13 of the Best Flowering Plants to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

best plants for butterflies in maryland

Did you know that there are specific flowers you can grow in your garden to attract butterflies? Butterflies are beautiful creatures, and it’s a joy to watch them flitting about your garden. Here we will discuss thirteen of the best butterfly garden flowers.

Phlox

pink phlox plant in maryland

Phlox is a perennial plant with tiny, dense clusters of flowers that bloom all summer. Perennial types make excellent year-round groundcover.

The USDA hardiness zones for garden phlox range from 4 to 8 feet. Do a soil test before planting to see what amendments you may need (soil test kits are available from garden centers, or your local county extension service may be able to perform a soil sample for you.).

These are perfect plants for attracting butterflies, as they provide nectar-rich flowers for the adult butterflies and are also a host plant for the painted lady caterpillar.

Because these colorful flowers are the host plant for the larval stage of the Painted Lady butterflies, many gardeners grow Phlox paniculata to attract these pretty butterflies to their gardens.

Planting Information

Lantana

Lantana’s brilliant colors are complemented with clusters of tiny, attention-grabbing blossoms in various hues. It’s a fantastic low hedge or accent shrub that you can train as a conventional yearly grower. It attracts butterflies and is heat tolerant.

lantana flower in maryland

Lantana care is straightforward. To promote healthy root growth, water new lantana plants frequently. While established lantanas are drought-tolerant, they perform their best display when watered once a week with about an inch of water.

It’s one of our top plants for butterfly gardens because they love the nectar, and the butterflies love the color.

The lantana plant is not only a nectar source for adult butterflies, but it’s also the host plant for the painted lady butterfly caterpillar.

Lantana bushes attract many butterflies, such as monarchs, to butterfly gardens with their colorful flowers.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  Early spring or late fall
  • Blooming time:  Summer through the first frost
  • Height and spread: 3 to 4 feet
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Low to medium

Zinnia

maryland zinnia flower

Zinnia is a genus of annual and perennial plants in the family Asteraceae. There are about 25 species of Zinnia, which are native to North America, Central America, South America, and Mexico.

The flowers of zinnia plants are a favorite food source for butterflies. They come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, orange, pink, red, purple, and white.

Zinnias are easy to grow, and they come in a variety of sizes, from dwarf plants that are only 6 inches high to giants that grow 3 feet tall.

Zinnia flowers are the perfect landing area for larger butterflies like the Spicebush Swallowtail and the Painted Lady.

And who doesn’t love Spicebush Swallowtail butterflies?  These winged beauties are some of our favorites here at Great American Landscapes.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time:  Summer through the first frost
  • Height and spread: 12 to 36 inches
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium to high

Butterfly Bush

butterfly bush in maryland

Butterflies are attracted to butterfly bushes (Buddleia or Buddleja) because of their large, fast-growing size and bright colors. Although Buddleias are easy-care plants, they may be invasive in some regions, so look for cultivars that aren’t self-sowing and won’t spread uncontrollably.

The fast-growing deciduous shrubs, which grow to be up to 12 feet tall, are appropriate for planting in your butterfly garden, perennial borders, cottage gardens, island beds, and anywhere else their loose, somewhat chaotic development pattern won’t ruin a particular garden style you’re attempting to create.

Butterfly bushes are the host plant for the caterpillars of the gray hairstreak butterfly.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: All Summer long through fall
  • Height and spread: 3 to 12 feet
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Low

Milkweed

milkweed flower maryland

My milkweed brings all of the butterflies to the yard.

Milkweed is a genus of flowering plants in the family Asclepiadaceae. There are about 140 species of milkweed, which are native to North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Some consider milkweed the cornerstone of a butterfly garden because it is the only food source for Monarch butterflies. The flowers of milkweed plants are a favorite food source for various butterfly species. They come in a wide variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, and red.

Milkweed care is easy. They grow in a variety of conditions but prefer full sun and moist, rich soil. Once established, they are drought tolerant.

The Monarch butterfly caterpillar feeds exclusively on milkweed plants.  Milkweed is also the host plant for the caterpillars of the queen butterfly.  (Host plants provide female butterflies with a place to lay their eggs and provide food for their caterpillars.)

Monarch butterflies also lay eggs on other species of Asclepias, including the butterfly weed and tropical milkweed.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Summer through fall
  • Height and spread: 12 to 48 inches
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Low to medium

Passionflower

passionflower spring planting flower in maryland

Passionflower is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants in the family Passifloraceae. They are found in North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The flowers of passionflower plants are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. They come in a wide variety of colors, including white, pink, purple, and red.

Butterfly species that are attracted to passionflowers include the Gulf fritillary, the zebra longwing, and the Julia butterfly. 

Silver-spotted skippers also use passionflowers as a host plant.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Summer through fall
  • Height and spread: Vines can grow to 30 feet
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun to partial shade
  • Water needs: Low to medium

Coneflower (echinacea)

coneflower spring planting maryland

The brilliant red coneflower flower is one of the most attractive to butterflies. It adds a bright splash of color to any flower bed. Plant echinacea in an area where showy blooms will be elevated above the rest, such as between low-growing perennial beds.

