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Top Plants to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

If you want to attract beautiful butterflies to your yard, start with these nectar-rich flowers.
By Katie Savannah Amos

Yarrow

Yarrow (Achillea) is a must-have perennial for every butterfly garden. Yarrow’s lush, lively blooms rise above its delightful ferny foliage and provide the perfect resting place for traveling butterflies. Grow yarrow in moist, well-drained soil and full sun.

Tip: Cut off spent blooms to more flowers. The longer your plants bloom, the longer the butterflies will stay!

Yarrow: Learn more!

Aster

With their full stems and rich, vibrant blooms, asters are practically guaranteed to catch the eye of any passing flyer-by! These lovely perennials are the perfect accessory to a colorful, low-maintenance butterfly garden. Asters grow best when planted in well-drained soil and full sun. They’re drought-resistant and especially easy to grow. Asters reward gardeners with abundant fall blooms and lots of butterflies!

Tip: Asters are also host plants for several species of caterpillars. Grow them and you’re almost guaranteed to see generations of butterflies in your garden.

Aster: Learn more!

Butterfly Bush

Wondering which flower garners the most attention from winged visitors? Look no farther than butterfly bush! This bright, colorful shrub stands out in the landscape and draws butterflies  in with its nectar-filled blooms. Butterfly bush is good for feeding hungry butterflies, but you’ll love its bold colors and sweet fragrance, too! Butterfly bush grows best in well-drained soil and full sun. These plants are drought tolerant as well as deer and rabbit resistant. Deadhead spent blooms to keep your butterfly bushes blooming profusely.

Tip: Butterfly bush can be invasive in some areas; check local restrictions before planting it.

Butterfly bush: Learn more!

Centaurea

Centaurea, also called mountain bluets or bachelor’s buttons, is a zealous nectar producer which draws butterflies in droves. Carefree and spirited, centaurea grows well in well-drained soil and full sun. It blooms May through June, holding up against heat and drought so butterflies can enjoy your garden for as long as possible!

Centaurea: Learn more!

Coreopsis

You’ll have sunshine on cloudy days with radiant coreopsis flowers sprinkled throughout your garden. The plant’s bright colors attract both butterflies and neighborly envy! Coreopsis grows best in well-drained soil and full sun. Because it’s deer and drought tolerant, coreopsis is perfect for any garden. Early varieties bloom from May through June; later varieties go through summer and into autumn.

Tip: Snipping off faded flowers extends coreopsis’ bloom season!

Coreopsis: Learn more!

Coneflower

A favorite among birds, butterflies, and bees, coneflower is often the main attraction in backyard butterfly gardens. Coneflowers grow best in well-drained soil and full sun, but they can also hold up to heat, humidity, and drought. Their large vibrant blooms attract wildlife and provide a classic aesthetic appeal to every landscape.

Coneflower: Learn more!

Blanket Flower

Gaillardia, or blanket flower, is the sassy senorita of spicy summer gardens. Named for its fiery colors and patterns mimicking those of traditional Mexican blankets, blanket flower is the perfect pick for a butterfly garden. It grows best in well-drained soil, full sun, and warm summers. Deadheading spent blooms is recommended to encourage additional, late-season flowering.

Tip: Don’t have garden space? No worries -- blanket flower grows well in containers, too!

Blanket flower: Learn more!

Lavender

Who isn’t familiar with the sweet scent of lavender? This beautiful perennial is popular with butterflies and people. Lavender grows best well-drained soil and full sun, and thrives with minimal care. Growing lavender in your butterfly garden adds a heady scent and lovely blooms to your backyard.

Tip: There are lots of varieties of lavender. In general, the darker the bloom color, the stronger the scent.

Lavender: Learn more!

Bee Balm

Bee balm’s exotic, fragrant blooms beckon butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds to your yard. These summer flowers bloom best in moist soil and full sun to part shade. This plant is deer-resistant, but it doesn’t like drought, so keep it moist.  If deadheaded and regularly, bee balm rewards gardeners with weeks of flowers.

Tip: Bee balm is especially prone to a common disease called powdery mildew. Look for disease-resistant varieties for your garden.

Bee balm: Learn more!

Penstemon

Penstemon, with its bright, bell-like flowers is sure to add a pleasant, delicate air to your garden. This North-American native prefers well-drained soil and full sun. The lovely clusters of brilliant flowers appear in a wide range of colors attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Penstemon’s long bloom season keeps bees and other welcome visitors around for months.

Tip: Penstemon also makes for a long-lasting cut flower for homemade bouquets.

Penstemon: Learn more!

Salvia

With its resplendent blooms and no-fuss nature, salvia is a favorite with gardeners and butterflies. It thrives in average, well-drained soil in full sun, and blooms for weeks. Butterflies love salvia’s colorful spires. Salvia is a low-maintenance plant that tolerates deer, drought, and clay, making it the perfect choice for gardeners on the go. 

Tip: There are hundreds of varieties of salvia available. Choose the colors and sizes that work best for your garden.

Salvia: Learn more!

Scabiosa

Scabiosa, also called pincushion flower, is one of the loveliest choices for a butterfly garden. Its charming blossoms stand tall to welcome passing butterflies for a visit. Scabiosa grows best in well-drained soil and full sun. It’s both deer and drought tolerant, and blooms from April until first frost.

Scabiosa: Learn more!

Verbena

Verbena is a tried-and-true summer in the South. When planted in well-drained soil and full sun, Verbena produces full heads of small, beautiful blooms in shades of purple, pink, red, cream, and white.  Butterflies will make a beeline for these happy clusters, and the sweet scent is sure to keep them around.