Now that summer is here and flowers are blooming I welcome some of my favorite visitors to my garden – butterflies. While just planting almost any variety of flowers will attract some butterflies; planting certain bushes and flowers will guarantee large amounts of butterflies as well as a larger variety of butterflies. If I had to have only one plant which would attract butterflies it would be the butterfly bush (Buddleia) .

Its large fragrant conical flowers attract butterflies like no other plant. Butterfly bushes come in a large number of varieties and some seem to attract certain butterflies more than others. Two of my favorites are the Pink Delight and the Black Knight butterfly bush. Monarch butterflies are particularly fond of the Pink Delight butterfly bush and each summer I am treated to Monarch butterflies too numerous to count.

The Black Knight Butterfly Bush will attract the Eastern Black Swallowtail butterfly. The Eastern Black Swallowtail is interesting because while it is fairly common, it is difficult to attract it to your garden. The butterfly bush has an additional benefit in that it also attracts hummingbirds.

While the butterfly bush is the number one plant to have to attract butterflies there are numerous flowers that one can plant. A good perennial flower to plant is the is Butterfly Blue Scabiosa. However you need to plant the Butterfly Blue Scabiosa in large groups of eight or more plants in order to attract significant amounts of butterflies. They also need to be dead-headed, which is removing the dead blooms from the plants on a regular basis. Another dependable perennial is the Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea). It will attract a large variety of butterflies all summer long. Zinnias are also a good annual flower to plant but Zinnias are prone to powdery mildew and quite often die long before summer is over. If you wish to have zinnias all summer long you can try a method I have employed in the past. That is to plant your zinnia plants purchased from the nursery and at the same time plant some zinnia seeds in a separate area of your garden. By the time your nursery bought zinnias are ready to be pulled you will have replacements from your home grown zinnias.


One of my favorite flowers to plant to attract butterflies is the Mexican sunflower (Tithonia). It is a large and showy annual with flowers of bright reds and oranges shaped somewhat between a daisy and a zinnia and it attracts huge amounts of butterflies all summer long. That is the good news about the Mexican sunflower: the bad news is that it is extremely hard to find at local nurseries. I only know of one nursery that carries them on a regular basis and I am not going to share that information with anyone because they only carry a very small amount of Mexican sunflowers. You can purchase seeds online and start them yourself, but I like planting established plants because I am always impatient when spring comes and I await the first blooms in my garden. There are numerous other plants that can be planted to attract butterflies but I purposely only mentioned the ones that I have had the most success with.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite butterfly – the Tiger Swallowtail. The Tiger Swallowtail is the largest North American butterfly and is around in large numbers all during the summer. The Tiger Swallowtail can be seen feeding on a large number of flowers including diminutive impatiens. I have included my two most favorite butterfly photos showing the Tiger Swallowtail feeding on a weed – the thistle.


This brings me to some other plants that you can plant to attract butterflies but they are considered weeds and as such can be invasive. These plants include milkweed which the monarch caterpillar feeds on exclusively. You can purchase some decorative milkweed but they are not very effective in attracting the monarch butterfly. I have planted several varieties of decorative milkweed and have been greatly disappointed in the results. Joe Pye weed is another plant that attracts butterflies, but it is quite large and needs marshy conditions to flourish.

Anyone wishing more information can get lists of butterfly attracting plants online. Also the Ohio State University extension service offers lists of butterfly attracting plants as do most local nurseries. And there are a large number of books about butterfly gardening available at the library and at book stores. The benefits of butterfly gardening can be enjoyed by anyone at any age and is a pleasure to be enjoyed for a lifetime.