Which nectar/host plants are great disappointments to you??

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I suppose it's much the same for most of us--garden space is at a premium and I don't like to plant host and nectar plants that take up space and don't get any visitors.

So which plants were/are a butterfly bust in your garden?

For me it's coneflowers or lantanas. I have yet to see a butterfly on my homestead purples, or any other lantana for that matter, ever. I think lantanas are effective in the South, but not so much here in Ohio. And I've never seen a butterfly on my coneflowers, but maybe mine are so highly bred they lost their nectar....

Just my 2 cents!

So what is your 'cast out' of the BF garden? Let us know! (BTW Also tell us your location).

Wishing you all bountiful butterflies,


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Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

When I am shopping for plants with butterflies in mind, I try to pick a nice warm still morning and see if the plants are attracting any butterflies at the nursery. I picked out a Coneflower this way - but then it was the Coneflower that died. So no, I haven't had much luck with Coneflowers. I haven't had much luck with Pansies and violets - but I am not giving up yet. And I haven't had much luck with Buckwheat - I picked it to represent the knotweed family. I am hoping that I just need to plant more of it to make it easier to find. And we just don't get many Monarchs here - and the milkweed "recommended" for here (A. tuberosa) doesn't like it here - but I am not giving up on Milkweed either.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I've been reading up on this and was pleased to find that some of the stuff I grow is recommended. Borage, verbena bonariensis, eupatorium and boneset. I think feverfew was also recommended.

Try borage. I grow the blue and white from seed. I just read that it attracts more insects than any other plant! I don't know if that's true but it's pretty, the flowers are edible, it comes back by itself and is easy to remove.

White on the left, blue on the right.

Blue in closeup.

I tried milkweed, but the milkweed beetle grossed me out.

The other butterfly magnets in my garden are verbena bonariensis and eupatorium. If the traditional eupatorium is too big, the much smaller white flowered boneset works too!

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Camden, AR(Zone 8a)

What is the plant that the butterfly is actually on in the last pic? Almost looks like a butterfly bush, but it appears small?

Love the butterfly !


Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

It's verbena bonariensis. They love it! It's a butterfly magnet. I planted a row at the back of my yard at my former house.

And Hummingbird moths adore them. I see a few butterflies around them here, but the butterfly moths apparently find them irresistable.

If you scatter the seed around it comes up every year and blooms for months.

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Magnolia, TX(Zone 9a)

I see Sulphurs on the gold lantana, and a few frits, they love the zinnias as well.Houston nw area. I would think aesclepias antelope horns would grow in Colorado...

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

I didn't actually say what my biggest disappointment is, but I have a few so called nectar plants in contention: 1) blue mist flower does not work in my Cincinnati garden. Likewise 2) stiff goldenrod. Have never seen a butterfly on it and I have loads of it. 3) Joe pye weed. I don't know if my variety blooms too early for the butterflies here or maybe I do not have enough of a mass to attract them. 4) and right now I have 10 large New England asters in bloom and I have not yet seen a butterfly on them. What does work is the old standby verbena bonarienses, zinnia Benary's giant, and the buddlias.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

For me, Joe Pye Weed is a bumblebee magnet. I will see as many as 20 at a time on the one plant that I had. I have only seen one butterfly on it. So it's not you!!!

I find you have to watch Joe Pye Weed. It turns up everywhere. I think I like boneset better because it blooms later, seems to stay in bloom longer (my Joe Pye Weed is looking ratty while my bonesets look fab) and also because boneset is so much smaller that you can actually allow it to seed around.

The trick for me is telling the seedlings apart. I thought I had three JPWs within two feet of each other and was going to pull two of them out. It turned out to be boneset, so I could keep all three.

Pueblo, CO(Zone 5b)

Native Rabbitbrush attracts more bees and butterflies than Buddlia here.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

Actually, the first time I ever saw a butterfly at my house it was on a coneflower. Trying to remember which cultivar. I don't think it was a particularly new or fancy. The verbena we have I planted on Donna's recommendation but I have to say our butterflies prefer the catmint. The bees stagger around drunk in the agastache.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

They aren't the only ones who love catmint!

I have a little seal point Siamese (darling but very bad) obtained as a rescue. I can figure out why she's a rescue - she darts through open doors. The guys from Commonwealth Edison came to pick up my old refrigerator, walked out, and left the door open. Instant panic - Sophie wasn't in the house!

She was in the catmint at the very foot of the door. Snowflake. It spreads like a mat. She was in love! I scooped her up and took her safely inside.

Off topic but...perfect examples of her being where she isn't supposed to be;

Sleeping on my back up hard drive

Sleeping on my paperwork

Edging onto the nice warm keyboard

Climbing all the way on, messing up the data, but making herself a superstar!

