Time to tell us your Top Three Nectar Plants of the Season!

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Hi, Lep lovers!

It's that time of year (for many of us, anyway). The gardens are about ready to be put to bed and the seed catalogs are starting to arrive (Thompson & Morgans) and I am dreaming of next year's butterfly garden!

So tell us!? What are your top three Butterfly garden plants and why (only three allowed--be choosey).

(And please tell us if it isn't apparent on your ID where you are located or your garden 'habitat' so we have an idea of your butterfly environment.)

My top three for our midwest suburban yarden are:

Verbena bonarienses, (absolutely essential here for long season bloom attraction)

Zinnia Benary's Giant (for fun and color mostly, and the butterflies like them)

Milkweed curassavica (silky red/yellow) for the monarchs, of course, but 40 of our other butterflies nectar on them, too...

So please tell us your observations!? I'm taking notes for next year! t.

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Somerset, KY(Zone 6b)

my flower bed wasn't what I wanted it to be yet.
So, here's my top three for THIS year.

ZINNIA !!!!!!



Rowlett, TX(Zone 8a)

Tabasco, that is a BEAUTIFUL photo.

My top 3 nectar plants:

Lantana horrida
Blue Mist Flower
Butterfly Bush


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Seguin, TX(Zone 8b)

This was my first year for butterfly gardening. My top three were:

salvia 'Coral Nymph'

:) Kim

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

It's so interesting that lantana is such a big hit in TX and is not often visited around here. I wonder if it has to do with the time the flowers come into bloom (have nectar) and when our butterflies are in flight. My lantana is just now getting going and but the butterfly season is about over...

I just read that Echinacea is a great butterfly flower for our region (Ohio River Valley) because the bloom coincides with the June/July major flight butterfly flight period here (some say we have two major flight periods--June/July and September) and also because the Echies have a long bloom season with nectar available over this long period. I have to grow more echies.

Jeffersonville, IN(Zone 6b)

The Tiger Swallowtails love my neighbor's Echinacea. I have a few now, but am going to plant more next year.

My Lantanas have gone absolutely crazy this year -- they've been blooming from May and have not missed a beat, because they are still blooming. But, they seem to be more of a favorties with the smaller flutterbyes, although the Monarchs do seem to like them, and let's not forget the hummers. The biggest hit for me so far has been the butterfly bushes. Next year I'll definitely be growing some Verbena, and maybe some Zinnias too.

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

Coneflowers - definite preference from the butterflies for magnus
Lantana - I planted this is early May and it has probably quadruples in size.

This message was edited Oct 19, 2007 1:52 PM

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

My butterflies just loved my Stokes Aster, butterfly bush and butterfly weed (asclepia tuberosa). I was really excited to have three Zebra butterflies visit my butterfly garden this year. This was just my second year for my butterfly bed. I'm in the process of expanding it right now so hope to have lot's more visitors next year.

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

I think that my butterfly weed was devoured by the cats, so the butterflies didn't have a chance!

Oshkosh, WI(Zone 5a)

1) Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia)...I had 5 monarchs on this at once during migration. They seem to prefer the tall variety, but I also saw several on the shorter one.
2) Liatris Ligulistylis (I think I may have misspelled that one...)
3) Mexican or Swamp Milkweed ... both very popular with the monarchs (and hummingbirds)

For its popularity with hummingbirds, butterflies, and goldfinches, my #1 annual this year was tall Mexican sunflower.

Lutz, FL(Zone 9b)

Hmmm...of things I deliberately planted I'd have to go with:
1) Plumbagos (aka leadwort)
2) Porterweed
3) Blanket Flowers ("Goblin" variety)

Of things I see growing in the wild, I'd have to agree with lantana. It's such a weed around here I can't bring myself to actually grow it. However, there's some that grows at the base of an oak tree out by the road (not technically our property anymore) and so I'm just letting it grow. In the same vein, I let the Spanish Needles (bidens alba) grow this year while I was in between landscaping ideas. Apparently, some butterflies need a compound in the flower in order to mature sexually. It brought in lots of butterflies that I hadn't seen before; particularly, lots of the smaller skippers. And in my surprise call - frogfruit. I didn't know what the heck it was when I saw it listed as a host plant in my book so I looked it up. Once I could identify it, I noticed butterflies on it in the preserve, my neighbor's yard, the parking lot I use downtown, etc.

I drive by a small preserve on my way home everyday. I haven't been in a few months but I saw that the liatris has just started blooming so I'll have to check it out. You can see the purple from the road - I love it! I may have to nominate a new plant!

Here's a Tiger Swallowtail enjoying the plumbago.

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Jacksonville, FL(Zone 8b)

This was hard to limit to 3, but I would have to say for actual butterflys (not cats):

Mexican Petunias (they really love this one a lot)

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Lizella, GA(Zone 8a)

Butterfly bush
red cypress vine (hummers really love this also- it can also be 'weedy', but I saw a note above about butterflies needing certain compounds and I think that maybe hybrids do not have the sugar content that newer varieties have.
Well,,,,, sneaking another one in... salvias too.
thanks for a great thread
Elaine ----- Middle Georgia

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

My 3 most visited nectar plants/blooms are:
1) Lantana (all 4 varieties that I have)
2) Any of my Zinnias (tall and short ones)
3) Verbena (the hummingbird moths love all of different ones I have in my yard!)

