Host Plants for Butterflies & Moths

We've added a new HOST PLANTS category to our website that includes more than 100 host plants.

Native plants are tied to the successful lifecycle of numerous butterflies and moths (Lepidoptera). Important not only for their nectar, many natives play the critical role of "larval host plant." Host plants provide food during the caterpillar phase that is part of the butterfly/moth lifecycle.

While trees tend to "host the most," numerous Lepidoptera rely on wildflowers, ferns, grasses or shrubs as host for their larval phase. Some deposit their eggs on one plant species, to the exclusion of others, as is the case with Monarch butterflies and milkweed plants (Asclepias sp.). Other butterflies might be less exclusive when it comes to which plants will host their caterpillars, but they do have preferences.

Caterpillar Friendly Gardening

Last year's leaves, grasses and "yard waste" play an important role in the bio-community of the garden and landscape. Many butterflies and moths over-winter in fallen leaves and spent plant material from the previous season. A light-handed approach to “cleaning up” the garden allows more butterflies and moths to thrive. Avoid raking the ground clean around shrubs, trees, and garden beds, as it can destroy the hibernation environment for the very life that you are trying to support.

A Few Butterflies & their Host Plants


Host Plants: Any plant of the Asclepias genus, including Red Milkweed, Common Milkweed, Showy Milkweed, Sullivant's Milkweed, Butterflyweed

painted lady

American Lady, Painted Lady 
Host Plants: Pussytoes, Pearly Everlasting, Poppy Mallow, Thistles, Burdock and more.


Host Plants: Various violets, Bird's Foot Violet


Tiger Swallowtails
Host Plants: Trees such as Ash, Birch, Chokecherry, Basswood, Poplar, Willow and Serviceberry

black swallowtail

Black Swallowtail
Host Plants: Members of the parsley family (Apiaceae) including Golden Alexanders

pearl crescent

Pearl Crescent, Tawny Crescent 
Host Plants: Smooth Aster, Sky Blue Aster … Asters are hosts plants for Crescent butterflies.

karner blue

Karner Blue, Melissa Blue 
Host Plants: Lupine 

eastern tailed blue

Eastern Tailed Blue, Hoary Edge
Host Plants: Lupine, Leadplant, Canada Tick Trefoil, Roundheaded Bushclover

hairstreak butterfly

Gray Hairstreak 
Host Plants: Purple Poppy Mallow, Roundheaded Bushclover, Rose Mallows, Sweet Fern


Baltimore Checkerspot 
Host Plants: White Turtlehead, Hairy Penstemon

duskywing butterfly

Columbine Duskywing 
Host Plants: Columbine


Common Buckeye 
Host Plants: Wild Petunia, Paleseed Plantain, Violet Ruellia

summer azure Spring Azure, Summer Azure 
Host Plants: New Jersey Tea, Steeplebush, Red Twig Dogwood, Boneset

Looking for More Host Plants?

We've added a new HOST PLANTS category to our website that includes more than 100 host plants. Another resource, our Planting for Pollinators Selection Guide, highlights numerous host plants.

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