5 Climbing Plants for Vertical Butterfly Gardens

Attract Butterflies to your
Fences, Arbors, and Trellises

Climbing plants are a great way to enhance your butterfly garden. They create more space, add ambience, and can be attention-grabbers for all sorts of butterflies. Vertical gardening requires more prep work, but the results can be spectacular.

Since trellises and arbors add space, think of these garden structures as bonus opportunities for attracting other pollinators…butterfly vines can also add more beauty and fragrance to your surroundings.

Some of your options are host plants for caterpillars, which could potentially leave an arbor or trellis naked by seasons end. If this is an issue, try a nectar vine option instead.

If you are new to vertical gardening and find yourself arborless/trellisless, you’ll want to find a suitable option to place in your yard or garden. You have plenty of good options to choose from:

Click Here for High Quality Garden Trellises

Click Here for an Assortment of Beautiful Garden Arbors

Don't leave your Garden Trellis Naked and Afraid- Check out 5 Climbing Plant Ideas that will Cover your Trellis in Vines...and Butterflies!
Please Cover Me with Vines and Butterflies!

Your first two options are host plants for pipevine swallowtails. Many of the non-native species of this plant that are poisonous to the caterpillars so make sure you’re purchasing one of the non-toxic varieties listed below:

1. Aristolochia durior or macrophylla (Dutchman’s pipe)

5 Butterfly Vines for a Vertical Garden- Aristolochia durior or macrophylla is a climbing, heart-leafed host plant for pipevine swallowtails.
The Dutchman & The Beanstalk

This species of pipe can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 4a-8b. The heart shaped green foliage fills trellises and arbors growing up to 20 feet high and 15 feet wide.

Find Dutchman’s Pipe on Amazon

Find Aristolochia Durior on eBay

2. Aristolochia tomentosa (wooly pipevine)

The spring blooming flowers of Aristolochia Tomentosa are strangely shaped like small pipes. This native climbing vine is a host plant for pipevine swallowtails and is commonly called Dutchman's Pipe.
Dutchman’s Pipe

This species of pipe can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 5a-8b. This native vine blooms profusely each spring and offers up lots of succulent leaves for the pipevine caterpillars. This climbing giant can get up to 30 feet high.

Find Woolly Pipevine on eBay

Find Aristolochia Tomentosa on Etsy

8 Aristolochia Varieties for Pipevine Caterpillars

3. Passiflora incarnata Passion Flower

Passiflora incarnata 'maypop' is the hardiest of passion flowers
Make Your Trellis mayPOP
The Maypop Passion Vine grows vigorously even in northern climates and offers an abundance of purple and white blooms- Climbing Vine Ideas for Butterfly Gardens

This hardy passionflower vine is hardy to zone 5a…I would mulch well in colder zones to insure survival. This plant can potentially be invasive if not kept in check. In zone 5a, we overwinter our plant indoors by a south facing window.  It is a vigorous grower, even in our northern garden.

note:  this passionflower is a host plant for both Gulf and Variegated fritillary butterflies, Julia, and Zebra Longwing

Find Passionflower on amazon

Find Passionflower on eBay

4. Pseudogynoxus chenopodioides (Mexican flame vine)

Mexican flame vine is one of the BEST climbing plants for attracting monarchs, swallowtails, and more- 5 Butterfly Vine Ideas for your Garden

This is probably the nectar butterfly vine for attracting monarchs. It can only be grown as a perennial in USDA hardiness zones 9-11, but it can be overwintered in colder regions. This climbing flower attracts monarchs, queens, sulphurs, and gulf frits. It blooms the entire summer.

Find Mexican Flame Vine on Amazon

Find Mexican Flame Vine on eBay

More Mexican Flame Vine Photos and Info

5. Cynanchum laeve (honeyvine milkweed)

This native milkweed vine can be grown in hardiness zones 4a-9b. It’s also the only vine that has been regularly reported as a monarch host plant. That being said, many have reported it to be highly invasive. I haven’t personally grown this, but would suggest trying it in a pot, and cutting off all seed pods before they burst open in fall.

Find Honeyvine Milkweed Here

There are milkweed varieties that are better options if you prefer less invasive butterfly plants.

Check out our resources page for more climbing plants supplies.

Read comments below for more butterfly climbing plants ideas and don’t forget to GROW UP this season!
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  1. If a native plant is a vigorous grower, it is aggressive not invasive. Invasive plants are nonnative plants that will take over an ecosystem.

    1. agree to disagree…invasive is a plant behavior that describes growth habit that negatively impacts your yard and/or garden. Arguing over semantics is confusing to gardeners looking for plants that don’t spread aggressively. After being lead astray, this can end up steering them away from some native plants they could have successfully added to their garden landscape with better guidance.

    1. Hi Nikki, click links 3a and 3b in the post for some options for purhcasing maypop plants or seeds

  2. Hello again Tony,
    I have been busy making plans for my waystation this upcoming spring and have decided to cover the lattice and rails of my tall deck with a climbing vine that will provide nectar for Monarchs. I really like the look of Clematis vines, specifically Clematis Niobe because its size is perfect for the area I have and I like the deep red colors of its flowers.
    I have been doing research on Clematis vines for a few weeks now and have been finding conflicting information about them as nectar plants. Most sites say that Clematis Niobe attracts butterflies and hummingbirds but I have read some sites say that Clematis vines only produce pollen and do not produce nectar.
    My main question is: Do you know if clematis vines are a successful monarch nectaring plant?
    Any help is always appreciated and once again keep up the great work!

