July 2009
Home Grown Tomatoes

More Plants For the Lepidoptera

Caterpillars on Achillea


Last month I called your attention to the plant, Dutchman’s pipe or Aristolochia, and the butterfly, Pipevine swallowtail or Battus. I promised to offer you some ideas for other plants to attract butterflies to your garden as well.

Butterflies love flowers, but to attract a lot of them, you should start by planting some plants the butterflies lay eggs on and the caterpillars eat. Plant some herbs! You may already have some herbs planted that I will suggest here. Be sure to plant some extras for the caterpillars!

Dill, parsley and fennel are very common plants to host swallowtail larvae. Grow parsnips, carrots, celery, anise, cilantro, caraway, lovage and a host of other plants from the Apiaceae family to attract the butterfly females. Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) is another attractive herb/wildflower in the family Apiaceae favored by certain types of skippers, swallowtails, metalmarks and checkers.

Viburnums, spiraeas, dogwood trees, hollyhocks, cosmos and common milkweed are other good host plants to grow as butterfly food.

Once you have planted the herbs mentioned and the caterpillars have started to munch on the leaves and stems, let the plants grow to maturity. As the larvae devour the foliage on the herbs, the plants will consider this as a good pruning and should bounce back with vigor. Let the herbs bolt (go to seed) and the seeds drop for another crop.

Don’t forget the flowers for the adult butterflies and moths. Butterfly bush, butterfly weed, asters, Joe Pye weed, coreopsis and coneflowers are all favorites of the butterflies.

Standards in the garden, like marigolds, hydrangeas and, my favorite, zinnias complete a list of common flowers that not only attract the colorful pollinators, but make great cut flowers as well.

Don’t worry about planting the seeds so late this summer. Certain plants won’t emerge until next spring, but others will come up right away. Although the Apiaceae like carrots, parsnips and celery won’t produce a root or stalk big enough for you to eat this year, they will make forage for the caterpillars now.


Next month we’ll take a look at begonia propagation. E-mail me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you need further information on flowers for your butterfly garden.

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