A garden is so much better with butterflies, so we are sharing the 33 best herbs for butterflies to benefit your garden.
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Butterflies help the ecosystem and herbs that produce flowers can attract many butterflies. There are many common flowers to plant for butterfly host plants, but people don’t really think of planting herbs to bring butterflies.
As long as the herb is not planted in poor soils and can provide nectar to butterflies and host caterpillars then it is perfect for any garden place.
We will discuss all the herbs that butterflies adore and give you quick tips on how to grow them.
When it comes to caterpillars’ diet, it consist of certain plants they can feed on and lay their eggs on. Beautiful flowers that come from herbs in North America provide caterpillars a habitat and at the same time create a beautiful garden to enjoy.
Herbs for Butterflies Table of Contents
Butterflies are very special and if you ever find yourself around a few in a garden the feeling is amazing. To be in their presence after you worked hard to provide them with fragrant herbs that grow into colorful and beautiful flowers is something you can be proud of.
The greatest thing about growing herbs for butterflies is not only good for them and the ecosystem but are great got culinary purposes. It’s a win-win in our book!
To help you out a little we organized all the herbs for butterflies into three groups, annuals (herbs that grow only for one season), Biennial (herbs that can take their second year of growth to set flowers), and perennials (herbs that grow all year around).
Best herbs for Butterflies
Herbs for Butterflies: Annuals
Basil is in the mint family and a great herb to plant in your garden because it is used for culinary purposes. So you can harvest it to use in the kitchen or let it flower for butterflies. The flower grows in clusters and ranges in color from magenta to white.
This herb is frost sensitive so plant after your last frost date and give it at least 6-8 hours of sun. Learn how to grow unlimited basil HERE and how to preserve it HERE.
Calendula is an edible plant that is also called a “pot marigold.” They attract butterflies because their round flat-top-like flowers help butterflies sit on them while they feed on nectar.
Calendula is grown as an annual and grows well in cool weather. The beautiful orange and sometimes yellow flowers may stop flowering if the temperature is over 85 degrees. It drives and shady locations during summer and needs watering when trying to establish.
This is a multi-purpose herb because you can use it not only to keep butterflies around but it is a great herb to make tea and medicinal purposes. Butterflies love flowers that are rich in color and scented like chamomile flowers.
Wait till your last frost date has passed to plant out chamomile and make sure it has well-drained soil. Growing this herb in the partial sun is best but it grows in full sun too. This drought-tolerant herb also grows best in conditions that are not so hot but cool.
Black swallow butterflies and Eastern Black Swallowtails love cilantro when it flowers. Cilantro flowers are small pink and white that has a lace appearance. You can use this herb for cooking like making guacamole and brings butterflies to your garden when you let it go to seed.
Spring is the best time to grow cilantro, keep your plant well-drained soil and well watered. Always leave at least one-third of the plant’s leaves when harvesting so it can keep producing cilantro for you.
Also known as “dill weed,” dill attracts beneficial insects and is a host plant for black swallowtail butterflies. When dill flowers bloom they stay small and are bright that ranging in color from yellow to green.
You need at least 6-8 hours of sun to grow and grow better when it’s warmer. Make sure you water regularly and never let them dry out, and they produce great next to all types of brassicas like cabbage or broccoli.
This edible herb is great for all types of butterflies, specifically, the cabbage white butterflies that love to lay their eggs on this plant. Its beautiful big blooms are a sight to see and all the butterflies in your garden will flock to it.
Nasturtiums love to be well watered and need about 6-8 hours of sunlight to grow well. They will stop blooming if it has heat stress so keep them in the partial sun if you live in a hot climate like Florida.
Herbs for Butterflies: Biennial
The angelica herb flowers after two years of its life and by cutting its stalk the first year you will encourage flowers to grow. Short-tailed swallowtail butterflies and caterpillars are attracted to angelica which makes it a great herb to have in any garden.
Make sure your angelica plant is well watered since it does not like it when it’s dried out. Give your plant a shady area to grow in and you will tell it grows better in cooler weather. This herb is actually part of the carrot family and has a sweet taste to it, it can be used in baking as well.
Fleabane is a type of wildflower that provides a great food source of nectar for all types of butterflies. The flowers have a daisy-like appearance and since there are so many species of fleabane some climates consider this herb to be an annual or perennial so it can either way.
This herb is also known as a weed in some areas, that is to say, it is very easy to grow and doesn’t need much care. Keep it well watered and cut it back after it blooms to help stimulate more growth.
