With summer just around the corner, we’re approaching the time of year when butterflies begin to visit our gardens to feed and help pollinate our plants. We’ve put together a list of some of our staff’s favourite plants that also happen to attract these beautiful insects to the garden.

Devin’s Pick: Trembling Aspen

Butterfly Plants London ON

We often plant brightly-coloured, nectar-rich plants to attract adult butterflies to our gardens, but it’s important not to forget that their young need a safe place to feed as well. Many beautiful butterflies common to Southern Ontario use aspens and poplars as a food source for their caterpillar offspring. These plants have beautiful, smooth bark as well as gold fall colour. They are vigorous enough to easily replace the foliage they lose to caterpillars, making them a fine choice for a garden that allows them space to grow.

Irene’s Pick: Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Butterfly Plants London ON

Many types of milkweed serve as the favourite fare of the larvae that eventually become Monarchs. Swamp Milkweed is a vigorously-growing plant that produces bright pink fragrant flower clusters in the early summer. It is deer-resistant and highly tolerant of moist or waterlogged sites (hence the name!), tolerating heavy clay soils where other plants may struggle. Remember, don’t be alarmed when caterpillars begin to devour your milkweed plant — those voracious critters are what will eventually become the beloved Monarchs you are waiting for!

Jenn’s Pick: Golden Mock-Orange

Butterfly Plants London ON

Most butterflies can perceive ultraviolet light, and the Mock-Orange (like many plants with white flowers) reflects ultraviolet light. Though completely and totally invisible to us, the reflected ultraviolet light acts as a secret beacon to nectar-hungry butterflies. How fascinating is that? The flowers of the Mock-Orange are highly fragrant, and this variety has golden foliage as well as a small mature size, making it an excellent ornamental in addition to being a butterfly magnet.

Paul’s Pick: Morning Glory

Butterfly Plants London ON

The vining and twining annual Morning Glory has a place in the butterfly garden, especially when mass-planted. It has showy flowers that butterflies can spot from afar, and the moderately large flower size affords butterflies a place to safely land and feed. Try to pick more fragrant varieties for best results, as the fragrance and colour are what help a butterfly decide which plants to visit. ‘Heavenly Blue’, the variety pictured above, is highly fragrant and quite floriferous, producing abundant sky-blue flowers.

Saraa’s Pick: Julia Coneflower

Butterfly Plants London ON

Coneflowers are one of the easiest plants to grow and care for, and are a popular food source for many adult butterflies. ‘Julia’ produces a plethora of very large, lightly fragrant deep tangerine flowerheads that gradually mature to a paler golden-orange tone. They are most effective when planted en masse in a bright environment – full sun is best. Beyond this need, coneflowers are exceedingly adaptable, tolerating moist and dry sites with ease. They demonstrate good drought tolerance once established.

Sarah’s Pick: Buzz Midnight Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Plants London ON

It should go without saying that a plant called ‘Butterfly Bush’ attracts butterflies, and certainly ‘Buzz Midnight’ is no exception. It produces a large display of dark purple fragrant flower clusters in the summer atop thick stems and silver-green foliage. Like most Butterfly Bush, is it a vigorous, fast grower that prefers full sun and good drainage, but doesn’t grow to as large a mature size as some other varieties. It tops out at around three or four feet tall.

If you’re looking for more tips on cultivating a successful butterfly garden, be sure to consult our Butterfly Garden Tip Sheet, which has a wealth of useful tips and tricks.