The plants are winter hardy throughout the country, surviving everything from Maryland’s harsh winters to mild Florida winters. Echinacea plants are drought tolerant after being planted, making them ideal for today’s water-restrictive plantings.

They’re a fantastic option for rain gardens since they readily adapt to wet-dry soil cycles common in these planting areas.

Coneflower plants are the host plant for the caterpillars of the painted lady butterfly.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Summer through fall
  • Height and spread: 18 to 36 inches
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium

Bluestar

spring planting bluestar flower

Bluestar, also known as a bluebottle, is a perennial that may grow two or three feet tall. It gets its name from the blue star-shaped blooms that bloom in the spring and open up. Use in clumps or as a specimen plant, or in a mixed perennial border in the garden’s center or a cottage garden.

The flowers are a favorite of butterflies and bees, making them excellent for butterfly gardens. Deer usually don’t browse on blue stars, making it a good choice for deer-sensitive areas—plant in full sun to part shade.

The most common butterflies you’ll see on blue starflower plants include the eastern tiger swallowtail, great spangled fritillary, and monarch.

Planting Information

Pot Marigolds

pot marigold spring flower planting maryland

The blooms of marigolds, or Tagetes, last for up to eight weeks in the summer and are a fast-growing plant.

The flowers of pot marigold plants are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators. They come in a wide variety of colors, including yellow, orange, and red.

They are annual plants that can be planted from seed after the last frost date in spring.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Summer
  • Height and spread: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Low

Black-Eyed Susan

black eyed susan flower planting maryland

Black-eyed Susan is a wildflower native to North America that has been cultivated as a garden flower for years. The brilliant golden-yellow bloom head with black centers is a beautiful sight.

Not only do people find the flowers attractive, but so do butterflies. The plant is a good source of nectar for adult butterflies, and the leaves are a food source for caterpillars.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Summer through fall
  • Height and spread: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium

Butterfly Weed

spring planting butterfly weed maryland

Butterfly weed, or Asclepias tuberosa, is a native wildflower found in many areas of the country.

The plant has a long blooming season, from early summer to late fall, and its bright orange flowers are very attractive to most butterfly species. It’s a perennial plant that will come back year after year.

Planting Information

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Summer through fall
  • Height and spread: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium

Blazing Star Flowers

blazing star flower spring flower maryland

The Blazing Star is a beautiful perennial that produces 1 to 3 foot-tall spikes of bright purplish pink or white flowers in late June to early fall. It’s an excellent plant for a butterfly garden.

The blooms are long-lasting and very attractive to butterflies. They also make excellent cut flowers.

The Blazing Star is a native plant found in the eastern half of the United States.

Planting Information:

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Late June through early fall
  • Height and spread: 1 to 3 feet tall
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium

Heliotrope

heliotrope flower maryland

Heliotrope has a distinctively sweet, pungent aroma that some people compare to cherry pie. It’s a brilliant purple color and is large-flowered yet compact.

The flowers of heliotrope plants are very attractive to butterflies and other pollinators.

Heliotrope is an annual plant that can be planted from seed after the last frost date in spring.

Planting Information:

  • When to plant:  After the last frost date in spring
  • Blooming time: Early Summer
  • Height and spread: Up to 2 feet tall
  • Sun/shade requirements: Full sun
  • Water needs: Medium

Key Takeaways

If you’re looking to attract butterflies to your garden, consider planting some of the following plants: milkweed, butterfly weed, passionflower, coneflower, blue star, pot marigold, black-eyed Susan, blazing star flowers, and heliotrope. These plants offer a variety of colors and blooms that butterflies love. What do all these plants have in common? They are all beautiful garden flowers!

Do you need flowers for your butterfly garden?

Look no further than Great American Landscapes! We have been helping residential, commercial, and institutional clients in the greater Washington area since 1984. We can design/build, maintain, or style your landscaping to make you the envy of the block!

Contact us today for a free consultation!

Have we missed any of your favorite butterfly plants or flowers? Let us know in the comments below!

Great American Landscapes

Great American Landscapes

Great American Landscapes makes your dream design a reality. Our designers can help you get the most from your home and garden by designing an area that is both functional and beautiful.

Get A Free Quote Today!

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

Recent Posts:

pool water feature idea foundain great american landscapes clarkburg md 1

Pool Water Feature Ideas

Learn about the different pool water features you can add to your pool to give it an extra touch of style. These are great additions for any home with a pool, whether it’s in use year-round or just during warm months.

Read More »
backyard shade plants md 2

Shade Landscaping Ideas For Your Yard

When temperatures soar, it can be tough to enjoy the great outdoors. Here are some ideas for creating a shady area in your yard to help you beat the heat and relax during hot summer days.

Read More »