Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.





Florida Nature: Native Butterfly Attracting Plants
Who doesn't want to see beautiful butterflies visiting their Florida garden? Planning a butterfly garden in your yard helps attract a wide variety of butterflies found in Florida nature. Creating a butterfly garden means choosing plants that are high in nectar and plants in colors of red and purple that butterflies find irresistible.

Plant larval foods. Many caterpillars, which metamorphose into butterflies, require require specific host plants for food. By selecting particular species, you can provide the basic habitat requirements for specific species that you'd like to see as adults. Since highly preferred hosts may be unattractive or eaten until they have few leaves, plan an out-of-the-way place for these hosts. You might also want to provide host plants for some of the more attractive moths.

Plant species with nectar needed by adults. Butterflies are attracted by sweet, pungent, and acrid, smelling flowers that are orange, yellow, pink, purple and red. Plants with deep throated, drooping or enclosed flowers are unsuitable for nectar-gathering. Some of these, especially white flowers that are fragrant at night, may attract moths.

Avoid pesticide use. Especially avoid use of Bacillus thuringensis, broad-spectrum insecticides, and any insecticide that is broadcast broadly in the environment. Browse through our alphabetical list of native Florida plants that will encourage butterflies into your garden, and find the perfect choices for your Florida butterfly garden! Plants that have an asterisk beside their name are especially high in nectar.

butterfly attracting blue ageratum in Floridian natureAgeratum (Eupatorium spp. )*- Ageratum plants are covered with clusters of small, fuzzy flowers. Most types are mounding plants six to ten inches tall and wide, but there are taller types. Plants bloom from spring planting until frost in fall. There are approximately 43 species in the genus Ageratum. Ageratum is derived from the Greek "a geras," meaning non-aging, referring to the longevity of the flowers. These annual or perennial herbs and shrubs in the plant family Compositae (Asteraceae) are all native to Central and South America. The flowers on this tender annual come mostly in shades of blue, but can be pink, lavender or white. Ageratum is one of the few annuals with a truly blue flower. The soft fuzzy flowers are dainty and feathery, often delightfully fragrant, and usually completely cover the plants. Each flower cluster consists of five to 15 tubular florets. The species grows to a height of over two feet and reseeds itself liberally. The varieties offered by nurseries and garden centers are almost all hybrids that are more compact and better behaved. Ageratum grows in neat mounds, flowering from late spring through fall, and is one of the more dependable flowering annuals. The oval to heart shaped leaves grow up to 2" long.



beautiful blazing star attracts butterflies in it's native FloridaBlazing star (Liatris spp. )- Fine grass-like, bright green leaves arise from a basal tuft which becomes longer in summer, giving rise to 18 to 28 inch tall spikes of fragrant, fringed, mauve-purple or white flowers, which begin in midsummer and continues until fall. Flowers open from the top of the stalk down. A native to eastern and central United States, the blazing star is a native plant in most open areas of North America east of the Mississippi; Canada to Florida and Mexico. These plants do well in poor soil, and withstand heat, cold and even drought. Blazing stars also make a wonderful cut flower, lending strong vertical accent to any arrangement. The blazing star is a perennial, and returns each spring from same roots, forming expanding clump. Blazing Star blooms the second spring from seed. This valued perennial takes some time. From seed, it is quite easy, as long as its native conditions of gritty, loose soil is there. If soil is heavy, it will take longer, since a bulbous root must develop.

native Floridian butterfly attractor blue porterweed flowerBlue porterweed  (Stachytarpheta spp. )*- The genus Stachytarpheta is comprised of 65 species of annual herbs or low, perennial shrubs, and are highly regarded as butterfly attractors. In the tropical Americas, they attract hummingbirds as well. It is for this very reason why many species have found their way into cultivation in tropical and warm temperate regions of the world. Throughout the Caribbean, and in Florida, these plants are commonly called porterweeds in reference to the medicinal properties bestowed upon them. A foaming, porter-like brew, much like beer, is made from at least one species in the Bahamas. This concoction is used as a drink for fever, for "the cooling of the blood," as a wash for skin irritations, to relieve constipation and for worms in children. Whether it works or not is open to conjecture. Other local names include "snakeweed," "rat's tail" and "vervain." The generic name is taken from the Greek stachys, meaning "spike," and tarphys, meaning "thick," referring to the thickened flower spike typical of the genus.
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