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  • Writer's pictureKanning Kathy

Gardens for Butterflies

Gardens are so important. Not only do they provide peaceful respites in which we can relax and admire nature but with the correct native plants, can be a safe haven for local pollinators. Most people want to do right by our pollinators. They understand their importance. But sometimes small missteps like planting the wrong type of plants for our region can create large issues. So today I want to focus on how we can make the most of our gardens, no matter the size.

*I am going to focus on the Northern California region when I talk about specific native plants. I will include different regions in future posts.

NATIVE PLANTS FOR BUTTERFLIES You can enjoy these gorgeous fluttering insects while also providing them a place to feed and reproduce. This is a vital garden project in areas where urban and suburban sprawl are moving into natural areas, diminishing habitats for butterflies. But the good news is you can help them!

California Native Plants that Attract Butterflies by Providing Nectar or serve as host plants

Aristolochia (pipevine): Provides Larval food plant for Pipevine Swallowtail (riparian species) plant needs trellis or fence to grow on.

Senecio, Solidago, Eriophyllum: Most daisies, asters & sunflowers provide excellent food sources

Erigeron and Chrysothamnus: of larval food for Hairstreaks, Blues, & Coppers.

Bleeding Heart: Nectar for Parnassians, Fritillaries & Swallowtails. larval food plant for Parnassians.

Bleeding Heart Fritillaries

Cluster Lilies (Brodiaea spp. ): Nectar plant for Large Marble and others.

Buckeye: Excellent nectar source for many species.

Buckwheat: Food plant for various Blues.

California Lilac (Ceanothus sp.): Hairstreaks use for nectar and it serves as a food plant. Pale Swallowtails & Hairstreaks use for larval food.


Clover: Food plant for Sulfur, Blue, dusky-wings.

Coffeeberry: Great nectar plant for Coppers, food plant for Pale Swallowtails.

Pale Swallowtail

Coyote Bush: One of at least 100 food plants of Painted Ladies.

Painted Lady

Eriodictyon (Yerba Santa): Nectar plant for Hairstreaks, Skippers & others.

Lupines: Food for Blues, Hairstreaks & others


Milkweeds: A prime nectar plant and larval food plant for Monarchs; nectar plant for Sylvan Hairstreaks.

Penstemon: Food plant for Checkerspots, Buckeyes and others.

Sidalcea/Malva: Food plants for West Coast Ladies.

*Information gathered from Sacramento and Santa Clara Chapters of California Native Plant Society and from materials by James Mori and Greg Kareofelas. Compiled by the Education Committee of the Sierra Foothills Chapter. 2006.




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