Butterfly Gardening

Attracting Butterflies in Central Texas

Creating a vibrant garden full of butterfly activity requires a selection of colorful flowers full of nectar, but we must also think beyond that.  To attract all stages of the butterfly life cycle, be sure to also provide food plants for the caterpillars, also known as host plants.  The caterpillars will devour the food plants, but it’s a worthwhile sacrifice for all the beautiful adults that will follow!

Tips for plant selection and placement

  • Choose the sunniest location possible for the nectar plants; more sun means more nectar
  • Place taller plants at the back, shorter ones at the front
  • Plant in mass groups of one plant species and of the same color
  • Grow a selection of spring, summer and fall blooming plants to attract butterflies year round
  • Tuck the host plants in less obvious places; it helps protect the caterpillars and leaves with holes are less obvious
  • Never use systemic pesticides and use organic approved pesticides very carefully and only if absolutely necessary – don’t forget Bt is toxic to ALL caterpillars of the moth and butterfly (Lepidoptera) family

Nectar Plants

Gulf fritillary butterfly on zinnia.
Pipevine swallowtail butterfly on tithonia.
Black swallowtail butterfly on stock.

Trees

Citrus
Escarpment Black Cherry
Goldenball Lead Tree
Honey Mesquite
Anacacho Orchid Tree
Mexican Buckeye
Mexican Plum
Texas Redbud

Vines

Coral Honeysuckle
Mexican Flame Vine
Queen’s Wreath

Shrubs

Agarita
Bee Brush
Butterfly Bush
Buttonbush
Duranta
Elbow Bush
Fragrant Mimosa
Glossy Abelia
Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum
Shrubby Boneset
Almond Verbena
Texas Kidneywood

Perennials/Annuals

Sweet Alyssum
Fall Aster
African Blue Basil
Bee Balm
Marigold
Frogfruit
Mexican Honeysuckle
Milkweed (All types)
Gregg’s Mistflower
Pentas
Old Fashioned Petunias
Phlox
Purple Coneflower
Purple Amaranth
Lindheimer’s Senna
Sunflowers
Texas Lantana
Turk’s Cap
Argentinian Verbena
Prairie Verbena
Zexmenia
Zinnias

Host Plants

Gulf fritillary caterpillar on passion vine.
Pipevine swallowtail caterpillars on fringed pipevine.
Black swallowtail caterpillar on dill.

Species of Butterfly and their Host Plants

Black Swallowtail — Dill, Fennel
Cloudless Sulphur — Senna (Flowering and Lindheimer’s)
Common Buckeye — Frogfruit
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail — Apple, Escarpment Black Cherry, Peach
Giant Swallowtail — Citrus
Gulf Fritillary — Passion Flower
Henry’s Elfin — Texas Persimmon
Monarch — Milkweed (Antelope Horn, Butterfly Weed, Showy , Tropical)
Pipevine Swallowtail — Fringed Pipevine