OK, back on topic!

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Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

Nectar plants can be frustrating since some seem to only attract certain species and during a limited period /season. Although pretty, Crepe Myrtles and Roses only attract bees and bugs but no butterflies. Marigolds, Salvias, and Lantanas are a bust in the Arkansas River Valley during early summer but come fall they are butterfly magnets. Attracting Crescents, Sulphurs, Swallowtails, and skippers.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

What wonderful pictures!

Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

Thanks Donna for the compliment. Lots of great pics in the DG photo contest. Hopefully everyone will take the time to vote for their favorite butterfly images.

Milton, MA(Zone 6a)

The problem for me and those photos is that they are all so stunning, I couldn't possibly have a "favorite."

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Watermill, NY

Lantana! Theyíre pretty but in all the years Iíve been gardening Iíve never seen a pollinator go near them.

Verbena - Iíve only seen butterflies go near verbena bonariensis. None of the other verbena has ever attracted a butterfly.

Joe Pye Weed - flies love it! But butterflies donít go near it.

Asclepias tuberosa - orange butterfly weed. Turns black. Sprawls.

Ageratum - also called mist flower. Have used it for edging for years, never saw a butterfly on it.

Blanket flower - also called Gaillardia. Iíve grown several kinds of it and never saw a butterfly.

Common milkweed - too many bugs attracted to it & the bugs all eat caterpillars. They also spread various diseases that kill caterpillars. One year I planted 8 milkweed and got a grand total of 4 monarchs. The next year the milkweeds multiplied like crazy & invaded my lawn. I cut down most so there could be air circulation between plants & room for plants to grow. Had TONS of monarchs lay eggs. Got tons of caterpillars. Every one of them died of virus or was killed by a predator. Not one made it to chrysalis stage. So frustrating to watch them grow & reach stage five, then next day find them hanging from the top of the plant all shriveled & black, or being eaten by a spider. The plants themselves had tussock moths eating them & a disease caused the leaves on all the plants to die. I donít mind caring for plants, but Iím not spending my life weeding milkweed out of my lawn, squishing tussock moths, watching milkweed bugs (there are at least 3 kinds of them) eat the plants. Some of the milkweed bugs preyed on caterpillars no matter what anyone says. Plus, I live in an area where there are lots of small ďorganicĒ farms & the farmers are in love with techinid flies. They actually buy techinid flies for their crops in order to kill - you guessed it - caterpillars. Never again. I tucked a few swamp milkweeds in the back of a flower bed near a railing and if the caterpillars make it, they make it. Iím not turning monarch farming into a full time job.

The thing that works best for me is butterfly bush.

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Barling, AR(Zone 7b)

Let the butterflies in your area tell you what they like. Plant and see. Some plants flower profusely with no butterflies and then there is a change and they get smothered in butterflies and bees.
One of my favorite host plant is common rue which Giant Swallowtail and Black Swallowtail use as a host plant.If it looks like a big bird dropping, don't smash since it's probably a Giant Swallowtail caterpillar.

Clearwater, KS(Zone 6b)

My biggest disappointment was pentas! It was beautiful and thrived, but I never saw a single insect (of ANY kind) nectaring on it.

When I am picking plants, I like to go to the nursery and try to find them in bloom. Some varieties are more attractive than others, and I pick the ones that are being swarmed by butterflies.

Having plenty of assorted host plants and good habitat is just as important, of course.

Fayette City, PA

My zinnias have been my most successful addition. I have more species of butterflies than I can count on the zinnias, the hummingbirds love them and now I plant them from seeds every spring. I save the seeds from my favorite color flowers and the healthiest of the flower bed to plant the following year.
Biggest disappointment has been impatiens. They grow well here and when I lived in northern PA they attracted hummingbirds like mad! But down here in southern PA, the butterflies and hummingbirds pass them by and head straight for the zinnias.

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Common milkweed is disgusting. Those hideous bugs crawl all over it and you don't want to touch it.

And frankly, Joe Pye Weed. Weed indeed. I put in one and had about 15. I started pulling them out, but small ones keep popping up.

Personally, I am tired of people who get in my face and boast about being native gardeners and then champion the virtues of a plant without giving you the downsides. The invasiveness can be terrible. I actually work a Prairie and Rain Garden for Extension, and I can see the stuff for myself. I don't want a garden in which natives spread relentlessly. Stop beating the drum and be realistic. It took a Root Slayer to get the excess eupatorium out so I could plant roses and smokebushes.

Now one plant I just love is borage. In both blue and white. Yes, it spreads but it is easy to remove. I understand that it attracts more pollinators than any other plant. It coms back every year and I remove the excess by simply pulling it out.

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