Special Closure

Due to the 58th Presidential Inauguration, the U.S. Botanic Garden will be closed January 18-21, 2017. We will reopen at 10 a.m. on January 22.

Butterflies in the Garden

Of the many creatures at home in the garden, few can match the grace and beauty of butterflies. They are important pollinators and a delight to see in any garden.

A garden that includes plants for the entire life cycle will attract a variety of native butterflies. Butterfly larvae need host plants for food and as a place to pupate, while adult butterflies require nectar sources for food and plants for egg-laying.

Tips for Planting a Butterfly Garden

  • Place your garden in a sunny place and provide rocks for butterflies to bask in the sun. Butterflies are sun-lovers and cannot fly until the sun's warmth heats their bodies.
  • Group plants together to create a mass of color.
  • Plant shrubs and trees nearby to offer a hiding place from predators and to shelter butterflies from the wind.
  • Provide moisture. Butterflies extract water and minerals from damp soil.
  • Avoid pesticides. They kill butterflies and their caterpillars.

To attract a diversity of butterflies and other pollinators in your garden, select a variety of plants with different floral colors, shapes, sizes and bloom times. The following plants are native to the Mid-Atlantic region and are listed based on their benefit for the different butterfly stages.

Caterpillar Host Plants Plants for Nectar Sources
Trees Shrubs
* Salix caroliniana (willow) * Symphyotrichum spp., Eurybia spp., etc. (aster species)
* Asimina triloba (pawpaw) * Coreopsis verticillata (whorled tickseed)
* Betula nigra (river birch) * Echinacea spp. (coneflower)
* Carpinus caroliniana (American hornbeam) * Eupatorium fistulosum (Joe Pye weed)
* Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) * Gaillardia x grandiflora (blanket flower)
* Cornus florida (dogwood) * Gaura lindheimeri (Lindheimer's beeblossom)
* Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar) * Heliopsis helianthoides (smooth oxeye)
* Ptelea trifoliata (common hop-tree) * Hibiscus moscheutos (rose-mallow)
* Sassafras albidum (sassafras) * Nepeta x faassenii (giant catmint)
* Quercus velutina (black oak) * Oenothera spp. (evening primrose)
Shrubs * Phlox carolina (thickleaf phlox)
* Lindera benzoin (spicebush) * Phlox paniculata (fall phlox)
* Rhus spp. (sumac) * Parthenium integrifolium (American feverfew)
* Viburnum dentatum * Rudbeckia fulgida (Black-eyed Susan)
Herbaceous Perennials * Sedum spp.
* Antennaria plantaginifolia (pussy toes)
* Symphyotrichum spp., Eurybia spp., etc. (aster species)
* Asclepias incarnata (swamp milkweed)
* Chelone glabra, C. lyonii (turtlehead)
* Penstemon digitalis (talus slope penstemon)
Grasses
* Panicum virgatum (switchgrass)