And right behind those were my Golden Dewdrops, Mexican Petunias, and purple Porterweed blooms!

But ..... I didn't have nearly as many butterflies this year as I have in past years, even though my yard has been loaded all year with lots and lots of blooms. I am in my 3rd year with plants and they are really starting to kick in and bloom consistantly. So where are all the butterflies???? Not a clue!

I would love to try some of the Verbena bonarienses. My coneflower finally bloomed but didn't seem to interest butterflies or moths. :-/

Indialantic, FL(Zone 10a)

I'd have to say my top 3 butterfly attractors were:

blue porterweed
Cassia Alata

There were butterflies nectaring almost every time I looked out into the garden. The Cassia brought me my first Sulphurs.


McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

Junebug and Tabasco,

How tall have your tithonia grown? When I checked in plantfiles, there were a number of account of plants over 6 feet. One person said it was taller than their roof!

Lutz, FL(Zone 9b)

Pennefeather, I have seen some tithonias in the neighborhood that are as tall as houses. If you don't want them that big, you can try one of the dwarf varieties. I got a free pack of "Goldfinger" one year and it only gets three feet tall and the bfs love it. I think "Torch" is also a dwarf variety.

Becky, I'm sorry but I think I took all the butterflies. I'll try to send some your way! : ) I'll be releasing Gulf Frits and Zebra Swallowtails so I'll try to point them in your direction.


(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Melanie - LOL! I think a few already came down from your way! LOL! I saw 2 Monarchs, 1 Queen, 3 Sulphurs, 6-7 LongTailed Skippers, 2 Gulf Fritillaries, and 2-3 Peacocks (as usual - since they live in my yard). I was surprised to see so many since it has been rainy all day. Maybe they have finally decided to come on down south? It's the most I have seen since April/May!

Terri - You are right, I too, had LOTS of Sulphurs on my Cassia Alata. I was thinking more host plant than nectar plant because I saw them all summer when my cassia was not blooming! :-)

Palm Harbor, FL(Zone 9b)

For me it's got to be

They're no brainers where I live(zone 9)


I love the Verbena on a stick but it dies once the true Summer arrives.

Lutz, FL(Zone 9b)

See Becky, you had a good day! It rained here early but then the sun came out this afternoon and the bfs were everywhere. But then it started clouding over again and they went away. Since the temperature was a little cooler today it seems like they're basking more and I can actually stop and look at them. A lot of the wildflowers here are starting to bloom. In bloom today I saw liatris and golden asters, and I think some kind of goldenrod.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

That's awesome Melanie!

Oh, Adrienne - I forgot about all my pentas in my front garden bed that is usually loaded with moths and skippers nectaring from them! Oh gee .... now I've listed far more than 3! Sorry, t! :-}

Isabella, MO(Zone 6b)

pford, since we are in the same zone, I am definitely going to try the zinnia, coneflower and verbena in my new butterfly bed in the spring. Here's a photo I took at my other house in Faulkner County before we moved over here last year. I had LOTS of coneflowers there and the bf's just loved them!

This message was edited Oct 20, 2007 6:16 PM

Thumbnail by marsue
Somerset, KY(Zone 6b)


Great Spicebush Swallowtail. I didn't see one of those all summer long, but I did have some Pipevine Swallowtail's that are similar. They love Coneflower too. I LOVE Zinnia's and so do about a dozen different species ( in our area ) of local butterflies.

I had the same luck as beckygardener did above with her Verbena. I had a pair of Snowberry Clearwing moths that could not keep off it. They are fascinating to watch.

In my yard, mostly what I have are Gulf Frits by the boat-load. I had over 20 at a time in the middle of the summer. It was awesome just to walk around out there.

Great posting every body.

Isabella, MO(Zone 6b)

Anybody got a photo of a Gulf Frit? I would like to see what one looks like.

Somerset, KY(Zone 6b)

Yes, but here's plenty right here.....

And one of the beautiful things about them is those White spots on their underside wings actually look like 'Mother-of-Pearl'. They're irredescent. :^)

This message was edited Oct 20, 2007 5:47 PM

Lutz, FL(Zone 9b)

Pford I totally agree. I didn't realize just how beautiful the Gulf Frit was until I raised them and got to see one just after it eclosed. It's great to be able to see them "fresh out of the box". The silvery irridescence was so pretty. I was at work when the first one came out and Mom called me to let me know. The whole time she's on the phone she keeps gushing, "Oh, it's sooo beautiful." I couldn't wait for work to end that day!

Isabella, MO(Zone 6b)

Thanks, pford. I viewed those photos and I have definitely seen Gulf Frits before but didn't know their name.
Mellie: Do you raise passion flower to host the caterpillars? Those cats in the photos certainly looked frightening--do those spikes sting?

Appleton, WI(Zone 5a)

Zinnia - Big tetras mix the most I guess
Echinacea - purple varieties.

Southeastern, NH(Zone 5b)

#1 Tithonia rotundifolia 'Torch' (Mexican Sunflower) Hummingbirds and butterflies all over them, one day there were 7 Monarchs on them at once!
#2 Monarda didyma (I have red purple and pink) I think the draw of these is partly due to having a lot of them)
#3 Asclepias curssavica (Tropical Milkweed)

I'm in New Hampshire, and I noticed I didn't have as many Monarch cats this year as last. Last year I let the wild milkweed grow and I think the Monarchs like it better than the Tropical Milkweed in this area. However I think last year was also a record breaker for Monarchs.

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NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

Recently the Gregg's Mistflower has been popular, Frostweed has been also (...although many are going to seed now) and my White Mistflower is really starting to go to town now when so many other plants are petering out. My Velvetleaf Mallow is also a good nectar source. The Maximilian Sunflowers are taking over now that the Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) is going out for the season.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

This year my Cosmos, and Indigo Spires Salvia was a fav of the Silvery Checkerspot, Hairstreak, Skippers and other small ones. But now that the Queens and Monarchs have arrived the action is on the West TX Mist Flower. But the Milkweed blooms are a close second for nectar and of course the only one for their egg laying.

Marsue....no the GF caterpillar is harmless.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

Oh, how could I forget Cosmos! This year I have some large variety that didn't bloom until September and they are just all over it.

Oshkosh, WI(Zone 5a)

Pennefeather: my Mexican sunflower / tithonia got to be about 7 feet tall!! I started them from seed in March, put out young plants that were about 9 inches tall. They're still blooming, and it's almost November!

I was interested to note that the ones getting the most consistent sunlight got the tallest; I also planted some from the same batch on the western side of our house, and they only got about 4 feet tall. They do need to be staked or tied, because the branches get heavy and can break off in storms.

Southeastern, NH(Zone 5b)

My Mexican sunflowers also got 7 feet tall and they didn't need staking. I think it was due to being planted close together, they supported eachother. I planted the seedlings ,out in mid-June, a hand shovel distance apart which is definitely only a fraction of how wide they got. I thought they looked really good that way though. They looked full and bushy and were covered with flowers. The area they were in gets a lot of shade this time of year, so they would have probably slowed down, but I had to rip them out to make way for my winter sown seedlings anyway. I had to bring up the soil level where they were planted and I used good composted loam from a landscaping company, it was probably only 3 or 4 inches deep. I think they liked that soil because when I ripped them up their roots had only gone as deep as that. So maybe growing them in good soil keeps them stronger.? Or maybe our weather just coperated for them this year. It was my first time growing them, but I saved some seeds and plan on growing them again next year.

Isabella, MO(Zone 6b)

pford: I saw a Gulf Frit today on the Pentas in my front flowerbed. I didn't have time to run in and get my camera before the wind blew the pretty BF away. See, I was able to use my new-found knowledge in identifying it. Thanks for helping me out!

McLean, VA(Zone 6b)

I am definitely going to look for DWARF tithonia!

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

If you find some seeds, please share your source. :-)

Cincinnati (Anderson, OH(Zone 6a)

Great lists and thoughtful posts, everyone. Amazing to see the differences from garden to garden! Region to region. Some new ideas for me here--and I must enlarge my garden for them!

So, one question--what variety of cosmos is so popular with the butterflies? I have orange and they aren't so enticing as far as I can tell. Very pretty, though!

Also, about the Tithonia. Here is an old thread with some info on them. http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/758615/

I grew my tithonia in large pots and they got about 4 feet tall. I think they were 'Torch' but I have 2 kinds at least and they all look the same. (I grow several different annuals in large pots and replace them in the butterfly border when each comes into flower.) Some tiths I grew directly in the garden in 6 hours of sun got to be about 5/6 feet tall (I am sure they would have been much taller in full sun and less crowding. I have seeds but I don't know if they are the tall or the short...if you want a few please d-mail me with your address....

Thompson and Morgan Seeds had a picture of 'Pink Parasols' Coneflower on the cover of their new catalog. I wonder if that is a nice one for the butterflies and for the garden? Any one know? I need to plant more more more echies!

I don't know why my lantana was such a bust. But I suspect they were too low to the ground and so passed over. some were yellow, some were reddish. Next year I will put them in hanging baskets on the deck.

I am going to re-organize my whole butterfly garden for next year.

Any other thoughts?

South/Central, FL(Zone 9a)

I don't know if these are "dwarf" or not.....but they are "Torch" tithonia. This is my 2nd round with them this year. Pulled some up during the summer after they were pretty much bloomed out, and planted some more. : )

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South/Central, FL(Zone 9a)

My 3 best nectar plants are;
West Texas Mist (always loaded with Queens)

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