Native Plants for Butterfly Gardens

 

Butterflies need food plants (also called host plants) for feeding in their caterpillar stage and nectar plants as adults. Most butterfly flowers are sun-loving. Butterflies prefer purple, pink, yellow and white flowers. Grow groups or masses of a plant of one color, rather than single plants of different colors. Locate for full sun exposure unless care instructions are otherwise. Most of the listed plants are easy to grow. Butterfly species may not find your garden unless you live near habitat where the species is found.

Check Grow Native Nursery for the California native plants found on this list. Our nursery staff can help you establish your native plant butterfly garden.

References: "California Butterflies," John Garth and J. Tilden, 1986; "National Audubon Society Field Guide to California," 1998; "Butterflies in North America," James A. Scott, 1986.

Growth form

Name

Common name

Food/Nectar

Comments/special care tips

The associated butterfly for host plant (food plant)

If none listed, the plant is a good nectar choice for wide variety of butterflies.
Annual Chaenactis glabriuscula Yellow pincushion N Winter blooming
Annual Coreopsis bigelovii Bigelow’s coreopsis N Golden heads
Annual Gilia capitata Globe gilia N Pale to light blue-violet; April to July
Annual Helianthus annuus Sunflower N Flowers from February to October
Annual Lasthenia californica Goldfields N Orange-yellow flowers; Spring; Most of California
Annual Layia platyglossa Tidy tips N Yellow with white tips in spring; Grassy sites
   
Annual or Perennial Lupinus sp. Lupines F many species and colors Orange sulfur
Perennial Achillea millefolium Common yarrow N Aromatic; White clusters spring to summer
Perennial Aquilegia formosa Western columbine N Red and yellow flowers; Late spring; Afternoon shade
Perennial Arabis 'Spring Charm' Rock-cress F/N Petals rose-purple; Spring only Cabbage white
Perennial Artemisia sp. Sage F Aromatic Painted lady
Perennial Asclepias sp. Milkweed F/N Food plant for monarchs
Perennial Epilobium canum California Fuchsia N Red flowers; July to November
Perennial Erigeron glaucus Seaside daisy N Pink or lavender; April to August; Remove dead flowers
Perennial Eriogonum fasiculatum California buckwheat F/N Nectar rich Lupine blue; Bramble hairstreak
Perennial Erysimum concinnum Wallflower N Often annuals in Southern California
Perennial Heterotheca villosa California golden aster N Yellow flowers; spring and summer
Perennial Lessingia filaginifolia California aster F/N Spring blooming Gabb’s checkerspot
Perennial Monardella villosa Coyote Mint N Aromatic A favorite of butterflies
Perennial Salvia sp. Wild sage N Aromatic; Blue or lavender; Spring
Perennial   Perennial grasses F P Good larval food for skippers
   
Shrub Amorpha californica False Indigo F Purplish flowers; Some shade California dogface
Shrub Ceanothus sp. California lilac F/N Flowers in spring Host for ceanothus silkmoth
Shrub Encelia californica Coast bush sunflower N Spring flowers; Sprawling; Grows up to 4 feet tall
Shrub Lotus scoparius Deerweed F/N Tiny yellow flowers Blues; Sulfurs
Shrub Malacothamnus sp. Mallow F Spring to summer Painted lady; West coast lady
Shrub Malosma laurina Laurel sumac F/N Tall, leafy; evergreen Host for ceanothus silkmoth
Tree or Large Shrub Aesculus californica California buckeye N 20-35 ft. tall; flowers white or pale rose
Tree or Large Shrub Platanus racemosa Western Sycamore F Deciduous, needs regular water Tiger swallowtail
Tree or Large Shrub Quercus agrifolia Coastal live oak F Up to 80 ft. tall, 50 ft. spread California sister
Tree or Large Shrub Salix lasiolepis Arroyo Willow F Riparian, needs regular water Mourning cloak; Lorquin’s admiral
   
Vine Lonicera subspicata Honeysuckle N Clambering evergreen shrubs; Yellowish flowers