Attract More Butterflies With Fuzzy Flowers

Fuzzy flower heads contain hundreds of tiny nectar-filled florets, attracting butterflies from near and far. See our favorite fuzzy blooms.

monarch butterfly on liatrisCourtesy Carol Shaffer
Monarch butterfly on fuzzy liatris flowers

Every time I steam an artichoke for supper, I think about butterflies. Our fluttery friends can’t resist thistle flowers. And an artichoke is nothing but a giant thistle. I guess I must be a slow learner, because I never even realized I was eating a flower bud until I saw an artichoke in full bloom. It looked like a thistle on steroids. But it was right in the middle of a neighbor’s carefully planned garden, where I knew she’d never allow a thistle to grow. The bold, spiny-leafed plant, as tall as me, was a real standout among the softer, mounded perennials. But what really made me drool were all of the butterflies dancing all around the fuzzy flower.

pipevine swallowtail butterflyCourtesy Patricia Winter
Plants in the thistle family attract many butterflies, including swallowtails.

Until I saw that plant, I’d been patting myself on the back for attracting butterflies, but suddenly the dozen or so butterflies on my new patch of purple coneflowers and colorful zinnias didn’t seem as impressive My neighbor’s single artichoke plant was surrounded by more butterflies than I’d seen all summer. Monarchs, hairstreaks, painted ladies and other delicate butterflies behaved more like hungry dogs as they battled for perching rights on the fat, fuzzy flower blossoms.

Check out 10 beautiful butterfly pictures you HAVE to see.

Do Butterflies Like Daisies?

fuzzy flower butterfliesCourtesy Barbara Marsh
Swallowtail butterfly on a purple coneflower with daisies in the background

Although you’d never guess at first glance, those artichoke blossoms, and nearly all other fuzzy flower varieties that are great for attracting butterflies, are actually daisies—members of the same composite family, Asteraceae, as are my coneflowers and zinnias. Butterflies love daisies and related flowers, because the center “eye” is an all-you-can-eat meal of tiny florets. Instead of flying from flower to flower, a nectar seeker can just dip its proboscis into one floret after another. But fuzzy flowers are daisies with a difference.

Attracting ButterfliesVirginia (beacon59)
Fuzzy flowers like ironweed are great for attracting butterflies.

Instead of the traditional “She loves me, she loves me not” arrangement, these flowers are packed from edge to edge with thin, soft, tubular florets. Down in those fuzzy flower tubes is sweet nectar, and a butterfly’s long proboscis is tailor-made for extracting it. It all adds up to easy eating, and butterflies respond like magic.

Psst—here’s how to plant a caterpillar cafe in your butterfly garden.

fuzzy flower, joe pye weedCourtesy Paul Bay
Swallowtails enjoying Joe Pye weed

If you, too, want to revel in butterflies—and who doesn’t?—all you have to do is think fuzzy to tickle their fancy. If given the chance, the butterflies in your backyard often prefer fuzzy-centered blooms . There are ample blooms in each fuzzy flower head for them to feed at.

Most fuzzy flowers bloom from summer into fall, when butterfly numbers are at their peak. That’s nature’s design—the flowers tempt butterflies in order to get pollinated.

Plant these fuzzy flowers for butterflies in your own garden.

Butterflies’ Fuzzy Flower Favorites

monarch on goldenrodCourtesy Lisa Thompson
Monarch butterfly on goldenrod
  • Ageratum: Light blue to periwinkle; annual
  • Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum): Light blue to deep blue; tall, upright-branching perennial
  • Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum): White; perennial
  • Caryopteris: Light blue to powder blue; shrub
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): Yellow; perennial
  • Gayfeather or Blazing star (Liatris): Pink-purple; perennial
  • Goldenrod (Solidago): Yellow; fast-spreading perennial
  • Hawkweed (Hieracium): Yellow or red-orange; often grows as a weed but lovely in a casual garden
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum): Mauve or pinkish-purple; bold, large perennial with upright stems of whorled leaves
  • Mistflower (Hardy ageratum or Conoclinium coelestinum): Light blue; fast-spreading perennial
  • Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus): Yellow; drought-tolerant, Western native shrub
  • Sedum: Pink to rose, white, yellow; succulent-leaved plants ranging from ground covers to clumping perennials
  • Sweet sultan (Centaurea moschata): Yellow, pink, purple, white; annual
  • Tassel flower (Emilia coccinea): Vivid red-orange; annual

Next, discover the top 10 butterfly host plants to attract pollinators.

Sally Roth
Sally Roth is an award-winning author of more than 20 popular books about gardening, nature, and birds, including the best-selling Backyard Bird Feeder's Bible. Roth is also a contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She and her husband share their home in the high Rockies with a variety of animals.