm

Butterflies love bee balm and is high on my list of butterfly-attracting plants.

They cover my monarda flowers when they are in full bloom. And bee balm’s bright colors liven up summer borders.

So if you are interested in growing a colorful garden that’s always in bloom, monarda is a good choice for summer flowers.

close up of bee balm (monarda) flowers in the garden - perennial flowers list that bloom in midsummer

Echinacea (Coneflowers)

Coneflowers are so gorgeous, aren’t they? Each year when they bloom I am just in awe.

Echinacea is another summer-blooming perennial that requires full sun and attracts lots of pollinators.

They are perfect for the cottage garden because they are bright, bold, tall, and beautiful.

Plus, echinacea self-sows easily and spreads throughout the garden over time once established.

And the butterflies go crazy for the nectar too.

Monarchs enjoy my echinacea as I see them drop by often.

I’ve been growing coneflowers for years and they can really take over an area.

To keep coneflowers under control, divide them and move them around in spring or fall.

close up of echinacea in the garden
echinacea, bee balm and liatris in cottage garden in early summer garden tour with green garden fence

Butterfly Bush

To grow a butterfly bush is to love a butterfly bush.

They bloom all summer long and will be covered with butterflies from summer through fall.

Not to mention, they grow quickly after planting. So if you need a plant that will get some height in a short amount of time that blooms, butterfly bush is a great option.

Butterfly bushes are wonderful butterfly-attracting plants that look so gorgeous and graceful in the garden.

Plus the blooms last a while too.

The care is pretty minimal on them but can be a little invasive in certain areas. So read the label and check with your local cooperative extension before planting.

I just planted Proven Winners Grande Cascade in the garden this year. And I can’t wait to see how it blooms!

I was given this pretty beauty from Walter’s Gardens.

swallowtail butterflies on a butterfly bush

Butterfly Weed

Have you grown butterfly weed before? I realize it doesn’t sound very attractive but the dainty orange flowers are striking in the summer garden.

The brightly colored orange blooms add lots of color to early summer borders. This is my former garden’s butterfly weed mixed with Nepeta ‘walkers low’.

Isn’t that a pretty combination?

Not only do the butterflies love butterfly weed, but monarchs lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves.

So be judicious when removing garden debris because they house these beautiful creatures.

Butterfly weed is easy to grow, self-sows easily, and is one of the best plants to attract butterflies.

Butterfly weed and catmint in my jersey garden

Liatris

I used to have so much more liatris in my former garden. But through the years, it petered out and disappeared.

I recently added it to my new gardens because blazing star adds a lot of visual interest with it’s spikey blooms.

And the butterflies love them all summer long.

Gayfeather comes in a variety of colors and are pretty hardy where I live.

They are beautiful in a cottage garden, is one of the must-have plants butterflies like, blooms in the summer, and has lots of charm.

Blazing Star is another one of those easy-care plants for butterflies that are a must-have in a pollinator garden.

close up of liatris with butterfly and monarda

Coreopsis

I’ve had a love affair with moonbeam coreopsis since I started gardening. The dainty yellow flowers are so pretty.

And these butterfly-attracting plants are very easy to care for. I have Moonbeam Coreopsis in almost every garden because it is so easy to divide.

Since moving to our new home with expansive gardens, I’ve noticed moonbeam coreopsis growing in several front yard beds.

Butterflies are attracted to the bright yellow blooms. And it’s one of the prettiest butterfly-attracting plants. I love that bushy growing habit.

close up of Moonbeam coreopsis plants butterflies love

Because moonbeam coreopsis is so easy to grow and care for, it makes the perfect plant to grow in a butterfly garden.

Since moving to our 1850 farmhouse, I wanted to try new-to-me varieties of plants that attracts butterflies that I’ve grown before.

So new to my garden is ‘Creme Caramel’ coreopsis that looks very similar to moonbeam, but is more peachy in color.

It’s in full bloom right now and looks AMAZING in my front porch garden.

close up of tickseed or coreopsis 'caramel creme' in my early summer garden tour

Black Eyed Susans (Rudbekia)

Black-eyed susans are one of my favorite summer garden flowers.

