Grow Coneflowers to Attract Butterflies and Birds

Updated: Jul. 05, 2023

Coneflower is a butterfly magnet. These easy-to-grow nectar flowers attract attract plenty of pollinators and add a bright pop of color to your garden.

Grow Nectar-Rich Coneflowers to Attract Butterflies

butterfly on coneflowerCourtesy Kari Thomson
Red admiral butterfly on coneflower

The beautiful, daisy-like flowers of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) make it a must-have for any perennial bed. They make great cut flowers as well. However, coneflowers aren’t just pretty—they also attract butterflies and birds to your garden.

Coneflowers get their name from their ‘cone-shaped’ center. Like most of my favorite plants, coneflowers aren’t fussy. They aren’t particularly bothered by pests and do not require any fertilizer to produce masses of tall purple blooms. All they ask for is well-drained soil, a spot in the sun and regular watering. They are native to the United States and are easy to grow in zones 3 to 8. I have grown coneflowers in my zone 9 garden with success, as well

278091515 1 Aaron Hamilton Bnb Bypc 2021Courtesy Aaron Hamilton
Black swallowtail caterpillar on a red coneflower

Coneflowers are available in a variety of colors. In addition to the classic purple, you can find newer cultivars in white, yellow, orange, red and green colors. Stick with native coneflower for the most nectar value for pollinators. Pale purple coneflower (Echinacea pallida) is a host plant for the silvery checkerspot butterfly.

What Types of Butterflies Like Coneflowers?

Coneflower With Pearl Crescent, Phyciodes TharosCourtesy Bev Denis
Pearl crescent butterfly on a coneflower bloom

Coneflowers offer more than beauty. Their nectar-filled blooms are flat and wide, which make good landing pads for butterflies. Coneflower blooms attract all butterfly types, including fritillaries, monarchs, painted ladies and swallowtails, who feed on the sweet nectar.

“A few summers ago, I challenged myself to photograph all of the butterflies and moths in my yard. On the last day of summer, I spotted a new one for my collection—this pearl crescent (above). I love this shot because I captured the pollen sprinkled on the coneflower and the fine details of the butterfly’s antennae,” says Birds & Blooms reader Bev Danis of Ballwin, Missouri.

Birds Love Coneflower Seeds

goldfinch on coneflowerCourtesy Joan Addis
American goldfinches love to eat coneflower seeds

Birds also enjoy coneflowers in the garden. Blue jays, cardinals and goldfinches enjoy eating the seeds from spent flowers. Don’t prune off the dead flowers in fall. Instead, let them stand throughout winter, where they will offer food to hungry birds. Once spring arrives, simply cut back your coneflowers to the ground.  They will soon grow back to bloom in summer.

So, if your perennial garden has a few bare spots to fill, plant some coneflowers in your favorite color. Then enjoy the butterflies and birds that these flowers are sure to attract!

Also add the top 10 butterfly host plants to attract caterpillars.