If you plant it, they will come: learn how to attract butterflies to your home garden by planting specific types of plants.
The interest in butterfly gardening is increasing at an amazing rate. There is a wide variety of butterflies we can attract to our gardens and landscapes in Mississippi, including monarchs, the various swallowtails, painted ladies, Gulf fritillaries and red admirals, as well as many other pollinators and hummingbirds.
To attract butterflies to your garden, there must be a food source for the adults and especially for caterpillars. Adult butterflies feed on nectar from a variety of flowering plants, but caterpillars are often limited to specific host plants to forage.
Must-Have Plants for a Mississippi Butterfly Garden
Butterfly weed is the primary forage plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillar. Mississippi-native butterfly weed, swamp milkweed and non-native tropical milkweed can be commonly found at garden centers.
Coneflowers, once only purple, are now available in other colors as well, including yellow, red and white. Coneflowers are pollinated primarily by butterflies while using their long proboscis to feed on nectar.
Salvias, both perennial and annual selections, are garden favorites, as butterflies are attracted to the huge numbers of small brightly colored flowers that bloom from summer through the fall season.
Zinnia elegans are literally candy for butterflies. The big and colorful flowers always have butterflies flitting nearby.
Lantanas have gorgeous clusters of small, warm yellow-, red- and orange-colored dense flowers. Butterflies love to hover and enjoy their nectar.
Pentas are a magnet for butterflies because they are a rich source of nectar.
Buddleia, or butterfly bush, has a wide variety of colors and is a great selection for the garden. The long panicles, some 12 inches or longer, display small individual flowers butterflies simply can’t resist.
Of course, this list isn’t all-inclusive, but it’s a good start. Plant away, and watch the butterflies come and enjoy your beautiful garden.
About the author: Dr. Gary Bachman is an Extension/research professor at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research & Extension Center. Gary is also the host of the popular Southern Gardening newspaper, television, radio and social media franchise.