Choose native flowering plants local to your geographic area. Because many butterflies and native flowering plants have co-evolved over time and depend on each other for survival and reproduction. Native plants provide butterflies with the nectar or foliage they need as adults and caterpillars. In many cases, caterpillars of a species feed on only a very limited variety of plants
- Adult butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink and purple blossoms that are flat-topped or clustered and have short flower tubes.
- Key butterfly nectar source plants should receive full sun from mid-morning to mid-afternoon. Butterfly adults generally feed only in the sun. If sun is limited in your landscape, try adding butterfly nectar sources to the vegetable garden.
- Plant for continuous bloom so that when one plant stops blooming, another begins. Butterflies need nectar throughout the adult phase of their life span.
- Avoid using insecticides. Even "benign" insecticides, such as Bacillus thuringiensis, are lethal to butterflies (while caterpillars).
- Provide a place for butterflies to rest and bask in the sun on flat stones. Butterflies need sun for orientation and to warm their wings for flight.
- Provide a place for butterflies to congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in "puddling," drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles. Place coarse sand in a shallow pan and then insert the pan in the soil of your habitat. Make sure to keep the sand moist.
Top Food Plants for Caterpillars in WisconsinAnnuals
• Parsley, Fennel, Carrots or Dill–Black Swallowtail
• Partridge Pea (Cassia fasciculata)–Little Yellow
• Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)–Common Buckeye
• Asters–Pearl Crescent
• Milkweeds (Common, Swamp, Butterflyweed)–Monarch
• Nettles (Urtica)–Eastern Comma, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral. Hide this plant in the middle of bed, and wear gloves when working near it. • Pussytoes (Antennaria) and Pearly Everlasting (Anaphalis margaritaceae)–American Lady
• Senna (S. hebecarpa)–Sleepy Orange, Cloudless Sulfur
• Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)–Baltimore Checkerspot
• Violets–Great Spangled Fritillary; Aphrodite, Meadow Fritillaries
• Native grasses, such as Prairie Dropseed and Little Bluestem–several species of skippers, Common Wood Nymph
• Dutchman’s Pipe, Aristolochia macrophylla, A. tomentosa or A. durior– Pipevine Swallowtail, a rare, beautiful butterfly that in some years moves north to Wisconsin from the south.
• Eastern Red Cedar–Juniper Hairstreak
• Black Cherry–Coral Hairstreak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Spring Azure
• Hackberry– American Snout, Hackberry Emperor, Question Mark, Tawny Emperor
• Oaks–Banded Hairstreak, Red-Spotted Purple
• Pines–Eastern Pine Elfin
• Poplars, aspens–Mourning Cloak, Red-Spotted Purple, Viceroy
• Willow–Mourning Cloak, Viceroy
Top Native Nectar SourcesPerennials
• Blue Vervain (Verbena hastate)
• Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
• Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
• Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)
• Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum)
• Mountain Mints (Pycnanthemum)
• New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae)
• Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida) • Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
• Puccoons (Lithospermum)
• Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera)
• Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)
• Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
• Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Top Non-Native (non-invasive) Nectar Sources
Top Non-Native (non-invasive) Nectar SourcesAnnuals
• Bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica)
• French Marigolds
• Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia) • Salvia “Victoria Blue”
• Verbena bonariensis
• Coneflower (Rudbeckia)
• Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)
• Phlox (native species also good nectar sources) • Sedum “Autumn Joy”
• Bluebeard or Blue Mist (Caryopteris) • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)
Lawn Nectar Sources (dandelions & other weeds)• Dandelions—These little yellow flowers are truly a very important early nectar source for many butterflies. Not many other plants are blooming at that time. Just keep repeating to yourself: dandelions are nice, dandelions are pretty....
• White clover—Tiny butterflies, such as the Eastern-tailed Blue, will nectar on clover. Clover also provides free nitrogen for your grass.
• Hawkweed–Many butterflies enjoy nectaring on hawkweed.
|Coneflower & swamp milkweed|
|'Ice Ballet' Milkweed & Butterfly Weed|