butterfly plants.

Golden, MS(Zone 7a)

This might be the wrong forum to post this and if it is please pardon me but it does have to do with native plant. Might someone suggest some native plants for my growing zone which is 7(a) to be precise that will attract butterflies and ones on which they can lay their eggs as a larval food source. I live in a rural area surronded by a mixed woods, tulip poplar, pines, beeches, oaks, junipers, sumac. ilex, etc. I'd appreciate any information you might be kind enough to provide.
I plant dill and fennel for the Eastern Swallowtail butterflies but am interested in our native plants. Thanks, Lee

Woodbridge, VA

Butterfly weed is the best food source for Monach caterpillars. If you need a few plants, I can send you some. As the name implies, they grow easily like weeds in zone 7a. Plant in full sun, next to a butterfly bush if possible, that way the Monachs are attracted to the bush and find the weed to lay their eggs on.
Milk weed is also great for butterflies to lay their eggs on; don't have any in my garden presently, it grows wild all around here.


This message was edited Feb 21, 2009 8:12 AM

Golden, MS(Zone 7a)

Thanks mailman37, thank you for the offer but indeed I do have some butterfly weeds that I think are so good at attracting the Monarchs. Too, I have our native passionflower(passiflora incarnata) that I allow to grow any way they want for the larval food source for the Gulf Fritillary Butterflies. I had a great butterfly gardening book somewhere but can't locate it. If you can think of any more, please be so kind as to let me know. Lee
There is a plant/plants that are the larval food source for the Giant Swallowtails but I can't remember name, maybe it's the Tulip Poplar but I just can't remember.

Woodbridge, VA

See the link, it talks about tulip tree and bay bush as food sources. At the bottom it links numerous other butterflies and their foods sources for egg laying.


Napoleon, OH(Zone 5b)

Hi leeflea51, giant swallowtails larvae feed on plants in the citrus family. Around here in zone 5b they are attracted to prickly ash (Xanthoxylum americanum) and wafer ash or hop tree (Ptelea trifoliata).

Paris, IL(Zone 6a)

I think butterflies are attracted to about any blossoming plant though I'll grant some more than others. They seemed to prefer red blossoms. Last year was my first year at flower gardening. I planted a black knight butterfly bush [Buddleia davidii], some astilbe, penstemon and several others. It was mid-summer before I saw butterflies. By the end of September the air was thick with them. A hummingbird also stayed a while.

I planted butterfly weed [Asclepius tuberosa] for the Monarch larva. There were some but then the weed didn't blossom much; not unusual for first year plants. I'm a wee bit too far north to guarantee they'll survive the winter. I planted curly leaf parsley and the black swallowtail cats loved it. I counted over a dozen on it at one time. They ate it down to bare stems. I'll be planting extra this year.

Thanks for the link mailman. It's given me ideas for this additions year.


Melfa, VA(Zone 8a)

Spice Bush. It grows wild here in 6-7a. Benzoin.

Buffalo, NY(Zone 6a)

Asclepias tuberosa is pretty hardy from everything I've heard - their wild range extends into much of Canada. They do need somewhat sandy, well-drained soil, though. I haven't successfully grown any here yet.

Vicksburg, MS(Zone 8a)

For those who have clay soil and want to grow Asclepias tuberosa, High Country Gardens has a variety that will grow in clay soil. I bought some from them summer before last and it came back last summer. I had tried some I bought from other nurseries but it never made it. High Country's did.

Buffalo, NY(Zone 6a)

Thanks for the recommendation.

Beatrice, NE(Zone 5b)

You can also get the clay tolerant variety of Asclepias tuberosa from Prairie Nursery, http://www.prairienursery.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=64 (which is where High Country Gardens got it as a matter of fact).

Paris, IL(Zone 6a)

I live in the corn belt with rich black dirt. Butterfly weed prefers sandy soil I've been told. I'll let you know if mine comes back this year.

