Plants & Gardening

host plants for butterflies and moths

Supporting Butterflies & Moths with Native Plants

Native plants offer many ways to support a variety of butterflies and moths (lepidoptera) in your yard. The best approach is to include preferred host plants along with a selection of plants to provide nectaring sources throughout the season. Some butterflies and moths deposit their eggs on one kind of plant to the exclusion of others - as is the case with Monarch butterflies and milkweeds - but not all are strictly exclusive when it comes to which plant should host their eggs.

Caterpillar Friendly Gardening

If you want to increase the biodiversity in your garden, remember that many butterflies and moths overwinter in leaves and spent plant material. Try to adopt a tolerant approach to “cleaning up” the garden, and avoid raking the ground clean around shrubs and in garden beds, as it may destroy the hibernation environment for the very life that you are trying to support.

Habitat and Range

The likelihood of seeing certain species of lepidoptera can be limited due to stringent habitat requirements or range. On the other hand there are many butterflies and moths that range far and wide, and are easily supported, even in urban areas.

Click here for a PDF of host plants for butterflies and moths.

Asclepias incarnata, Red Milkweed Monarch, Queen
Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed Monarch
Asclepias sullivantii, Sullivant’s Milkweed Monarch
Asclepias tuberosa, Butterflyweed Monarch, Queen, Gray Hairstreak
Aster Laevis, Smooth Aster Pearl Crescent
Aster novae-angliae, New England Aster Pearl Crescent
Baptisia australis, Blue False Indigo Wild Indigo Duskywing
Callirhoe involucrata, Winecup, Purple Poppy Mallow Gray Hairstreak
Cassia hebecarpa, Wild Senna Cloudless Sulphur, Sleepy Orange, Orange-Barred Sulphur
Ceanothus americanus, New Jersey Tea

Spring Azure, Summer Azure, Mottled Duskywing
Chelone glabra, White Turtlehead Baltimore Checkerspot
Dalea candida, White Prairie Clover Dogface butterfly
Dalea purpurea, Purple Prairie Clover Southern Dogface
Helianthus sp., Woodland Sunflower, Downy Sunflower, Western Sunflower American Lady, Silvery Checkerpot
Hibiscus palustris, Rose Mallow Gray Hairstreak, Painted Lady
Lupinus perennis, Lupine Karner Blue, Frosted Elfin, Silvery Blue, Persius Duskywing
Rudbeckia hirta, Black Eyed Susan Gorgone Checkerspot, Silvery Checkerspot
Mimulus ringens, Monkey Flower Common Buckeye, Baltimore Checkerspot
Salvia azurea, Blue Sage Sage Sphinx moth
Verbena hastata, Blue Vervain Common Buckeye
Verbena stricta, Hoary Vervain Common Buckeye
Vernonia fasciculata, Ironweed American Lady, Painted Lady
Viola Labridorica, Viola sp., Labrador Violet Various fritillaries
Zizia aurea, Golden Alexanders Black Swallowtail

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