Nectar for Butterflies

I imagine that butterflies have enthralled us since the beginning. Some ancient cultures believed that butterflies were souls, particularly female souls, on their journey to their next life. Other cultures thought of them as changelings, sacred twins, or creatures that exemplified the holy trinity of birth, death, and rebirth. No matter what you believe we have always had a cultivated sense of spirit about butterflies.

Sadly the great pollinators, butterflies, moths, lacewings, and hummingbirds, are imperiled too due to climate change. They are migratory, hardwired to arrive at specific locations when specific species are in bloom. With global warming comes earlier and earlier flowers. By the time these creatures arrive the flowers are already gone; many perish from starvation. But we can help by maintaining a collection of nectar-rich flowers in our gardens and I can assure you that butterflies, moths, lacewings, and hummingbirds will find them.

Several species are also plants of choice for depositing egg cases. Milkweed (Asclepias) is thought to be the only species on which Monarch butterflies leave their eggs. I am not by any means a butterfly expert but I have noticed enormous caterpillars that were yellow, black and lime green hidden in the rue (Ruta graveolens). They ate very little, were superbly camouflaged, and eventually did their thing and moved on. I think they might have been Emperors; we have a wonderful showing of them in northern New Mexico. But truthfully I don’t know and maybe one of you does. Regardless, I found them somewhat thrilling to watch and it would be a sad, sad day if they disappeared.

The following list includes some of the nectar rich species for which butterflies, moths, lacewings, and hummingbirds have an appetite.


Aster (Aster)

False Indigo (Baptisia)

Bergamot (Monarda)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia)

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Day Lily (Hemerocallis)

Goldenrod (Solidago)

Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

Lilac (Syringa)

Lupine (Lupinus)

Mallow (Malva)

Milkweed (Asclepias)

Mint (Mentha)

Violet (Viola)

Phlox (Phlox)

Privet (Ligustrum)

Coneflower (Echinacea)

Rock Cress (Arabis)

Sage (Salvia spp)

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum)

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum)

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia)

Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis)

Anise Hyssop (Agastache)

Lily (Lilium spp)


Hollyhock (Alcea)

Sage (Salvia spp)


Floss Flower (Ageratum houstonianum)

Phlox (Phlox)

Rock Cress (Arabis)

Sage (Salvia spp)

Chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum)

Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia)

Zinnia (Zinnia)

***Please note that many families of plants have diverse members where representatives can be found in all three classifications: perennial, biennial, and annual.

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Responses to “Nectar for Butterflies”

  1. It is true that the butterfly population is declining as the years pass by. This is not just because of global warming. Global warming is said to be a natural phenomenon that we cannot control. I think the reason behind this is due to man’s activities such as building commercial buildings, roads, and factories. However, we still have time to propagate flowers and increase the population of the butterfly community. This needs discipline and determination. Hope more people will realize this and make the initiative to preserve these beautiful creatures.

    David Wofford

    Click here for butterfly flowers

    • Absolutely. Habitat destruction is destroying our Earth and everything that exists within its embrace. I think that the issue about global warming, while thought a natural occurance, is the exceleration prompted by our disregard for the obvious. If more protracted, creatures would have a better shot at adaptation. That isn’t happening and species are succumbing all over this planet because of these things and others such as over-harvesting and toxins. Each and every one of us can help by creating bio diverse gardens even if the only space available to do so is a small deck or balcony. ..hence this blog, designed to introduce people who lack the experience to something that is quite easy to accomplish. Thank you for your terrific comment.