After a parsley plant is two years old its flowers will bloom and create small blossoms that cluster up. Just like dill, parsley is a host plant for the black swallowtail and anise swallowtail caterpillars.
The best time to grow parsley is in the spring and needs full sun with well-drained soil to grow properly. You can also grow parsley indoors and will make a great addition to a little herb kitchen garden.
Herbs for Butterflies: Perennial Herbs
Anise (agastache foeniculum)
Anise is seen by many as a perennial and as an annual, you can also say it is part of the parsley family. Female Anise Swallowtail butterflies, use this herb flower to lay their golden-yellow eggs on.
You can spot this specific butterfly by its beautiful black and yellow pattern wings. This herb has a licorice taste and has anti-fungal and antibacterial properties per healthline.com.
To grow this herb you need a sunny location, make sure it has well-drained soil, and it needs water when you see it starting to dry out. It self-seeds and can not take extreme heat as if you were in the topics.
This perennial herb produces beautiful purple, pink, white, red, and lavender flowers that butterflies love. Bee Balm is known to attract swallowtail butterflies.
As part of the mint family, bee balm is not as invasive as the mint plant. Keep the soil watered well again for this plant and you can avoid fertilizers for it as well.
When it flowers you can deadhead them to help more flowers grow. Planted in the spring and get good air circulation as it can be susceptible to powdery mildew.
Catnip is part of the mint family but doesn’t grow as wild as the mint itself. This herb was small white flowers that attract all types of butterflies like the spicebush swallowtail.
The best time to grow this herb is in the spring and it’s a fairly easy plant to grow. You can keep it from spreading rapidly by trimming it back a 3rd of the way and giving it at least 6-8 hours of sun. If you grow catnip in the part shade you will still see it grow well in your own garden.
This multipurpose herb attracts all types of butterflies like Swallowtails, buckeyes, Crescents, and skippers. If you let chives go to seed it will create flowers that bloom and look like purple pom-pom which are also edible. The two varieties of chives to grow are called garlic chives or common chives.
Chives can be grown in any state in a container, raised bed, or in the ground. They grow best in the early spring and fall as they need cooler weather to grow successfully. You can harvest chives 3-4 times during it growing season!
Dogbane can be toxic to some animals but they are good plants that are known to be a butterfly nectar plant for the Monarch butterfly. Other butterfly populations that benefit from this herb are Canadian tiger swallowtail, checker spots, fritillaries, and cabbage whites. Spreading dogbane is an excellent choice to plant in butterfly gardening.
Grow dogbane in moist soils that are well-drained and get sun but mostly shade. It is an invasive herb so make sure you have control of the container. Dogbane is easy to grow so it doesn’t need any type of special attention.
Echinacea also known as cornflower is a great plant species to have in any herb garden or vegetable garden because they attract various types of butterflies. To name a few butterflies echinacea attracts are swallowtails, monarchs, fritillaries, and painted ladies.
These medicinal plants grow great in organic matter, and need full sun but can grow nicely with partial shade as well. Be sure you have your flowers in well-drained soil and they need a cold period to germinate.
Growing fennel is a great way to bring plenty of swallowtail butterflies to your garden since it’s a great shot plant for this specific butterfly. Since they self-seed you will always have fennel if you plant them at first and if you keep them long enough you will see plenty of butterflies eggs on them.
Grow fennel in the springtime and make sure it has at least 6-8 hours so it can grow successfully. Water at least once a week after they are a bit dry and they can be grown as a short-lived perennial.
Hawthorn is a medicinal herb used to help control blood pressure and cholesterol in addition to attracting butterflies. Hawthorn blossoms provide enough nectar for all types of butterflies.
This is a type of shrub or a tree that is part of the rose family and used as a herbal remedy. It can take some time to grow but you should grow it in full sun and in well-drained soil.
Hops are not only used to flavor beer but it is a perfect addition to your herb garden to help bring butterflies. The blue butterfly, Vanessa atalanta, and Polygonia interrogations (question mark butterfly) are some species of butterflies that love to feed on this herb.
To grow hops successfully you will need 40-degree weather for about 2 months. They grow best in sandy soil with a ph of 6.5 and be grown from a cutting or propagation
Hyssop grows pretty red, blue, and pink flowers attracting many butterflies and other important pollinators. Hyssops is part of the carrot family, it blooms in the summer, and its great-smelling fragrance attracts hummingbirds too.
