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 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.

Some Host Plants and Butterflies

Asclepias incarnata, Red Milkweed
Monarch, Queen

Asclepias speciosa, Showy Milkweed

Asclepias sullivantii, Sullivant’s Milkweed

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,
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 sp., Labrador Violet
Various fritillaries

Zizia aurea, Golden Alexanders
Black Swallowtail

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