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24 Beneficial Herbs that Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Herbs that attract butterflies are a great way to bring beauty to your yard and pollinators to your garden. By planting these herbs, you provide a place for brightly colored butterflies to feed and lay their eggs. They will help pollinate your vegetables and flowers and increase the biodiversity of your garden. These herbs are easy to grow, so anyone can enjoy their beauty in their garden.

You can choose to have a separate herb garden or add these plants to your existing vegetable or butterfly garden. Planting herbs in the vicinity of your vegetables will encourage more pollinators to your garden so they can pollinate your vegetable flowers.

Some advantages of planting these herbs in the garden to attract more butterflies are:

  • The butterflies will help pollinate the vegetables and flowers, making them produce better.
  • Herbs can also be used in your kitchen
  • It is a great way to increase the biodiversity of your garden.
  • These herbs are easy to grow, so anyone can enjoy their beauty.

Planting herbs that are nectar and host plants for butterflies will bring you many benefits including. They will attract other beneficial insects such as bees and ladybeetles and provide additional food for your own family.

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Herbs that Attract Butterflies | The Not so Modern Housewife

What is a host plant?

A butterfly host plant is a plant that provides food and shelter for butterfly caterpillars. Butterflies will lay their eggs on the host plants for their species so the plants can be a food source for the caterpillars when they hatch. Host plants will provide food for the caterpillars until they turn into butterflies.

Some common host plants for butterflies are:

  • Aster
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Marigold
  • Milkweed
  • Parsley

Some of these host plants, like aster and cilantro, also attract adult butterflies. They will feed on the nectar from the flowers, which will help pollinate your garden. By planting a variety of host plants, you can attract different types of butterflies to your garden.

Butterfly caterpillars are voracious eaters, so it is always a good idea to plant more host plants than you think you will need. Any herbs not eaten by the caterpillars can be dried for use in your kitchen year-round.

You can easily buy herb seeds online and grow a continuous supply of herbs for your butterfly garden.

newly emerged black swallowtail butterfly - Herbs that Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Butterflies Native to North America

You have likely seen a wide variety of butterflies in your backyard. Knowing and planting the host plants for your local butterflies will encourage them to come back to your garden every season. Here are some common butterflies and their host plants:

  • Anise Swallowtail – Anise, Fennel, Dill, Parsley, and Rue
  • Black Swallowtail – Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Parsley, and Celery
  • Gray Hairstreak – Marshmallow, Mint, and Clover
  • Monarch – Milkweeds
  • Painted Lady – Calendula, Hollyhock, Mallow, Sunflower and Thistles
  • Orange Sulfur – Alfalfa, White Clover, Milk Vetch, and Crown Vetch
  • Zebra Longwing – Maypop (Passiflora incarnata), Yellow Passion Flower (Passiflora lutea), Corky-Stemmed Passion Flower (Passiflora suberosa)

This is just a small sampling of the butterflies native to North America. Contact your local county extension office to learn more about your local butterflies and native host and nectar plants.

Gulf fritillary butterflies on wild bidens alba - Herbs that Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

What are some other ways to attract butterflies?

In addition to planting host plants, there are a few other things you can do to attract bees and butterflies to your garden.

Provide a water source: Butterflies need water to drink, so put out a shallow dish filled with water. You can also add a few rocks to the dish so the butterflies can perch on them.

Avoid using pesticides: Pesticides will kill both the caterpillars and adult butterflies. If you want to attract butterflies, you need to avoid using these chemicals in your garden.

Plant native plants: Native plants are more likely to attract local butterflies. To find out which plants are native to your area, you can check with your local nursery or extension office.

Leave the weeds: Some weeds, like dandelions, are actually important nectar sources for butterflies. So don’t be too quick to pull them out of your garden.

By following these tips, you can create a butterfly-friendly garden that will provide food and shelter for these beautiful insects.

swallowtail caterpillar on parsley - Herbs that Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Herbs to Attract Butterflies

Herbs that are attractive to butterflies as nectar plants are a great way to bring these beautiful pollinators into your garden. These fragrant herbs produce nectar that is a valuable food source for adult butterflies. These herbs are easy to grow, so anyone can enjoy their beauty in their garden.

Some of the best herbs to plant in your garden to attract butterflies are:

  • Anise
  • Basil
  • Bee balm
  • Catnip
  • Cilantro
  • Common sage
  • Dill
  • Dogbane
  • Echinacea
  • Fennel
  • Fleabane
  • Garlic chives
  • Hops
  • Lavender
  • Marshmallow
  • Mint
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rue
  • Stinging nettle
  • Tansy
  • Thyme
  • Valerian
  • Yarrow

These herbs are attractive to butterflies because they like to feed on their nectar. Herbs typically have tiny flowers, but those flowers contain a lot of nectar and are easy for the butterflies to feed from.

Some of these herbs double as host plants, so that butterfly caterpillars can eat the leaves. Planting a variety of these herbs in your garden will create a haven for butterflies.

Queen caterpillars on milkweed plant - Herbs that Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Why plant herbs that are attractive to butterflies

While flowers usually get all of the credit for encouraging butterflies, herbs are often overlooked for their value in the butterfly garden. Herbs not only double as host and nectar plants, but they also serve a valuable role in the kitchen as they are used to flavor cuisines from all over the world.

The fragrant herbs create an ecosystem that is attractive to a variety of beneficial insects, while also discouraging many garden pests. Certain herbs can also be companion planted with vegetables to encourage growth, health, and flavor in the vegetable plants.

The bees and butterflies that are drawn to the herbs will help pollinate garden vegetables and flowers, making them produce better. Many issues with garden production have more to do with a lack of pollinators than a lack of nutrients.

The real question should be why you aren’t planting more herbs in your garden.

How to Plant an Herb Garden for Butterflies

Most garden herbs that attract bees and butterflies are grown as annuals, although some can be grown as perennials, especially in warmer climates. If you are growing any perennial herbs such as rosemary or lavender, it is important to plan around them since their location will not change from year to year.

The vast majority of herbs prefer full sun, although there are some such as mint and cilantro that are happier in full to partial shade. You can use taller herbs to help shade more tender plants.

Many gardeners utilize the design of an herb spiral to allow for the various growing conditionals of all of their herbs.

An herb spiral allows for well-drained soil because of its elevated design, while the spiral shape is utilized to group together herbs with similar growing conditions.

If you are low on space, you can also build an herb garden kit from containers to attract butterflies to your garden.

It is important that herbs grown for butterflies are not sprayed with pesticides since many of these are also harmful to butterfly caterpillars. By having a separate herb or butterfly garden, you can easily avoid spraying these host plants while also treating your vegetables.


Herbs are a great addition to any garden as they not only attract butterflies, but also serve a variety of other purposes. By planting fragrant herbs that double as host and nectar plants, you can create an ecosystem in your garden that is attractive to butterflies. Some herbs also have medicinal or culinary value, making them a valuable addition to your garden.

So there you have it, a list of 24 herbs that will attract butterflies to your garden. By planting these herbs, you can create a haven for these beautiful creatures while also enjoying the benefits that they bring to your garden. Do you have any favorite herbs that you like to grow in your butterfly garden? Let us know in the comments.

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