Butterflies and pollinators are fundamental to our ecosystem and way of life and just plain fun to see and observe. You can help support these colorful and important insects by selecting the plants they prefer.
If you want adult butterflies flying around your gardens, you need host plants in or around your yard that allow butterflies to complete their life cycles. Host plants, including annuals, perennials, shrubs and trees, are necessary for butterflies as nectar sources and as places to lay eggs and feed caterpillars. Different butterflies require a different host plants, and some have quite a short list of plants support butterfly larva (caterpillars). Here is a short list of some notable host plants and the butterflies they attract:
- Willow: Mourning Cloak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Viceroy
- Oak: Red Spotted Purple
- Birch: Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak
- Violet: Regal Fritillary, Great Spangled Fritillary, Variegated Fritillary
- Asters: Pearl Crescent
- Zizia: Black Swallowtail
- Sunflowers: Painted Lady
- Dill and Parsley: Black Swallowtail
For a larger list of butterfly and caterpillar host plants see the Reiman Gardens Butterfly/Pollinator Gardening.
A varied flower garden will attract all-important pollinators, and the best design is to have flowering plants throughout the growing season, as pollinators will consume nectar and pollen from flowers on trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals all season long. A goal should be to plant as many types of flowering plants with varied flower shapes to meet the needs of a range of pollinators.
For more detailed information, check out the Extension publication: Gardening for Butterflies and Pollinators.
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