This herb is drought tolerant, low maintenance, does not grow well in clay-like soil and requires full sun to grow. It can grow up to one foot in height and any hardiness zone can plant this herb as long as you water it well until it is established.
Lavender brings butterflies like Horace’s Duskywing and Western Tiger Swallowtail to its beautiful purple flower blooms. It provides sweet nectar to these butterflies and has an overall amazing fragrance.
If you live in a cooler climate planting lavender in the spring or summer is best and if you are in a hotter climate the best time to plant it is in early fall. Lavender is drought tolerant so it does not need a lot of watering, plant plants are at least 12 inches apart and you should need to fertilize them.
Lemon balm is part of the mint family and grows small white flowers that all butterflies love. This herb gives off a nice lemon smell that is filled with nectar that will feed all pollinators.
It is easy to grow lemon because it doesn’t need much maintenance. All you need is well-drained soil with good organic matter and at least 6-8 hours of sun. They grow well in partial sun, and no fertilizer is needed, plant in the springtime as well as cut it back so they won’t take over your planting area.
The painted lady, the common Hairstreak, and the Checkered skipper butterfly are some of the butterflies that love to feed on marsh mallow. They are small flowers that can be white, pink, or purple.
To grow marshmallow you need seeds to go through cold stratification first which placing your seeds in a cold area like your fridge for about a month before planting. Make sure they have moist soil so it’s can drain well. After they’re established they are easy to maintain.
Mint is from the pycanthemum species, and specifically, mountain mints provide butterflies like White peacock butterflies, and gray hairstreaks enough nectar to make them happy. They are over 20 species of mountain mint so butterflies have a lot of flowers to choose from in the mint family.
It’s best to grow mint after your last frost date and once it is established you will always have mint..forever. Mint is very invasive in soil and can take over any space you plant it in, you can say it is hard to get rid of. A good tip is to plant mint in a container so it won’t take over any garden bed or ground you have.
Common culinary herbs like oregano is a multipurpose herbs that white and skipper butterflies love the plant’s blossoms. The scent of oregano and its pink, purple or white flowers when it starts to go to seed are magnets for all types of butterflies as well.
You can grow Greek or common oregano in the springtime by giving it plenty of sun and if you’re in a hot climate giving it partial shade is better. It’s easy to grow water when the soil is dry to touch and grow it in a container if you like.
Butterflies can get plenty of food from Tansy’s yellow blooms. They are also part of the sunflower family and is used not only to attract butterflies but to help deter pest in the garden.
Tansy’s should be planted in the spring and given full sun or partial sun. It’s known to be an invasive weed so they are low maintenance and can grow up to 4 feet high.
Rue blooms small yellow flowers and is a host plant to giant swallowtail butterflies, Black Swallowtails and Anise Swallowtails. If you touch it beware as it may cause skin irritation.
Plant in the spring for summer blooms and be sure to place it in full sun or partial sun. Water rue in moderation, grow it in well-drained soil and you can grow till it gets two feet tall.
This is a herb that is considered a perennial in hardiness zones 5-8 and an annual in zones 9-10. Sage is a hardy herb that butterflies and hummingbirds love to father nectar from when it flowers. Mexican sage, Pineapple sage, and Russian sage are all wonderful types of sages to plant to bring butterflies into your garden.
You need to have well-drained soil to grow sage and water regularly so it won’t dry out. Sage grows best in 60 to 70-degree weather and does well in spring and fall. If it’s hotter than that, placing shade cloth is needed if you want to grow it as a perennial.
Stinging nettle is known to be an invasive weed but is also a host plant for the red admiral and comma butterflies. Butterflies set their eggs on nettle leaves and caterpillars love to feed on them as well.
This herb grows well in rich soil that stays moist, it also is very invasive and can spread quickly. It is very easy to grow and is low maintenance so growing it in containers is ideal.
This licorice-flavored herb is part of the sunflower family and flowers yellow, purple, or white small flowers that many types of butterflies love to get nectar from. You can grow three types of tarragon: French tarragon, Russian tarragon, and Mexican tarragon.
Tarragon grows best in sandy, well-drained soil in a location that gets partial sun or shade. You can grow Russian and Mexican tarragon from seed but you have to grow French from
Thyme purple and white flowers offer nectar to butterflies from the Hesperiidae species and many other butterfly species. Tyme is part of the mint family and can be grown in containers or on the ground during the springtime.