NE Medina Co., TX(Zone 8a)

Spicebush is a great plant for the Spicebush Swallowtail. The caterpillars are SO cute! It needs some room, since it can get to 15 feet tall eventually. I have 3 of them. Since I'm not in the best area for Spicebush, I bought from a native nursery west of me that has plants adapted to the hot alkaline climate. I water them on a regular basis...since they're not xeriscape. And the Hop Tree is great! It hosts 2 different butterfly species here. Cherry trees are nice, too....I have Black Cherry, which hosts several different kinds of butterflies. Lots of native passionflower vines are available for Gulf Fritillary and other butterflies. And native sennas are nice for the sulfurs.

This message was edited Mar 3, 2009 11:45 AM

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

The most extensive and helpful list for larval host plants I have found for my area is on the Dallas Co. Lep. Society website. They have the info sorted several ways.

You might visit the Hummingbird and Butterfly forum here on Dave's for a lot of information. Check the "sticky" at the top of that forum.

This message was edited Mar 4, 2009 12:38 AM

Glen Burnie, MD

Do any of you have trouble with aphids on the BF weed? Every time mine blooms,
it's covered with the little orange critters, & no matter how many times I blast them
off, they come back in droves. Do the aphids hurt any other plants?

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

In my garden they pretty much stick on the milkweed. They don't effect it and I am afraid I will kill a caterpillar or ladybug larvae. I do kill the MW bugs though.

Glen Burnie, MD

Sheila - pardon my ignorance, but what do you mean by MW bugs? What do
they look like? The aphids do seem to turn my BF weed leaves yellow.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I've found it next to impossible to keep milkweed aphids away--what I do is go around and give them a good blast with the hose every few days, that generally keeps the population at a level where they don't hurt the plant much.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Sorry Carol, just getting on line this evening. As for the MW bug, here is a Bugfiles link. http://davesgarden.com/guides/bf/go/199/

Also the Assassin bug is another that to me is a pest. They do eat spiders and etc, but they also eat my butterfly caterpillars!

You can get rid of both of them safely by taking a cup of soapy water into to garden and thumping or dropping them in it.

Nashville, TN

Another great butterfly attractor is obediant plant. It can be pretty agressive along a creek bank where there's plenty of moisture. Our's are covered in late summer with all types of butterflies.

Portage, WI(Zone 4b)

I know someone who worked at Prairie Nursery and they told me all they do is put a different label on their clay asclepias tuberosa and charge more for it. Check the watchdog for their feedback also. Prairie Moon also has great bareroot plants and I have had fantastic success with everything from them, and great customer service.

If you have wetter soil, swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata (sp?) works great. There is another milkweed that grows further south that is very attractive for them. I remember some people in the butterfly forum talking about it maybe try there? I know I'm going to butcher this, but I think it was something like curvassica species??

Downingtown, PA(Zone 6b)

The link below is from Bowman Hill Native Wildflower Preserve. It's one of my favorite places in South East PA. The link lists a large number of natives that either provide nectar or host food for butterflies. Bowman Hill's native plant sale is in early May. They often have some hard to find plants.

Best Regards,

Wellston, OH(Zone 6a)

The spice bush (Lindera benzoin) mentioned in earlier posts is a good structural bush for a native butterfly garden. Here in Southern Ohio another good native plant for an unusual butterfly is PawPaw (Asimina triloba). It attracts the Zebra Swallowtail (Eurytides marcellus). It lays it eggs so that the caterpilar can feed on the foliage and accumulate the toxin that will make them distasteful. That same toxin has also been studied for use as a treatment for luekemia. Another bonus for planting this tree is the tasty fruit. In Athens County, we hold the PawPaw Festival to celebrate this under appreciated native tree.

A few more natives that attract the Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor) are Virginia Snakeroot (Aristolochia virginiana) and wild ginger (Asarum canadense). In MS, you might have some more native species from the pipevine family (Aristolochiaceae) that would be more preferable to the Pipevine Swallowtail. Your local division of wildlife will probably have a pamphlet on attracting butterflies with native plants that would be an excellent regional resource.

