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10 Flowers That Attract Butterflies

Almost one in five of America’s 800 butterfly species are at risk of extinction, according to NatureServe, a biodiversity umbrella group of more than 60 government and educational groups.

Many home gardeners have been creating butterfly gardens and other measures to aid and attract butterflies to help protect these crucial pollinators. 

The first step is to create healthy habitats with plenty of water, shelter, and no insecticides that kill butterflies or caterpillars. The second step involves establishing a variety of plants that will serve as hosts for caterpillars and provide adult butterflies with a consistent stream of blooms throughout the growing season as well as nectar and pollen.

Top 10 Flowers That Attract Butterflies

1. Milkweeds

These are must-host plants for monarch butterflies but also good pollen sources when in bloom. Five different types are most useful, including common milkweed, swamp milkweed, whorled milkweed, the prairie-native showy milkweed, and the orange-blooming butterfly milkweed.

Monarch on Milkweed

Monarch on Milkweed | Cynthia Shirk / iStock / via Getty Images

2. Tickseed (Coreopsis)

One of the season’s first perennials to flower, tickseed is a yellow bloomer that’s also a long-bloomer, usually starting in June and sometimes flowering into September.

Butterfly on Coreopsis

Butterfly on Coreopsis | Loveallyson / iStock / via Getty Images

3. Wild Bergamot and Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda species)

These two perennials are closely related mint-family members that grow 2 to 3 feet tall and produce spidery flowers in June and July. Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) blooms lavender to pink, while Scarlet Beebalm (Monarda didyma) blooms red.

Swallowtail on Bergamot

Swallowtail on Bergamot | Leekris / iStock / via Getty Images

4. Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

An old-fashioned garden favorite, this native perennial has golden petals surrounding a black central cone. It blooms primarily in June and July, sometimes into August.

Monarch on Black-eyed Susan

Monarch on Black-eyed Susan | Cheryl Velez / iStock / via Getty Images

5. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Another perennial that’s familiar to most home gardeners is this native perennial with the pinkish-lavender drooping petals and golden-brown central cones. It flowers from July through September.

Monarch on Coneflower

Monarch on Coneflower | Db_beyer / iStock / via Getty Images

6. Blazing Star (Liatris)

Several versions of this native perennial make good summer nectar and pollen sources with their spiky purple, pink, or lavender blooms. Most flower from July into September.

Swallowtail on Blazing Star

Swallowtail on Blazing Star | Leekris / iStock / via Getty Images

7. Sunflowers (Helianthus)

Both annual and perennial forms of sunflowers are butterfly favorites for their big golden flowers, while the seeds of annual ones are bird favorites. Annual types flower from mid to late summer, while perennial ones are at their peak in August and September.

Monarch on Sunflower

Monarch on Sunflower | Rabbitti / iStock / via Getty Images

8. Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium maculatum)

Joe Pye is a tall, stout perennial that produces multiple umbrella-like clusters of pinkish-lavender flowers in August and September. Like all of the above, it’s a U.S. native.

Monarch on Joe Pye Weed

Monarch on Joe Pye Weed | Holcy / iStock / via Getty Images

9. Asters (Symphyotrichum)

As summer winds down, asters become a key butterfly food. New York, New England, and smooth asters are three of the best with their pink, lavender, or purple daisy-like flowers. They’re native perennials that bloom August through October.

Monarch on Asters

Monarch on Asters | DebraLee Wiseberg / E+ / via Getty Images

10. Goldenrod (Solidago)

One of the last of the season’s bloomers is goldenrod, a native perennial with arching, golden flower spikes. Goldenrod blooms August into October on plants that grow 18 inches to 3 feet tall.

Red Admiral on Goldenrod

Red Admiral on Goldenrod | DebraLee Wiseberg / E+ / via Getty Images

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