Butterfly Gardening
You can easily supply the things that butterflies like:
food, a sunny place with shelter from wind and rain.
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Buckeye Butterfly
There are butterflies you can attract to your garden, and there are butterflies that you will never see in your garden.  There are species of butterflies that do not feed at all, and there are many that do not feed at flowers. However, butterflies that do not feed at flowers still need to lay eggs - and if you don't cultivate any of their host plants, you stand no chance of attracting them to your garden. 

You can supply the things that the "friendly" butterflies like: food, a sunny place with shelter from wind, and water. If you're really hardcore, perhaps some rotting fruit or fresh dung, and host plants.

American Painted Lady - Borage, Burdock, Everlasting, Hollyhocks, Knapweed, Mallow, Sunflower, Wormwood

Variegated, Gulf Fritillary - Butterfly Bush
Great Spangled Fritillary - Violets, Pansy, Spear Thistle (Cirsium vulgare)  Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Black Swallowtail - Carrot, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, Queen Anne's Lace, Rue
Dwarf Yellow - Violets

Common Wood Nymph - Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) Ox-eye Daisy, Frost Aster

Cabbage White - New England Aster. Host plants:  Violets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Mustard, Nasturtium
Butterflies begin their life as an egg, laid either singly or in clusters depending on the species. A caterpillar emerges and, after consuming its egg shell, begins feeding on its host plant. Caterpillars must crawl out of their skin or molt, usually around five times, before changing into a pupa. Finally, an adult butterfly emerges, spreads its wings and flies away. This type of development is complete metamorphosis.

Butterfly gardens are a great source for your own enjoyment, photo opportunities, or an outlet for artistic talent. These gardens can also be extended to interest youth in nature, by providing a small window of native inhabitants of the local environment. On a final note, it's important to conserve butterflies when possible since their habitat is constantly diminishing due to the increasing needs and consequent development of roads and housing.

Like all insects, butterflies and moths are increasingly endangered by the spraying of pesticides.

Peck's Skipper
Peck's Skipper
Least Skipper
Least Skipper
Zabulon Skipper
Zabulon Skipper

Wild Indigo Duskywing
Wild Indigo Duskywing

Common butterflies and their food plants


Flight period

Caterpillar food

Common nectar plants, adult food

Black swallowtail April-SeptemberDill, parsley, fennel, carrot Butterfly weed, alfalfa, thistle
Checkered skipper April-OctoberMallow, hollyhockVerbena, dandelion, Canada thistle, aster
Checkered white April-NovemberTumble mustard Alfalfa, mustards, bee balm
Clouded sulfur April-NovemberAlfalfa, cloverAlfalfa, phlox, rabbitbrush, aster, marigold
Edwards fritillary June-SeptemberNuttall's violetRabbitbrush, gaillardia, bee balm
Cabbage White April-OctoberBroccoli, cabbage (mustard family)Many
Gorgone checkerspot May-SeptemberSunflowers White clover, dandelion, Canada thistle
Gray hairstreak May-OctoberMany Many
Hackberry butterfly May-SeptemberHackberryRotting fruit, sap flows
Monarch June-OctoberMilkweedCosmos, Canada thistle, rabbitbrush, etc.
Mourning cloak February-November Willow, aspen, cottonwood, elmRabbitbrush, milkweed, sap
Orange sulfur April-OctoberAlfalfa, vetch, peaAlfalfa, marigold, zinnia
Painted Lady April-OctoberThistle, hollyhock, sunflowerGrape hyacinth, cosmos, zinnia, alfalfa, many flowers
Silver-spotted skipper May-JulyWild licorice, locust, etc.Lilac, dogbane, zinnia, sweet pea, Canada thistle
Two-tailed swallowtail April-AugustGreen ash, chokecherryGeranium, thistle, milkweed
Variegated fritillary April-OctoberVarious, including pansyRabbitbrush, Canada thistle
Eastern tiger swallowtailMay-JulyWillow, cottonwood, chokecherryZinnia, lilac, butterfly bush, thistle, milkweed
Black Swallowtail Butterfly
Black Swallowtail
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
Tiger Swallowtail, black female
Tiger Swallowtail, black
Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly
Pipevine Swallowtail
If you intersperse groups of both wild and cultivated plants, as well as bloom times (time of day as well as year), you will bring the greatest numbers and variety of butterfly visitors. Large plantings of the same plants will be easier for butterflies to see than singly planted flowers.

Some varieties of flowers which are easy to find and grow in Illinois, and will be attractive to many types of butterflies include: Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, Day lilies, Goldenrod, Hibiscus, Lavender, Lilac, Marigold, Butterfly Bush, Ox-eye Daisies, Phlox, Pink Azalea, Purple Coneflower, Redbud, Rosemary, Verbena.

PlantColorHeightBloom time
Buddleiablue, pink, whiteshrubmidsummer-fall
Lilaclavender, white, pinkshrubspring
Vaccinium spp.white, pinklow shrubsspring-early summer
Red Admiral Butterfly
Red Admiral
Mourning Cloak Butterfly
Mourning Cloak
Pearl Crescent Butterfly
Pearl Crescent
Julia Longwing Butterfly
Julia Longwing
Cultivated Annuals
PlantColorHeightBloom time
Alyssumviolet, white4 inchessummer-fall
Candytuftwhite, pink8-10 inchesspring-summer
Cosmoswhite, lilac, red, yellow1-3 feetlate summer
Gaillardiamulticolor24 inchessummer-fall
Impatiensmulticolor6-18 inchessummer-fall
Marigoldyellow, orange6-24 inchessummer-fall
Mignonettered12-18 inchessummer-fall
Scabiosablue, rose, white18-36 inchessummer-fall
Verbenamulticolor8-10 inchesmidsummer-fall
Zinniasmulticolor12-24 inchessummer-fall
Clouded Sulphur Butterfly
Clouded Sulphur
Orange Sulphur Butterfly
Orange Sulphur
Dwarf Yellow or Dainty Sulphur Butterfly
Dwarf Yellow, Dainty Sulphur
Wild Perennials
PlantColorHeightBloom time
Bonesetwhite36-60 incheslate summer
Black-Eyed Susanyellow12-18 incheslate summer
Blazing Starpurpleup to 18 inchessummer
Dandelionyellow4-12 inchesspring-fall
Dogbanepink to whiteshrubearly summer
Goldenrodyellow12-48 incheslate summer
Joe-Pye-Weedlavender36-60 incheslate summer
Milkweedslavender, orange24-48 inchessummer
New England Asterpurple24-60 incheslate summer
Thistlepink, purple24-48 inchessummer
Wild Bergamotpink, lavender24-36 inchessummer
Yarrowwhite12-36 inchesearly summer
Tree Encyclopedia / North American Insects & Spiders is dedicated to providing scientific and educational resources for our users through use of large images and macro photographs of flora and fauna.
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Order Lepidoptera, which contains both butterflies and moths, includes at least 125,000 known species including 12,000 in North America. Butterflies are revered for their brightly colored wings and pleasing association with fair weather and flowers.
Learn to identify many of the American Midwest's common species through descriptions and large diagnostic photos of live, wild specimens.
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