This message was edited Apr 29, 2009 3:51 PM

Glen Burnie, MD

Leeflea - Sorry ,I just caught up with this thread after being away for a while. You asked a
while back about plantings for the Giant Swallowtail. I planted a veg called Rue last year
& almost as soon as it leafed out I had 5 GST cats on it. But guess what? They were all
gone less than a week later. I think the birds got 'em. But at least I know it attracts them.
I didn't take care of the plant at all over the winter, then I transplanted it to a large barrel.
It's coming back great.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Check the plant for lizards and especially spiders and praying mantis frequently. They know where to go for food. Glad your plant survived. Mine has gone to seed and still no GST eggs!! We haven't had many bfs at all this year.

Glen Burnie, MD

Thank God for my rue plant. The swallowtail cats had eaten the parsley, dill & fennel down to nothing. I checked the rue last week - & it had 35 (!!!) cats on it. I found a couple scraggly parsley plants at a local nursery. The cats have found them but they're so puny they're not gonna be much food. I've never had so many cats. My yard should be awash in BFs in a coupla weeks!

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

I bet this time of year up where you are they will overwinter in chrysalis, but you may get a flush of butterflies in early spring.

Divernon, IL(Zone 5b)

New England Asters are loved by Monarchs (and other BF) in the fall.

Thumbnail by jmorth
Glen Burnie, MD

I have 3 chrysalises in my herb barrel; 2 of them are on the side of the barrel & blend right in, the 3rd I found on a branch of the rue. It's the same size as the others but a light green/yellow color. Any guesses?

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

Black Swallowtail will make chrysalis of brown and some of green.

Thumbnail by Sheila_FW
Glen Burnie, MD

Thanks, Sheila; that could be it, just a little more yellow. Should have another week or 2 to go before anything emerges. Sure hope I get to see at least one. Only 3 cats left outta 35.

Fort Worth, TX(Zone 8a)

In your area, they may not emerge if they realize that the weather is changing. The BST will over-winter in chrysalis form. Don't keep them in the house if it is cold outside, you don't want them to emerge and have no way to get nectar or freeze.

Sand Springs (Tulsa), OK(Zone 7a)

I am not familiar with rue. I may have to get some. I will also have to get some butterfly weed. I have butterfly bushes all around, so they would be good for each other. If anyone has any trades, let me know.


Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

I apologize for my tardyness, as I am just seeing this thread now.. I have had success ( last year) with Monarchs laying their eggs on the Tropical Milkweed in my planter...last year I had over 12 caterpillars on the plant. Unfortuantely this year I saw no Monarchs. Tropical Milkweed is not the same as Butterfly weed by the way though they look similar. For Tropicla Milkweed you will need a sunny & hot area to grow..hence it's name.
I have a Butterfly Bush that attracts some butterflies but I have yet to see larvae on it.

Northern, NJ(Zone 6b)

If you want butterflies it is better to use plants native to your area; you need at least 10 of one type of plant (one article recommended 50 but that does not seem feasible on small properties) ; you need both nectar and host plants and you'll need sequential blooms.
For Monarchs you should have at least 2 different types of native milkweed.
In my area butterfly bush is not only non-native but considered invasive.
It will not host caterpillars but can attract butterflies for nectar.
I have substituted some of the Joe-pye weeds, Monarda, milkweed ( butterfly weed, swamp and purple milkweed) and ironweed for the non native butterfly bush I used to have.

The best sources of information I have found for native plant butterfly gardening are native plant societies, local native plant sales in the spring and fall, online native plant nurseries and books.
There is also a free wildlife gardening website I have found helpful called wildlife gardeners.

My favorite book on this topic with solid information is Doug Tallamy's "Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens."

Lewisville, TX(Zone 7b)

true indeed sempervirens... native is the best way to go to save one's natural state environment. My butterfly bushes are in containers for the very purpose that they don't spread..they do quite well in them too.

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