Butterfly Gardening

A landscape full of butterflies is both exhilarating and calming. To attract a variety of butterflies to your garden, you need to plant both larval and nectar plants favored by each kind of butterfly. Nectar plants feed the butterflies that come to your garden, which encourages them to stay and lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch into caterpillars, they munch on the larval plants you have provided. Be aware that larval plants can look a little ragged as they sustain the caterpillars and prepare them for the chrysalis stage, so don’t despair. And don’t kill the caterpillars if you want to get the butterflies. Here are the favored nectar and larval plants for several butterflies common in the Tallahassee area: 

James Laurie /


Zebra Longwing: The Florida state butterfly is fond of lantana, Spanish needles and verbena as nectar plants. Plant them in part-shade to attract this particular butterfly. Plant larval plants, including passion vines, in part-shade, too.


Leena Robinson / 


Gulf Fritillary: These butterflies are attracted to the same nectar plants as the Zebra Longwing  — including lantana, verbena, zinnia and buddleia (butterfly bush) — but the plants need to be in full sun for this butterfly. Larval plants are also the same as those preferred by the Zebra Longwing — particularly passion vines — but again, they must be planted in full sun.


Mircea C  / 

Swallowtail butterflies: There are many varieties of Swallowtail butterflies, including the Black Swallowtail, Yellow Swallowtail and Tiger Swallowtail. They are attracted to purple coneflowers, roses, zinnias, lantana, dill and fennel for nectar. Larval plants to feed the caterpillars include spicebush, hop tree and fennel.


Peter Waters / 

Monarch: These majestic migrating butterflies pass through the Tallahassee area each year, feasting on various types of butterfly milkweed (Asclepias), both as a nectar plant and a larval plant.


Butterflies also need water, preferably in a sheltered place for protection from birds seeking a snack. Instead of an open container of water such as you set out for birds, fill a plant saucer with fine sand and soak it with water. A small rock or large pebble provides a landing spot.

Your Monthly Garden Chores


  • Prune spring-blooming shrubs such as azaleas and gardenias. Pruning after the Fourth of July could remove next year’s flower buds.
  • Give citrus its second dose of fertilizer for the year.
  • Plant heat-loving herbs such as basil, oregano and Texas tarragon, also known as Mexican mint. French tarragon can’t take our muggy summers.
  • Finish planting summer-blooming bulbs.



  • As temperatures rise, raise the level of your lawnmower to avoid “scalping” your grass by cutting it too short.
  • Water only if you get less than 1 inch of rain a week, and water slowly and deeply for a longer period of time — 45 minutes to an hour. Watering for shorter periods doesn't soak the roots and encourages thatch to form.
  • Continue planting warm-weather vegetables, such as eggplant, peppers and squash, to extend the harvest.
  • Mulch garden and shrubbery beds to keep soil temperatures lower and retain moisture.

©2017 PostScript Publishing LLC, all rights reserved. Audrey Post is a certified Advanced Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Florida/IFAS Extension in Leon County. Email her at Questions@MsGrowItAll.com or visit her website at msgrowitall.com. Ms. Grow-It-All® is a registered trademark of PostScript Publishing.

Categories: Gardening