Butterfly Plants for Austin

Select Butterfly Plants for Adults and Caterpillars

Natives like Gregg's Mistflower are a great butterfly plant

Natives like Gregg’s Mistflower are a great butterfly plant

Nectar and larval (caterpillar) food are both important considerations to selecting butterfly plants for your garden. Luckily, many plants, like fennel and dill, are utilized for the entire life cycle of a butterfly. Trees and shrubs also play a role in the butterfly life cycle, and are often overlooked in the butterfly garden. Native butterflies often seek out specific native plants to lay their eggs. A great resource on this is available from the AgriLife bookstore: Native Host Plants for Texas Butterflies.

Plants for Extended Season

Adult butterflies are attracted to many flowering plants as nectar sources, and aren’t particular whether it be native or not. The most important consideration is to create a landscape that has a succession of flowering plants that provide nectar all season. Herbs, annual flowers, and even bolting plants in the vegetable garden can all be nectar sources.  Weeds can play a part too if you need an excuse not to be a tidy gardener.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar on Fennel

Fennel is a food source for both the adult swallowtail butterfly and its caterpillar.

While we always encourage you to landscape with native and adapted plants, having areas of annual flowers that attract pollinators can bring extra enjoyment to your gardening endeavors. With the right plants, small gardens on balconies, roof tops, or patios can also be utilized to attract butterflies. For these gardens, the only limiting factors are sun and whether they are too far away from the vertical flight path.

To help you decide what to plant in your garden, Travis County Master Gardener Daphne Jeffers has developed this guide of caterpillar hosts and nectar sources by bloom season.


Nectar Source:  flowers that adult butterflies land on to get their food

Caterpillar Host: leaves eaten by butterfly caterpillars to grow

Spring Blooming Plants: March – May

Plant Common Name Plant Scientific Name Source Type Specific Butterfly
Dill Anethum graveolens Caterpillar Host Black Swallowtail
Dutchman’s pipe Aristilochia Caterpillar Host Pipevine and Palamedes Swallowtails
Black Dalea Dalea frutescens Nectar Source All
Fennel Foeniculum vulgare Caterpillar Host Black Swallowtail
Indian Blanket Flower Gaillardia pulchella Caterpillar Host
Nectar Source for all butterflies
Bordered Patch
Agarita Mahonia trifoliolata Nectar Source All
Mexican Plum Prunus mexicana Nectar Source All
Escarpment Black Cherry Prunus serotina var. eximia Caterpillar Host Banded Hairstreak, Spring Azure, Eastern & Two-tailed Tiger Swallowtails, Viceroy, Red-spotted Purple
Wafer Ash Ptelea trifoliata Caterpillar Host Eastern Tiger, Two-tailed Tiger, Giant, and Thoas Swallowtails
Tropical Sage Salvia coccinea Caterpillar Host Painted Lady
Big Red Sage Salvia pentstemonoides Nectar Source All
Lindheimer senna Senna lindheimeri Caterpillar Host Orange, Yellow Angled, Mexican Yellow, Sleepy Orange, and Cloudless Sulphurs
Verbena ‘Blue Princess’ and Prairie Verbena Verbena X hybrida ‘Blue Princess’ and Glandularia bipinnatifida Nectar Source All

Summer through Fall Blooming Plants: June – November

Passion Vine growing at the Earth-Kind Demonstration Garden

Passion Vine is a native host plant that is utilized by the Gulf Fritillary butterfly.

Plant Common Name Plant Scientific Name Source Type Specific Butterfly
Flame Acanthus Anisacanthus wrightii Caterpillar Host
Nectar Source for all butterflies
Crimson Patch


Milkweed Asclepias spp. Caterpillar Host
Nectar Source for all butterflies
Monarch and Queen
Butterfly Bush ‘Black Knight’ or ‘Sunfold’ Buddleia davidii Nectar Source All
Gregg’s Mistflower Conoclinium greggii Nectar Source All
Coneflower Echinacea spp. Nectar Source All
Passion Flower Vine Passiflora sp. Caterpillar Host
Nectar Source for all butterflies
Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Heliconian
Pentas (red flowers) Pentas lanceolata Nectar Source All
Blue Plumbago Plumbago auriculata Nectar Source All
Yellow Stonecrop Sedum nuttallianum Caterpillar Host
Nectar Source for all butterflies
Gray Hairstreak, Common Buckeye, Variegated Fritillary
Goldenrod Solidago altissima Nectar Source All, especially Monarch
Mexican Sunflower Tithonia rotundifolia Nectar Source All
Zinnia Zinnia spp. Nectar Source All

Winter Blooming Plants: December – February

Plant Common Name Plant Scientific Name Source Type Specific Butterfly
White Mist Flower Eupatorium wrightii (Ageratina wrightii) Nectar Source All
Rosemary Salvia rosmarinus Nectar Source All
Rue Ruta graveolens Nectar Source All

Additional Resources

Colorful Annual Flowers and Foliage for Austin
Butterfly Gardening
Bee-friendly Plants
Seasonal Color Care and Management
Wildflowers in Bloom – resource collection from Dr. Jerry Parsons and Dan Lineberger
All-America Selections
Ornamental Plants Resource Hub

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