Drought-Tolerant Butterfly Vine

Need a drought-tolerant, heat-tolerant vine for your flower garden? Butterfly vine might be the answer.

With a name like “Butterfly Vine”, you’d assume this pretty climber would be covered in fluttering wings. And it is – but not quite the kind you expect. Instead, Butterfly Vine (Mascagnia macroptera) is named for its seed pods, which do indeed resemble a small butterfly in flight.

Drought Tolerant Butterfly Vine
Seed pods of Butterfly Vine. They change color as they mature, turning pinkish and eventually brown.

Butterfly Vine is native to Mexico and regions south. It grows well in warmer parts of the U.S., especially zones 9 and higher, where it will ramble up to 15 feet high and wide. The delicate yellow flowers, which resemble orchids, bloom starting in spring and continue on throughout the year until frost. The seed pods appear soon after the flowers. They are a light green color at first, darkening to brown as they mature.

Drought Tolerant Butterfly Vine
The delicate flowers resemble orchids, and butterfly vine is covered with them from spring to fall.

Those in zones 8 and even 7 can give this vine a try, especially if planted in a sheltered area that receives plenty of direct sun. Try it up against a west-facing wall, where the radiant heat will protect it. It will die back to the ground in winter, but should return in spring. If you live further north, you can even try growing this as an annual vine, since it grows extremely fast. Collect the seed pods in the fall and start it again each spring.

Drought Tolerant Butterfly Vine
Give butterfly vine room to ramble… it grows fast!

One of the great benefits of Butterfly Vine in warmer regions is its drought-tolerant nature. This plant loves heat, and can take on very dry conditions once established. Try Butterfly Vine in areas that other plants can’t handle; it’s great for planting by a mailbox or other exposed area. Just remember to provide room for it to climb or ramble, or plan to prune it to keep it in check.

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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.