5 Butterfly Nectar Plants to Grow From Seed

Save money by growing butterfly nectar plants from seed for your butterfly garden, and attract hummingbirds and bees too.

Whether you’re planning a new butterfly garden or getting ready to perk up your existing one, seeds are a great place to start. The greater number and variety of butterfly nectar plants you provide, the more butterflies you’ll get. But buying plants can get expensive, and you can’t always find what you want locally. Starting plants from seeds can definitely save you money; you can get a pack of 50 zinnia seeds for less than two dollars. They may not all grow to plants, but if even half of them do, think of the bargain!

Nectar Plants from Seed
Mexican Sunflower attracts butterflies like this Zebra Longwing

Growing nectar plants from seeds also allows you to be sure that no pesticides are used on the plants. You can choose a wider variety of colors and types than might be available at the nursery. Perhaps most fun of all, you can start planning and buying for your butterfly garden now, in the middle of winter. So pull out those seed catalogs and select some of these easy nectar plant seeds for your yard!

Salvia. Almost all types of salvia (commonly known as sage) attract butterflies (and hummingbirds). The wide variety of species and cultivars means you’ll definitely be able to find something that will grow well in your garden. I suggest starting with Salvia coccinea, especially the ‘Summer Jewel’ series. It’s available in red, white, pink, and now lavender.

Cosmos. Cosmos are one of the first flowers that many gardeners grow from seed. They’re easy and don’t require any special prep – just sow them in the spring where you want them to grow! Don’t be surprised when they self-seed and return year after year. There are plenty of cultivars available, but the old reliable “Sensation Mix” is available just about everywhere and so easy to grow.

Mexican Sunflower. Tithonia rotundifolia isn’t a true sunflower, but it sure does attract butterflies. Give it plenty of sun and not too much water – it’s great in drought-tolerant gardens.

Zinnias. Oh, the wide variety of zinnias! Singles, doubles, solid and broken colors, tall and short – the list goes on. Once you start growing zinnias, you may find yourself addicted to collecting new varieties! A good starter variety is the ‘Profusion’ series, which grows easily from seed and returns year after year. I also really love the Zin Master mix available from Eden Brothers.

Butterfly Weed. Asclepias tuberosa is a type of milkweed, the host plant for monarch butterflies. The great thing is, it’s also one of the best nectar plants. I often tell people, if you only have room for one butterfly plant in your yard, this is the one to choose. A nice bonus is that it’s also native to most areas; seek out locally-sourced seeds for best results when possible.

Jill Staake
Jill lives in Tampa, Florida, and writes about gardening, butterflies, outdoor projects and birding. When she's not gardening, you'll find her reading, traveling and happily digging her toes into the sand on the beach.