Rudbeckia is super easy to care for as it is a native plant that needs very little from the home gardener to thrive.

It divides easily so you can get more plants for free while growing a healthy garden. Black-eyed susans look gorgeous in the summer garden. And are one of the prettiest summer-blooming plants that butterflies love.

Rudbeckia needs full sun, minimal care, and grows about 3 feet tall when in full bloom.

rudbekia and limelight hyrdrangea flowers with rudbekia -gardening zone 6a summer flowers
Fall garden in front of vintage farmhouse with rudbeckia, hostas, sedum autumn joy and hardy hibiscus on a sunny day

Tall Phlox

I’ve been growing tall phlox for several years. They are simply gorgeous plants that butterflies love and are highly attracted to.

You simply can’t beat those tall spiky flowers that bloom from summer through fall.

Tall phlox is easy to care for but comes with some caveats.

Here in my New Jersey garden, they can get afflicted with powdery mildew during midsummer.

While you can do nothing and allow them to do their thing, you can also apply an organic fungicide regularly, like neem oil, the tall phlox flowers will last so much longer.

pink tall phlox flowers up close with yellow daylillies

If you decide to apply a fungicide it is very important to only apply it when butterflies and other pollinators are less active, which is usually in the early morning or late in the evening.

Do not apply it when butterflies are active or you can wipe them out. Keep in mind that most butterfly gardeners don’t use any pesticides at all, so if you must use them, use them sparingly and wisely while always following the recommended directions on the label.

I love the fuschia colored tall phlox in my former garden bed. And while I don’t recall the variety, it always looked so beautiful when it bloomed in my garden with purple smoketree foliage.

Unfortunately, I don’t have either tall phlox or smoketree planted here in my new gardens. I think I need to get some.

Gorgeous cottage garden in the backyard in front of a garden shed with sedum autumn joy and wood picket fence with dahlias and zinniasin front of garden shed in backyard garden - My cut flower garden in front of the shed in the backyard with a wood picket fence and sedum autumn joy - How to Save Money at the Garden Nursery
Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners

Sedum Autumn Joy

Sedum Autumn Joy is one of my favorite perennials because it is a four-season, easy-care, easy to propagate, plant.

But the best part?

It is high on the list of plants for butterflies.

So do not overlook sedum autumn joy for your garden if it grows in your hardiness zone because you will thank me for it later.

Sedum autumn and rudbekia flowers up close -Preparing the Flower Garden For Fall Plantings

Because it is a true workhorse in the flower garden as it constantly adds color, texture, and dimension to borders.

And the butterflies go crazy for the nectar.

Oftentimes, I’ll notice my sedum autumn joy covered with pollinators so they do wonders in both your garden, as well as the environment.

While this plant blooms in fall, you can’t beat the chartreuse flower heads in summer that pair well with other summer blooming favorites like echinacea, bee balm, and black eyed susans.

To learn more about why Sedum Autumn Joy is an underrated plant, watch this video.

YouTube video

Joe Pye Weed

Joe Pye does so well and is super easy to care for. It grows very tall so be sure to grow this butterfly-attracting plant in the back of the border.

Joe Pye Weed blooms in late summer through fall and help the garden transition between the seasons.

And the butterflies cover them while they bloom and as the flowers fade. It is spectacular to watch them.

Joe Pye Weed is another must-have flower that adds lots of visual interest to the garden and requires minimal care.

It is one of the best plants that attracts butterflies and lots of other pollinators. The butterflies and bees love them. And they are super easy to propagate too.

I have this perennial in almost all of my gardens.

Flowering hostas, monarda and joe pye weed flowers -Shade Garden in the back border
Woodland Garden Ideas with close up of joe pye weed flowers
close up of Joe Pye Weed

Milkweed

Milkweed is a native plant that is considered to be a host plant for monarch butterflies as they lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves.

Plant milkweed in the garden for summer blooms and an easy care plant that butterflies like.

Easy to care for, Milkweed grows roughly 3 feet tall and has beautiful white dainty flowers.

