7 Go-To Garden Flowers That Butterflies Like

Updated: Jun. 12, 2024

Want to attract butterflies? Try growing these types of flowers that our readers say their butterflies like the most.

Want to attract butterflies? Try these types of flowers that our readers say their butterflies like the most.

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

Joe Pye Weed


Zones 4 to 9

In addition to being one of the perennial flowers that butterflies like the most, these late summer and fall blooming plants also attract moths and native bees. “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.”

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


Sedum spp.

Zones 3 to 10

Sedum, also known as stonecrop, belongs on any list of plants that butterflies like. “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 butterflies like these lantana flowers


Lantana camara

Zones 9 to 11, Annual elsewhere

Don’t have a large yard or garden? Plant heat-tolerant lantana in containers and you can still attract butterflies. “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.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Lilac Bush
Courtesy Donald Turner
Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on lilac bush


Syringa spp.

Zones 2 to 7

Fragrant lilac shrubs offer an early season bloom show, and bees and butterflies like the flowers. “I have planted many flowers in my yard to attract butterflies, including four lilac bushes,” says Clarice McKenney of Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Check out the top host plants to attract butterflies.

Regal Fritillary (speyeria Idalia) on butterfly weed, Regal fritillary on butterfly weed
Courtesy Gail Huddle
Regal fritillary on butterfly weed

Butterfly Weed

Asclepias tuberosa, Zones 3 to 9

Common milkweed may spread too aggressively for small backyards. Instead, try growing native butterfly weed. “Royal and magnificent are spot-on descriptions for the regal fritillary. I took the photo as this one sipped nectar from a butterfly weed in my backyard,” says reader Gail Huddle of McPherson, Kansas.

A spicebush swallowtail butterfly lands on a phlox flower, flowers that butterflies like
Jane Dlugos
A spicebush swallowtail butterfly lands on a phlox flower.


Phlox spp.

Zones 3 to 9

Fragrant and showy phlox is sure to be a pollinator favorite in your perennial garden. “The phlox in our yard never fails to attract butterflies, particularly swallowtails,” says reader Jim Thomas of Sublimity, Oregon. “We have several containers of pink and purple phlox that bloom every summer.”

Spicebush swallowtail on Verbena, flowers that butterflies like
Courtesy Sherry Anderson
Spicebush swallowtail on tall verbena

Tall Verbena

Verbena bonariensis

Zones 7 to 11

“When my tall verbena is in full bloom, it’s like a butterfly magnet,” says reader Teresa Wayne of Phillips, Nebraska. Hummingbirds will also flock to these nectar-rich flowers, which grow up to 4 feet tall. Note that these flowers can be invasive in some parts of the U.S., so consult your local extension agent before planting.