BUTTERFLY LIFE CYCLE
Host plants support our local butterfly populations as well as migrating populations. Many of the host plants listed in this guide are Texas natives, which butterflies can recognize. Native plants are adapted to local climate and habitats, and they require less garden maintenance.
Milkweed in the genus Asclepias, including green milkweed (A. viridis) and shore milkweed (A. perennis); some authorities discourage planting the non-native milkweed species, Mexican milkweed (A. curassavica), as a host species for Monarch butterflies.
Plants in the genus Aristolochia, especially woolly pipevine (A. tomentosa), Dutchman’s pipevine (A. macrophylla), and Brazilian pipevine (A. fimbriata)
Sennas (including Senna lindheimeriana, S. corymbosa, and S. splendida) and partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata)
Passion flower vines (Passiflora), especially maypop (P. incarnata), blue passion vine (P. caerulea), and the hybrid Passiflora ‘Incense’.
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Black cherry (Prunus serotina), sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana), and tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera); birch (Betula species), ash (Fraxinus species), cottonwood (Populus species), and willow (Salix species)
Texas prairie parsley (Polytaenia texana), dill (Anethum graveolens), fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), and rue (Ruta graveolens)
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), and red bay (Persea borbonia)
Hackberry (Celtis species), American elm (Ulmus americana), slippery elm (Ulmus rubra), nettles (Urtica species), and false nettle (Boehmeria cylindrica)
Branched foldwing (Dicliptera brachiata) and shrimp plant.
Texas thistle (Cirsium texanum) and mallow family species, including hollyhock and various legume/bean family species.
False indigo (Amorpha fruticosa), and lupine (Lupinus species).
Several species of hackberry (Celtis species).
Nectar plants are the primary food source for most butterflies. By planting a variety of nectar plants, you can attract different species of butterflies. Native nectar plants not only add bright colors to your garden and attract butterflies, but they are also easy to grow and require little maintenance.
Basics of Butterfly Gardening
- Choose a location with plenty of sun and shelter from strong winds.
- Prepare the soil well so it is fertile and has good drainage.
- Plant a variety of nectar and host plants that bloom at various times throughout the year.
- Include a source of water, like a shallow birdbath, and a basking area, like a flat rock.
- Include a fruit-feeding station.
- Avoid pesticides.
- Expect other visitors to enjoy the butterfly garden too, like bees, hummingbirds, frogs, and lizards.
Ground Level Plants (0 to 2 Feet Tall)
- Asters (Symphyotrichum species)
- Brown and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species)
- Mexican Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella)
- Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia)
- Milkweed (Asclepias species)
- Orange Zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis var. hispida)
- Purple Cone Flower (Echinacea purpurea)
- Verbenas (Verbena species)
- Zinnias (Zinnia elegans and others)
Mid-Level Plants (2 to 4 Feet Tall)
- Bee Balm (Monarda species)
- Blazing Star (Liatris species)
- Cigar Plant (Cuphea ‘David Verity’)
- Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
- Firecracker Plant (Russelia species)
- Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus)
- Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium fistulosum)
- Lantana (Lantana species)
- Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
- Mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)
- Pentas (Pentas lanceolata)
- Porter Weed (Stachytarpheta species)
- Salvias (Salvia species)
Tall Plants (Over 4 Feet Tall)
- Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii)
- Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
- Golden Dewdrop (Duranta erecta)
- Hummingbird Bush (Hamelia patens)
- Jatropha (Jatropha integerrima)
- Mexican Bauhinia (Bauhinia divaricata)
- Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus)
- Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans)