It is hard to beat Joe Pye and its cousins Boneset and Throughwort as a butterfly magnets.

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Plants for Viewing Butterflies

These plants will bring the butterflies into your yard. The next list, Plants for raising caterpillars, will get the butterflies to stay in your yard.

  • Aster (Aster ericoides & others), perennial
  • Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida Goldsturm), perennial
  • Blanket Flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora), perennial
  • Blue Cardinal Flower (Lobelia siliphitica), perennial
  • Coreopsis (Coreopsis rosea, Coreopsis verticillata), perennial
  • Garden Phlox (Phlox paniculata), perennial
  • Hardy Ageratum (Conoclinium/Eupatorium coelestinum), perennial
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum & others), perennial
  • New York Ironweed (Vernonia novaeboracensis), perennial
  • Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius and H. salicifolius), perennial
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), perennial
  • Sumersweet Clethra (Clethra alnifolia), shrub
  • Zinnia Profusion series, annual


Several common butterflies prefer rotted fruit, honeydew and bird droppings to nectar. Some of these can be attracted by locating a feeder with rotted bananas or other overripe fruit in a sunny area or watching your compost pile.


Additional images

A Gray Hairstreak on wild Aster

A Clouded Sulphur on Black-eyed Susan

A female Tiger Swallowtail on the Blue Cardinal Flower


Monarch and Tiger Swallowtails on Joe Pye Weed. I have

observed 13 species of butterflies nectaring on this plant.


A male Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on Garden Phlox

A Monarch on Hardy Ageratum


New York Ironweed -this is a tall plant, reaching 5 to 7

feet where happy.

A Red Admiral butterfly on Purple Coneflower. I have

observed a dozen species of butterflies on this flower.

Summersweet Clethra has a sweet fragrance and attracts

a variety of pollinators in addition to butterflies.

A Buckeye on Zinnia Profusion Orange, grown from seed


A Red-Spotted Purple enjoying a melon rind on my compost