Butterfly Garden Plants

Tending a garden that will help to create more butterflies is one of the primary goals of butterfly gardening. To achieve this, it is important to choose plants for your butterfly garden that will provide food for caterpillars. Caterpillars require very specific foods in order to grow and transform into butterflies.

NABA’s Butterfly Garden and Habitat program recommends the use of regionally native plants when creating butterfly gardens. By choosing regionally native plants for any garden, you will be supporting insects and animals that are already in your area, including butterflies and caterpillars.

There are many things to consider when starting a butterfly garden. To help you get started, NABA has created lists native plants commonly used in butterfly gardens. These lists are organized into regional garden guides. Explore the lists and check with a local NABA chapter to learn more about butterfly gardening.

Explore lists of suggested butterfly garden plants by region

Look for a local chapter of North American Butterfly Association

Learn more about the basics of butterfly gardening

Sample of a plant rating that appears throughout this website.
Sample of a plant rating that appears throughout this website.

All butterfly gardening plants featured on this website have been selected by NABA members as important native plants for butterfly gardening. While all of the plants in are useful for butterfly gardens, NABA members have been asked to rate plants with which they are familiar. The charts that accompany each plant are an average of the ratings received to date.

Ratings reflect the following considerations:

NABA Caterpillar Food Source Rating*Possible reasons would be that it is not the preferred food plant or because, as in the case of Round-leaved Ragwort, the butterfly species that prefers the plant as a food source (in this case, Northern Metalmark) is rare and very localized and it is unlikely that there is a population near your garden.


Butterfly Nectar Value*Only weakly attractive to butterflies or only attractive for a very short time.
**Moderately attractive to many butterflies or very attractive to a few species.


NABA Garden/Ornamental Value RatingGarden value considers length of bloom period, adaptability to a wide range of settings, ease of growing and maintaining.