Water regularly until established, and plant it in rich organic soil that drains well. Grow thyme in full sun or some shade and keep pruning to encourage more growth making sure you don’t cut more than one-third of it.
This medicinal herb blooms in the spring and summer attracting many types of butterfly species. It is a cluster-like flower that is commonly known as a wildflower.
Valerian prefers to be in moist soil that is well-drained and can handle partial to full sun. It will die back in the winter, self-seed itself, and come back in the spring.
These beautiful hearts shape with purple/blue, yellow, or white flowers. There are over 500 varieties of violet catpillars and butterflies to choose from. Fritillary butterflies are specific butterflies that love this herb that tastes like peas.
Violets can spread creating a ground cover and growing well in damp well-drained soil. Plant it in spring next to lettuce and it will grow successfully.
Yarrow’s colorful color varieties and wide shape flowers are ideal for butterflies because they can have a place to rest as well as get as much nectar as they can from these types of flowers.
Yarrow can grow in any type of environment as long as it has full sun. No fertilizer is needed, it needs to be watered when it’s a little drier out unless it’s in clay soil to keep it moist.
Herbs for butterflies: Types of Butterflies
There are many types of butterflies in the world there are about over 170,000 of them. You can place butterflies in different classes, which include:
- Hesperiidae (Skippers)
- Lycaenidae (Blues and Hairstreaks)
- Nymphalidae (Brush-footed Butterflies)
- Riodinidae (Metalmarks)
- Pieridae (white and yellowS)
- Papilionidae (Swallowtails)
What do Butterflies need to live?
Butterflies need the sun to live since they are cold-blooded insects that need full sun. They also need a protective environment to help them be safe from winds like flat rocks that give them a place to rest.
In order for them to keep their species going they need nectar, a host plant for caterpillars to feed on in butterflies to lay eggs on
How to plant a herb garden for butterflies?
to plant your herb garden for butterflies pick any type of culinary herb or medicinal herbs in containers, raise birds, we’re in the ground, and make sure it’s in a location that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of sun.
You can grow herbs from seeds or you can get them at your local nursery or big box stores. For more detailed information on how to plant a herb garden.
Other ways to attract butterflies to your Garden?
- There are other ways to get adult butterflies in your garden like planting other nectar sources and specific plans for specific butterflies. For example planting butterfly weeds like milkweed for the monarch butterflies.
- Growing butterfly plants like cut flowers of any kind provide is a good choice and is a great nectar source for butterflies in any space. Some examples include marigolds, cosmos, and sunflowers.
- Place a butterfly feeder in your garden to help feed butterflies. You can get great butterfly feeders online like the one below.
- Planting native plants in the United States in various colors is a wonderful choice to keep the butterfly population alive.
- Avoid pesticide use and herbicides well with the welcome butterflies to your garden
- Provide a water bath with rocks around or next to water to give butterflies a resting area.
Herbs for Butterflies FAQ
What is a host plant?
A host plant is a plant butterfly lays eggs on and or caterpillars eat. Depending on the butterfly species the butterfly prefers specific plants to lay their eggs known as the host plant and when those eggs hatch into caterpillars the butterfly caterpillars stay on that same plant to feed from.
What herb do butterflies eat?
Butterflies use herbs as host plants to lay eggs on and consume nectar when they are caterpillars. Caterpillars eat the leaves of the host plant so when it comes to herbs, any herb that has a leaf structure is great for any caterpillar to snack on.
Which herb is ideal to place in a butterfly garden?
The ideal herb to place in a butterfly garden are herbs that create beautiful flowers and can be multipurpose. Herbs like chives and echinacea are great multipurpose herbs that produce colorful and beautiful flowers.
What herbs do butterflies lay their eggs on?
Butterflies lay eggs on herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, fennel, and echinacea. If it herb has a leaf structure it gives a butterfly area to lay its eggs on.
What do butterflies lay their eggs on?
Butterflies lay eggs in many different ways depending on the variety of butterflies. Some butterflies lay their eggs on top of leaves under the leaf and some of them lay eggs one at a time or in clusters and maybe even hundreds.
What plants do swallowtails lay eggs on?
If you want to attract swallowtail butterflies and help them lay eggs you can plant various trees, flowers, and herbs. Swallowtail love plants like a Black cherry tree, Parsley dill fennel, Wild bergamot, Echinacea, and swamp milkweed.
Butterfly Garden Must Have
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