They can attract aphids too, so be sure not to use any pesticides to remove aphids from the plant.

Grab a garden hose and knock them off with a strong spray of water only so you don’t risk killing off monarch butterfly eggs.

close up of milkweed against a green garden fence

Zinnias

Zinnias are not only beautiful but also easy to care for, making them a popular choice among gardeners.

These colorful annual flowers can tolerate heat and drought and are resistant to disease and pests too.

This means that they require minimal care and attention to thrive in the garden. They are amazing additions to the cut flower garden too as they look incredible in bouquets.

But the best part?

Zinnias are loved by butterflies and other pollinators for their nectar-rich blooms.

Their bright, showy flowers are easy for pollinators to spot, and the wide variety of colors and shapes of zinnia blooms make them irresistible to many species of butterflies, bees, and other beneficial insects.

Zinnias also produce pollen and nectar throughout the growing season, providing a consistent food source for pollinators.

Overall, zinnias are a win-win for gardeners and pollinators alike, providing vibrant beauty and crucial nourishment to our gardens and landscapes.

close up of monarch on a zinnia in the garden
Monarch butterfly on Senora Zinnias

When Should I Plant My Butterfly Garden?

Spring or fall is the best time to plant a new garden.

And if you don’t want to break your back starting a new garden from scratch, you can try this easy method or start a small garden in containers with these simple tips.

So What Other Plants Attract Butterflies the Most?

If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me this question, I’d be a very rich woman!

There are so many plants that butterflies love. It’s really a matter of preference designing a garden that you love that they will also enjoy.

In addition to my top, 11 tried and true easy-care favorites mentioned above, try planting these flowers too.

  • Lantana
  • Amsonia
  • Calendula
  • Heliotrope
  • Lavender
  • Nepeta
  • Agapanthus
  • Aster
  • Salvia
  • Eryngium
  • Hollyhocks
  • Sunflowers
  • Goldenrod (non-invasive varieties only)
  • Allium
  • Yarrow
  • Cosmos
  • Verbena
  • Bottlebrush Buckeye
  • False Indigo
  • Snapdragon

Want More Caterpillars?

To encourage more caterpillars in your garden, plant lots of milkweed and dill that you let go to seed.

cut flower garden in nj in late summer

How Do You Arrange a Butterfly Garden?

There are a few things to consider when designing a butterfly garden.

  • Start a plan that includes the plants you want to grow and types of butterflies you want to attract.
  • Garden organically. Avoid synthetic or non-organic pesticides and chemicals in and around the garden.
  • Provide food through the plants listed above for both caterpillars and butterflies.
  • Create shelter from harsh environmental elements and predators.
  • Add a water supply.
  • The garden must be sited in a sunny location. Look for an area that receives about 6-8 hours of direct sun.
  • Plant in large drifts of color. Butterflies are drawn to bright colors so the more planted together the better.
Gorgeous container garden with ranunculas and pansies in front of flowering crabapple trees in spring with lenten rose -Gardening 101: Container gardening basics for beginners

How Do I Start a Small Butterfly Garden?

If you are a beginner gardener or lack garden space, you can easily start a small butterfly garden in containers or by using a small strip in the ground.

Starting a small butterfly garden is a fun and rewarding project that can attract a variety of colorful butterflies to your yard. Here are some steps to get started:

  • Choose a sunny spot
  • Select your plants.
  • Plan your layout given the size and shape of your garden, and plan the placement of your plants accordingly. Grouping plants of the same species together can make it easier for butterflies to find them.
  • Prepare the soil and avoid using pesticides or chemical fertilizers, as they can be harmful to butterflies and other beneficial insects.
  • Plant your garden.
  • Provide water by adding a shallow dish or birdbath with rocks for them to perch on and drink from.
  • Maintain your garden by watering, weeding, deadheading, and pruning as needed. If maintaining a butterfly garden in containers, fertilize plants with a slow-release granular fertilizer.

