6 Go-To Flowers You Should Plant in Your Butterfly Garden

Readers share their favorite flowers that always attract the most butterflies to visit their gardens.

joe pye weed and swallowtail butterflies
Courtesy Rodger Bovenkerk
Eastern tiger swallowtails on Joe Pye weed

Joe Pye Weed


Zones 4 to 9

“I have an herb garden outside my kitchen window that includes Joe Pye weed,” says Lyn Cosby of Atlanta, Georgia. “Last summer, Eastern tiger swallowtails visited it on a daily basis.” Check out the common swallowtail butterflies you should know.

An eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly lands on a sedum bush.
Pamela Miller
Eastern tiger swallowtail on sedum flowers


Sedum spp.

Zones 3 to 10

“Our sedum is the place to watch every year for pollinators, including butterflies,” says Anne Veldhuisen of Marshall, Minnesota. Here’s how to grow a wildflower meadow for butterflies.

lantana and Eastern black swallowtail butterfly
Courtesy Sheila Turner
Spicebush swallowtail butterfly on Lantana flowers


Lantana camara

Zones 9+, annual elsewhere

“I have photographed long-tailed skippers, monarchs, moths, giant swallowtails, cloudless sulphurs and gulf fritillaries getting nectar from my orange and yellow lantana flowers,” says Becky A. Litke of Panama City, Florida.

lilac shrub
Courtesy Sherrell Koski
Lilac bush


Syringa spp.

Zones 2 to 7

“I have planted many flowers in my yard to attract butterflies, including milkweed to help monarchs, and four lilac bushes,” says Clarice McKenney of Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Check out the top host plants to attract butterflies.

A spicebush swallowtail butterfly lands on a phlox flower.
Jane Dlugos
A spicebush swallowtail butterfly lands on a phlox flower.


Phlox spp.

Zones 3 to 9

“The phlox in our yard never fails to attract butterflies, particularly swallowtails,” says Jim Thomas of Sublimity, Oregon. “We have several containers of pink and purple phlox that bloom every summer.” Pollinators love these super fragrant flowers.

Spicebush swallowtail on Verbena
Courtesy Sherry Anderson
Spicebush swallowtail on verbena

Tall Verbena

Verbena bonariensis

Zones 7 to 11

“When my tall verbena is in full bloom, it’s like a butterfly magnet,” says Teresa Wayne of Phillips, Nebraska. Butterflies also love these flowering shrubs.

Rachel Maidl
Rachel Maidl is a former senior editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. She enjoys bird-watching in her urban backyard and local state parks, gardening for pollinators and researching new plants. Her favorite backyard visitors are the bumblebees that visit her sedums.