7 Butterfly Flowers Irresistible to Monarchs…and Hummingbirds!
Sweet Garden Treats that Bring Home the Butters
Some people believe that by creating a butterfly garden focused on monarchs, you’ll leave the other poor pollinators out in the cold…that couldn’t be further from the truth!
Here are 6 butterfly garden plants frequently visited by both monarchs and hummingbirds:
1. Zinnia Flowers
Zinnias add multi-bursts of color to your garden with their showy blooms. The taller varieties attract large butterflies including monarchs, and those hyper-winged hummers.
5 Big Zinnias for your Butterfly Garden
2. Agastache ‘Ava’
Originally, we added this to our northern garden as a hummingbird plant. It quickly became their favorite nectar plant, even outperforming the widely-known hummer fave black and blue salvia. Then, when the monarchs started to gather for their great fall migration, I was amazed to see they were also frequent fliers to this agastache hybrid!
Buy this for the hummers, but look for some late season visits from monarchs too.
3. Mexican Sunflowers
Possibly the best nectar flower for attracting both beauties to your garden doorstep. The brilliant orange flowers are tall beacons of light that the pollinators can’t miss. However, the dwarf varieties have not shown similar powers of attraction.
Discover More about Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican Sunflowers)
Get more bang from your asclepias selections. These 3 varieties are all monarchs host plants for caterpillars, and nectar plants for both monarch butterflies and hummingbirds…and lots of other pollinators!
(The same can’t be said for most other milkweeds.)
Get Info on Asclepias speciosa (Showy Milkweed)
Get Info on Asclepias curassavica (Tropical Milkweed)
Get Info on Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed)
If you’re concerned about hurting monarchs by growing tropical milkweed, there are simple precautions you can take in the few warm weather regions where this can be an issue. Click Here for More Info
5. Brazilian Verbena
One of biggest pollinator draws for North American gardens. These tall, purple flower spikes attract hummingbirds, monarchs, and a Noah’s Ark Boatload of other precious pollinators.
More info on Verbena bonariensis (Brazilian Verbena)
6. Dwarf Butterfly Bushes
We grow a dwarf butterfly bush variety that gets lots of monarch and hummingbird visitors, but most varieties are a huge draw for both.
If you live in a region where butterfly bush is considered invasive, try a non-invasive or sterile cultivar or look for an alternative butterfly plant.
The non-invasive buzz variety has been a huge draw to our northern butterfly garden, and it has never self seeded. It even survived the 10th coldest winter in Minnesota history!
Find More Info on Buddleja Buzz and other non-invasive butterfly bushes here
7. Callistemon spp. (bottlebrush)
This Australian native grows well in warm regions of the US attracting monarchs, other butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The brilliant red blooms are on continuous display from spring through fall. Callistemon species can grow to 10 feet, but smaller cultivars are available.
Buy Bottlebrush Plants and Seeds Here
…and while you may think that hummingbird feeders are just for the hummers, a bold monarch male at Valerie’s house might have to disagree:
Salvia coccinea and Passiflora incarnata gets visited by both hummingbirds and monarchs as well as native bees and other butterflies
Both are native to Central Florida. Salvia Amstead is also very busy as well.
Black and blue salva and cardial flowers. Both butterflies and hummingbirds love them.
I Live In Dallas. Mexican Torch Sunflowers Are Real Winners. All Types Of Butterflies Love These Flowers. Take FULL TEXAS SUN. Monarchs. Swallowtails Of Every Variety Love This Flower. U MUST DEADHEAD & U Will Be Rewarded W/ Blooms Til Frost.
Hi : I know really nothing about flowers or butterflies but would like to learn and start a butterfly/hummingbird flower area. Could you please advise what are best flowers for Saskatchewan (can go to minus 40 ) and can they be wintered. It’s a bit late but I would like to start some now and hopefully catch some fall butterflies.
Hi Margaret, check out the linked post below to get your garden growing in the right direction. It’s not too late for spring planting in your region and you can also fall plant seeds and/or plants:
Starting a Monarch Butterfly Garden
I have a bottlebrush planted in my back yard that have several hummingbirds visit every year and have several monarch butterflies that feed off of it!
I have several salvia greggi in my yard & the hummingbirds go back and forth between them. True the butterflies do love the plumbago.
