Categories: Environment

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Butterfly Gardening

By: Wizzie Brown

Butterfly gardening can be a wonderful way to invite nature into your backyard.  With a little knowledge on local butterflies and the correct plants, you can create a garden that allows you to watch butterflies in various life stages.  Adult butterflies feed on nectar, gathering it from flowers.  Larvae, or caterpillars, feed on plant foliage, so if you do not like to have your plants eaten by insects, butterfly gardening may not be for you.

Some larvae feed only on particular plants.  The following is a list to help you with your plant selection:

Butterfly                                                          Plant

Monarch butterfly                                           milkweed, butterfly weed

Queen butterfly                                               milkweed

Viceroy                                                            cottonwood, poplar, willow

Black swallowtail                                             parsley, dill, fennel

Spicebush swallowtail                                     spicebush, sweet bay, sassafras

Pipevine swallowtail                                        Dutchman’s pipevine

Giant swallowtail                                             citrus, Hercules club

Brazilian skipper                                              canna

Brush-footed butterflies                                  nettles, thistles

Hairstreak butterflies                                       pecans, walnuts

Gulf fritillary                                                    passionflower vines

Giant purple hairstreak                                   mistletoe

Gray hairstreak                                               legumes

Question mark                                                            hackberry, elm

Texas crescent                                               shrimp plant, dicliptera, ruellia

Painted lady                                                    hollyhock, thistles

Buckeye                                                          plantain, snapdragon

Adult butterflies need a source of nectar in the garden.  The following is a list of plants they might like:

Plant name                                                      Flower color

Asters                                                              lavender, pink, purple, white

Blazing star                                                     lavender

Butterfly bush                                                  lavender, purple, white

Butterfly weed                                                 orange, yellow

Cone flower                                                    fuchsia

Flame bush                                                     red-orange

Goldenrod                                                       yellow

Ironweed                                                         pink, purple

Lantana                                                           combinations, lavender, orange, pink, white, yellow

Loosestrife                                                      lavender

Mexican heather                                             lavender

Mexican milkweed                                          red-orange, yellow

Mexican mint marigold                                   yellow-orange

Mist flower                                                      blue, white

Phlox                                                               pink, purple, red, white

Salvia                                                              blue, lavender, pink, red

Verbena                                                          blue, lavender, pink, purple, red, white

Zinnia                                                              orange, pink, red, white, yellow

For more information or help with identification, contact Wizzie Brown, Texas AgriLife Extension Service Program Specialist at 512.854.9600.  Check out my blog at

The information given herein is for educational purposes only.  Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding

that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by Texas AgriLife Extension Service or the Texas AgriLife Research is implied.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

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