Want to make your yard a butterfly haven? It is easy to do with the right plants! Butterflies need two types of plants to survive: 1) host plants and 2) nectar plants. You’ll want to include both types of plants in your yard to attract butterflies, and I’m sharing some of my favorites below!
What are Host Plants?
Butterflies often require very specific plants for their caterpillars to eat. These plants are known as host plants. Adult butterflies lay their eggs on host plants so their caterpillars will have a built-in food source once they hatch.
Milkweed is the most well-known example of a host plant. It is the only plant that Monarch caterpillars can eat. Without milkweed, there would be no Monarchs! Different butterfly species have different host plants. If you are looking to attract a specific type of butterfly to your yard, make sure you know what its host plant is.
Want to learn more about host plants? Check out my list of Top 10 Butterfly Host Plants to Grow in Texas!
What are Nectar Plants?
While host plants are important to feed butterfly caterpillars, nectar plants are important to feed adult butterflies. Adult butterflies aren’t as picky about nectar plants. They will visit a variety of blooming flowers to drink nectar.
Great nectar plants will also attract bees and hummingbirds. The same plant can often be both a butterfly host plant and a nectar plant. Milkweed is a great example of this! Its beautiful fragrant flowers attract a variety of pollinators to its nectar.
Five Awesome Plants to Attract Butterflies
The plants listed below are all Texas native plants that can handle our hot and dry summers. If you add these plants to your yard or container pots and make sure you don’t use pesticides, you’re going to have butterflies. Plant it and they will come!
I’ve included the plants’ scientific names in parentheses. Write these down before you head to the nursery to make sure you get the right plant.
1. Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggi)
This is one of my favorite butterfly plants to grow in San Antonio because it is a Queen butterfly magnet! This pretty purple flowering plant blooms all summer and is often covered in Queen butterflies.
Gregg’s Mistflower is a great nectar plant to grow in a pot. It is a perennial, so even though it will die back in the winter, it will come back in the spring! Check out my 5 Benefits of Growing Gregg’s Mistflower.
2. Flame Acanthus (Aniscanthus quadrificlus var. wrightii)
Flame Acanthus is a drought-tolerant Texas native shrub that blooms all summer. Both butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to the nectar in its tubular red flowers. It is also a host plant for Crimson Patch and Texas Crescent butterflies. Learn more about how to grow Flame Acanthus.
3. Frogfruit (Phyla nodiflora)
This is a pretty ground cover to add to your garden or a sunny area of your yard in place of turf grass. A variety of tiny butterflies, moths, and bees are drawn to Frogfruit’s small white and purple flowers. In addition to being a great nectar plant, it is a host plant for three different butterflies—the Common Buckeye, Phaon Crescent, and White Peacock! Learn more about Frogfruit.
4. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
This is one of many types of native milkweed and one of my favorites to grow. Unlike some other species of native milkweed, Butterfly Weed is fairly easy to find at the nursery. You can also purchase seeds to scatter in the fall.
5. Common Sunflower (Helianthus annus)
Who doesn’t love sunflowers? Butterflies certainly do! Sunflowers are one of the best butterfly host plants you can grow. The Helianthus species supports over 80 different types of butterflies and moths. Purchase Common Sunflower seeds to scatter this fall.
These butterfly plants can typically be found at locally-owned nurseries that carry Texas native plants. Rainbow Gardens is my favorite nursery for finding these flowers. However, I recommend waiting until September or October to purchase them. It is just too darn hot to add new plants to your yard right now. Plant them in your garden this fall and you will be treated to a yard full of butterflies next year!