How would you compare mexican sunflowers and mexican flame vines for hummingbirds and monarchs? I want one or the other but am not sure which. I was going to get MFV but this article is giving me second thoughts.
Also I am going to try overwintering the Verbena.
Hi Kris, if I had to choose one, I would go for the Mexican sunflowers. They get much more consistent activity in our northern garden.
I have a Calistemon citrinus tree (aka Bottlebrush)that both hummingbirds and monarchs and other species of butterflies love when it’s blooming. Also have lots of bumblebees visit it when it’s blooming..
I have a large lantana, the red/yellow/orange blooming one. Called ‘Miss Huff’, I think. It attracts both butterflies (primarily gulf fritillaries and Monarchs) and hummingbirds! I live just a little west of Houston and hummingbirds come through here on their way south. They are all over the lantana blooms. I have other lantana, but have never noticed hummers around the purple ones or the yellow/pink ones. Must be the red/yellow/orange blooming ones.
Happy New Year Tony and to all readers-
Here in SoCal, I’ve had great personal success with these nectar plants. Top ranked, besides buddleias and milkweeds:
Lantana camara = Skipper, swallowtail, and monarch butterfly magnet. Have had good results with the ‘Confetti’ variety.
Lantana montevidensis = Not so attractive as L. camara, but will entice swallowtails here.
Limonium perezii = Flowers all year. Strategic nectar source for overwintering butterflies. VERY drought tolerant. Flowers wonderful for dried flower arrangements.
Pentas lanceolata = CAUTION: look for heirloom varieties, as the newer compact varieties are worthless but for one exception that I’ve come across. ‘Butterfly’ series of Pentas retains the ability to produce copious amounts of nectar. One good online source for reputable Pentas is Almost Eden [http://almostedenplants.com/]. Pentas easy to propagate from softwood cuttings if you have access to someone’s heirloom plants.
Plumbago auriculata has always been a consistent butterfly attractor, especially for our little marine blues and gray hairstreaks. Swallowtails constantly visit plumbago when they are present. Marine blues (Leptotes marina) use plumbago as a host plant.
Scabiosas have been very successful at attracting butterflies, especially S. columbaria varieties.
Thank you for sharing all this information with the community…first hand reports like this are always helpful, especially to those in your growing region. Thanks again and Happy New Year!
I live in southern Ontario, Canada. Which would be the best plant to plant in my region? Thanks Truly. Daniel Hawley.
Hi Daniel, please refer to my Milkweed and Butterfly Plants pages for ideas. They list both native and perennial regions for each plant to give you an idea if it will grow well in your region:
Milkweed Resources Page
Butterfly Plants List
Every year my extensive red bee-balm attracts both hummingbirds and varieties of bees.
(Surprisingly, it also attracts cardinals, who seem to relish the mass of red flowers as if they’ve finally discovered a flock of red cardinals like themselves! They just sit & rest & stare contentedly at them!)
Thanks for sharing this hummingbird plant!
That is funny about the cardinals Pat…perhaps that’s why the goldfinches always pluck our yellow zinnias first??
Thanks for clarifying the aphid/egg issue – it looks like we didn’t wash away eggs. Meanwhile, we rescued the little caterpillar, as we found him on the outside surface of the half barrel planter – there would have been no place for him to “hang”. So we placed him back on the plant – he was attached to one of the leaves this evening. Does he need to hang from his top to make his next change or can he attach to a surface along the length of his body?
Thanks – we’ll check him again in the morning.
Hi Ellen, monarch caterpillars hang upside down from their hind ends like this:
Monarch Caterpillar about to form its Chrysalis
I have Lantana on the front porch, are butterflies & hummingbirds attracted to this? It grows well in the South with lots of heat and sunshine.
Hi Teresa, butterflies are big fans of lantana. I have not really seen hummingbirds on ours, but the hummers have been pretty scarce in Minnesota this season…
Tony – just found your site. We just bought a yellow blooming milkweed, especially for the monarch. We only had it a week – and my husband shot it with water, because he thought it was full of aphids (light green/yellow). The next day we noticed a pretty large caterpillar – and now we don’t know if we got rid of monarch eggs or aphids. How can you tell the difference? We have 1 caterpillar – so happy. It must have been there when we purchased the plant. The plant is in a half barrel container – the caterpillar is resting on the inner rising edge of the barrel. Has the caterpillar lost its way or does it intend to bind to the barrel side?