Starting a small butterfly garden is a fun and easy way to attract these beautiful creatures to your yard while creating a beautiful and vibrant space for you to enjoy.

goldenrod in the cottage garden
front porch garden view by stone wall with hostas, superwave petunia, larkspur, snapdragons, superwave petunia latte, echinacea, yarrow, tickseed, nepeta and zinnias by stone wall in my early summer garden tour

Garden Supplies I Use

I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.

Click here to shop my vintage farmhouse with close up of the front porch with flowers

Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?

If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.

From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.

Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.

view of the front porch cottage garden with sugar pumpkins, sedum autumn joy, rudbeckia, celosia and snapdragons

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achillea and coneflowers pink
view of our 1850 farmhouse with front porch and beautiful flower gardens from the pool garden with green fence - has roses, bearded iris, buckeye tree, viburnum, and baptisia

Bricks ‘n Blooms Weekly 133

Hi there! I hope you had a great week! And Happy Memorial Day Weekend! Random Things Happening Behind the Scenes at Bricks ‘n Blooms What a week it was! I FINALLY wrapped up all of my seeds starting for the spring. Over the last week, I planted several pumpkin seeds, sunflowers, and more cosmos. So…
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view of my 1850 farmhouse from the potager garden with raised garden beds and outdoor dining table

Bricks ‘n Blooms Weekly 132

Hi there! I hope you had a great week! Random Things Happening Behind the Scenes at Bricks ‘n Blooms What a week it was! I was crazy busy in the gardens. From potting up containers to planting sunflower, cosmos, and tithonia seeds, supporting my dahlias, and general care, I was doing stuff from morning until…
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Enjoy your day! xoxo

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Get the inside scoop about my background, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.

Home and Garden Blogger Stacy Ling cutting zinnia flowers in her cottage garden with wood picket fence in front of garden shed

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close up of limelight hydrangea, zinnia and rudbekia flowers that are great butterfly garden plants
close up of butterfly garden plants -10 Easy Care Plants that Butterflies Love
close up of monarch butterfly on echinacea flowers in Butterfly Garden
Monarch butterfly enjoys my coneflowers on a sunny day.

close up of tall phlox and limelight hydrangea blooms that are easy care plants that butterflies love
Swallowtail butterfly on mondarda in myButterfly Garden
Liatris close up
I used to have Liatris in my cottage garden but had to pull it when it was invaded by dodder a few years ago. I need to replant this!
hostas, joe pye weed and wood picket fence panel ingarden nj shade garden
Small Butterfly Garden with petunias, tall phlox and red flyer bicycle with zebra grass
Butterfly Bush close up
Small Garden Flowers that Butterlies Love with pink tall phlox, zebra grass and red flyer tricycle
Monarch butterfly landing on echinacea flower in aButterfly Garden
close up of monarch butterfly on joe pye weed
Sedum Autumn Joy and zinniaz up close - are great late blooming summer flowers
butterfly weed and balloon flowers close up
Butterfly weed (orange flowers) and balloon flower.
Rudbekia, tall pholx and echinacea in butterfly garden - Summer Garden Flowers that Butterflies Love
Black-Eyed Susans and Tall Phox
Cottage Garden with tall phlox that is pink and white balloon flower -My gardening zone 6a summer flowers
liatris close up for butterfly garden - Summer Garden Flowers that Butterflies Love
Liatris ‘Kobold Orginal’ from Walter’s Gardens.
Summer Flower Arrangement with orange daylillies in farmhouse kitchen with white cabinets painted with chalk paint on kitchen island with granite
Moonbeam coreposis in a fresh cut flower arrangement.
Close up of echinops with echinacea and rose flowers in a cottage garden -dividing perennials - echinops, echinacea and monarda
Echinops mixed with echinacea
Butterfly Bush close up
Photo by Walters Gardens
Monarch butterfly enjoying nectar from echinacea flowers in Butterfly Garden

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8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Saturday Shares | Week 18 - Cottage On Bunker Hill
  2. Love this post and I have several of these plants and enjoy the butterflies! I’ll share a link on my Sunday post.

  3. Pingback: Dirt Road Adventures - DIY Weekly - The Ponds Farmhouse