  3. I am curious about the safety of acquiring Honeyvine Milkweed roots from an orange grove. They are sprayed with pesticides, so I wouldn’t use the existing vine, but wonder if starting from just the roots would be safe. They grow like crazy in the orange groves and are quite invasive. I am in Zone 9b. I also have a great source for buying safe tropical milkweed, but it gets rather expensive. I just started this adventure in rearing Monarchs in early Dec., and just released number 24! Thanks for any advice.

  4. I have this “weed” I frustratedly pull up all year from my front landscaping, it survived after we had weed blocker laid down and a lot a lot of gravel dumped on top of that. After having twins I neglected to pull it frequently enough and it started to grow up the stair railing and has just really really spread long story short … as we are coming home from a butterfly festival my 9 year old declares oh look mom that’s a pipe vine and those are butterfly eggs I just learned about. She is beyond excited and checked it everyday and sure enough we now have about 5-10 monarch caterpillars (I think). Ok so, finally my question. My daughter is over the Moon and wants to keep it but I need to move it. The bees and other bugs it attracts to our front door (literally it started trying to grow inside the door frame) are just not ok so I plan on growing it else where in the yard. Is it best to plant in the fall or spring?? Should I harvest and plant seeds or transplant tree vine inself?? How do I go about completely removing it from its current location??
    My 9 year old really wants to start a butterfly garden so I am slowly trying to educate myself on the topic ?? your website has been very helpful. ?? thank you!

    1. To add I live in Mid – Missouri and I am clueless but google tells me this vine is a honeysuckle milk weed…

  5. Hello,
    Thanks in advance for any advice you can give me on my passion flower. I have a very large plant that is healthy and rambling over my porch railing. It even has fruit. Now the bad news. I have at least 10 Assassin bugs on it. They are orange bodied, black leg insects. I know they will eat the gulf fritillary caterpillars. I live in Coastal South Carolina and have plenty of anoles on my porch. Will the anoles eat the assassin bugs? Should I attempt to move them to my vegetable garden? I just welcomed my first fritillary the other day and grow this host plant specifically for it and I don’t want it to be the buffet table for the assassins. Thanks again.
    Happy Gardening!

    1. Hi Lorraine, lizards eat caterpillars too. There are so many potential predators it’s too hard to keep up. My best advice is to plant a variety of host plants in different areas of your yard and garden so some go undetected by predators. Raising a few indoors can boost butterfly numbers too…good luck!

  6. The honeyvine milkweeds I grew from seeds last year are continuing to send up strong new shoots farther and farther away from the original plants. So it spreads aggressively underground. Keep that in mind if you plant it in your garden; just keeping the pods picked off might not be enough to control it.

    I’m going to dig up one of the plants that’s coming up in my neighbors lawn and put it in a pot to see how they do in containers.

  7. The honeyvines that I planted from seeds last year have come back (yay!) and apparently they run underground like common milkweed because they are coming up almost a foot away from where the two original plants were. Those two plants are now a dozen, and more are still coming up. The new shoots are strong and vigorous; not at all like the first year seedlings (although by the end of the season those covered a small chain link fence) The flowers attracted all kinds of pollinators, and I found a few monarch eggs on the leaves but not many, but there were other native milkweeds nearby.

    I’m going to dig up a few shoots and see how they do in pots. I collected seeds last year but never got around to planting them to see if they were viable.

  8. Hi again Tony,

    I finally found the perfect trellis for my Cynanchum Laeve seedlings and I got most of them planted today. I have one question that I might loose sleep over, and that is concerning the taproot. I’m aware Cynanchum Laeve has a taproot and I made sure not to damage it while planting. What is worrying me is that I think I left the plant in the pot for a little too long, and the taproot started growing sideways after hitting the bottom about 2 inches out, but didn’t hit the edge of the pot. Do you think that, even though I planted the seedling with its taproot growing out, the plant will survive? Can the root re-orientate itself to grow downwards? I planted it in the loose and sandy Florida soil and gave it plenty of water.

    Thank you for any help. I want to maximize the growth of these vines so I can feed many caterpillars.


    1. I don’t know how C. Laeve will do in Florida, but the plants don’t seem to like being transplanted. But that just meant mine grew slowly for a month before they took off like the weeds that they are. The taproot will find its way down, don’t worry about that.

      BTW, the blooms smell like honeysuckle. It’s not real strong, but it’s nice.

  9. Farmers are always striving to increase their production and try to reduce product cost of each cycle, plant training is important to achieve both goals, as a good trellising system increases crops and reduce cost

    1. I bought seeds for it off eBay. The seedlings were very slow getting established when I set them out, but one of them has really taken off just in the past couple of weeks. I think they don’t like being transplanted. That one vine will probably cover the fence by the end of summer even the others don’t do much. (they are starting to perk up too) And the Monarchs have found it. 🙂

      I cold-stratified the seeds by putting them in a wet paper towel in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator for one month. They had very good germination when I planted them. The same with swamp milkweed seeds. Seeds that I soaked in water for a week in the fridge had terrible germination. HTH

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