Hi Ellen, congrats on your caterpillar. It may be molting (shedding it’s skin) or perhaps looking for a place to make the big change to chrysalis
Here are some photos of aphids:
Aphid control on milkweed
Monarch eggs are typically laid singly on the undersides of milkweed leaves:
Monarch Egg Photos
The aphids move if you touch them and are numerous (20 or more) on a stem and are very close to each other, usually touching. The egg is stationary and only a few per plant, but usually just one or two to a stem.
Hi Tony, Last year we found a new plant for Monarchs that they cant resist. Its called Water Snowball Gymnocoronis spilanthoides . The Monarchs leave the Zinnia’s, Mex Sunflowers and Liatris and swarm this plant. You should give it a try.
Thanks for sharing this info…on my list for next season!
Have you heard anything about the lo and behold microchip butterfly bushes? I am wondering if they’re as attractive as the larger ones.
I’ve heard mixed reviews on them, but haven’t grown this variety myself. It wouldn’t hurt to try one and see!
A couple plants in my garden that haven’t been mentioned yet: Royal Catchfly (Silene regia) is irresistible to hummingbirds—probably because the plant is dependent upon humming birds for pollination. However, large butterflies like the monarchs can feed on them too.
Rough Blazing Star (Liatris aspera) is another plant on which I have seen both humming birds and monarchs feeding.
Thanks Steve for these suggestions. I sometimes forgot about rough blazing star because it’s the opening act for the meadow blazing star the hosts masses of monarchs before/during the migration. I will keep on eye on the aspera for hummingbirds.
Hi Tony. I always have a few of the Blue/Black Salvia and the hummingbirds LOVE that plant….
Hi Carol, a fantastic idea for attracting hummingbirds! We’ve taken a break from it the past couple seasons, but I just added it to the list for this season.
Here in N.E. Florida it was in 40’s yesterday and Sunday we will have 80! Lv it
I have found all salvia sage to be a very big favorite of both but espicially the hummers
Hi Mary, thank you for sharing your growing experience. I know that Salvia leucantha is a big hit down south. I tried growing some in our northern butterfly garden but it blooms too late to attract pollinators here.
P.S. glad to hear your temps are headed in the right direction!
Hi Tony, similar experience to all plants you listed, but also scarlet sage (common annual type available at by box stores) and pineapple sage also attract bummers and also – in my area – sulphurs.
Thanks for sharing Meredith. It’s great to get ideas/options from gardeners in warmer regions. I have tried growing pineapple sage here, but it bloomed too late to attract hummingbirds…beautiful foliage though!
I just bought my first heating mat so when my seeds come I’ll be all set
To start my tropical milkweed. I can’t wait, I’m so excited for this year…this winter has been so long !!!
I agree Helen! Good luck with your tropical milkweed seeds…
Sorry it is so cold where you are, we are in Arizona and I just discovered a Hummingbird nest in an Orange tree. I have just planted the Milkweed seed and will use it in a planter. I may add some Zinnia’s after reading your newsletter.
Hi bonnie, how exciting to have found a nest…they are so small! Good luck with your milkweed and zinnias…
What climate do you think this applies to? Im in Australia- Brisbane.
Hi Heather, I’m located in a cold weather region (in the US) where I grow most of these plants as annuals. Most of these plants are likely perennials for your region so they might even work better. I suggest talking to local gardeners and seeing what works for them. Good luck!
Buddleia Plant are lovely, fragrant and the butterflies and hummers love them. Mine have grown as tall as 5 ft. Easy to propagate and very beautiful in your garden.
Flutter on friends,
I agree Paula and thanks for posting! We have several of the buzz variety (which the hummers love) and have added ‘Miss Molly’ to the mix this season:
Butterfly Bush Plants
I don’t really know anything about butterflies, or flowers for that matter. But I love the photography and the idea of trying to attract more butterflies 🙂
Hi Louise, creating a butterfly garden is a challenging, rewarding, and awe-inspiring activity for those 7-77…and beyond! If you’re interested in starting your own check out my article on how to start a monarch butterfly garden.
if you like photography, butterfly photography is the ultimate challenge, but SO rewarding when you get a good shot. The digital photography blog had a great article about photographing butterflies. Be sure to check out some of the helpful comments at the bottom: 8 Tips for Photographing Butterflies