Best Butterfly Shrubs No Buddleias Allowed

bananasinohio(6OH)October 13, 2012


We were discussing hydrangeas in the earlier thread when it occurred to me that we have not had a whole thread on good shrubs for butterflies other than butterfly bush (Buddleia). Fall is a good time to put in woodies :D, and the big boxes have great dollar sales right now.

So, list your favorite butterfly and moth shrubs. List why as well. Tell us anything about it, color, length of bloom, attractive to a particular species, etc. Remember no Butterfly Bushes (Buddleia).

1. Spicebush - Because it attracts and hosts the spicebush swallowtail and promethea moths. I actually like the small green blooms early in spring it has. I love the red berries in fall. I love crushing the leaves and berries and letting the kids smell them. You can eat the berries too. I have had paw paw jam flavored with the berries.

2. Blue mist shrub (Caryopteris)- beautiful purple/blue blooms at the end of summer loved by pollinators. Easy to grow hardy shrub. Blooming long after a lot of things are done.

3. Possumhaw viburnum - I don't have one yet and am seriously coveting a 'Winterthur' cultivar. It is listed as a host for lots of moths including Cecropia, Azalea and Hummingbird sphinx moths, as well as Eastern tailed blues. And how can you not like a name like "Possumhaw"?

I have lots of others but I will leave them to you to list.

Have fun,


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Larval host plants:

Baptisa australis and B. australis var. minor (Wild Indigo Duskywing)
Hibiscus coccineus (Gray Hairsteak)Ri
Amorpha fruticosa (Gray Hairstreak, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Dogface Sulphur, Hoary Edge Skipper)


Itea virginica and cultivars, 'Henry's Garnet', 'Little Henry'
Ribes odoraatum (Flowering Currant--very early nectar)
Cephalanthus occidentalis (Buttonbush)

Just a few that I have personally grown.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 8:33PM
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Moth shrub: Hollywood juniper. When spraying water on this in the summer, the underwing moths come flushing out to find a dryer roosting spot.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2012 at 11:07PM
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Susan, I love the Amorpha too! One of the locations I conduct surveys put in a bunch and I am waiting to see what shows up. So far a Silver Spotted Skipper

Larry Gene, I didn't know that about the Hollywood Juniper. I am going to have to add that to my wish list.

Keep them coming!


    Bookmark   October 14, 2012 at 10:35AM
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    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 7:39PM
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The best "shrub" or small tree here in my yard is native.

1) Mexican Plum-host plant for Tiger Swallowtails & best nectar for early flying BFs in spring! I've seen RAs, PLs, ALs, Monarchs, TSTs, GSTs, Buckeyes, Gray Hairstreaks, etc. by the droves!

2)Texas Kidneywood (Eysenhardtia texana)-good early fall nectar plant & host for Southern Dogface (Colias cesonia)
3)Argentine Senna (Senna corymbosa)
Host plant for Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)
Orange Barred Sulphur (Phoebis philea)
Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)

4) Frostweed-great late summer early fall nectar plant(not really a "shrub") as well as host plant for
Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)
Silvery Checkerspot (Chlosyne nycteis)
Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta)

5) Buttonbush-first year to have bloom & lots of BFs nectared on it

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 12:37PM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

I love the picture of those red admirals on the white flowers, Lila!

1. Ptelea trifoliata/wafer ash/hops tree. In my area, this is a large shrub. Giant swallowtails lay eggs on mine every year, and I also find tiger swallowtail eggs/cats on it from time to time.

2. Ruta graveolens/rue. In my area, this is a small shrub, and we all know how both giant and black swallowtails lay their eggs on it. Being small, it fits into areas where a large shrub might not.

3. Buttonbush. This is a very large, colonizing shrub here, and the flowers are SO attractive to all butterflies and bees! It's supposed to host various moths, but I've never found a caterpillar on mine.

4. Lantana. This large shrub is unsurpassed in attracting butterflies to its flowers. There are some varieties that aren't large.

5. Coral porterweed. I would have to describe this as a shrub in my area. Butterflies just LOVE the blooms - this plant is in the verbena family, like lantana, so this is obviously a plant family that produces flowers with lots of nectar!

6. Lindera benzoin/spicebush. If I can keep mine alive, they should make great shrubs. Spicebush swallowtails have already used them, even though they were very small.


    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:25PM
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KC Clark - Zone 2012-6a OH

I planted a New Jersey tea bush this year. It is a hostplant for some butterfly I want but I cannot find my paper with my notes. I've also read that it is a good nectar shrub for butterflies.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2012 at 7:21PM
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terryr(z5a IL)

Ceanothus americanus (new jersey tea), is host to Spring and Summer Azure, Peck's Skipper and a few others that I don't know because they aren't in my area :D

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 5:30PM
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Great photos! I love the native plums too.

Miss Sherry;
I knew you would post about a buttonbush. So, I left it off for you.

You will have to let me know how your New Jersey tea works out. I planted one a few years back and it never made it. My soil was probably too full of clay.

Great posts!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 8:44PM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

I almost gave up on Ceanothus americanus, but I persisted. I don't remember how many I planted before one made it, but now it is several years old and looking great. It gets nibbled on, but I've never found any caterpillars. I found a blue cultivar--not native to US--called Marie Bleu and planted it next to the NJ tea. It is very beautiful in the spring with blue flowers. Both are thriving and worth the struggle to get them going. If I were to do it again, I would plant several of the NJ Teas to have a mass planting. They are not a large shrub. Love that the leaves were used as a replacement for tea by the colonists!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 10:33AM
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misssherry(Z8/9SE MS)

Hmmm.....New Jersey tea sounds like a plant I'd like to try sometime.

Elisabeth, I should have mentioned Brazilian button as a favorite butterfly shrub. It's what I would call a sprawling, low growing shrub, and its flowers are very popular with butterflies, especially the gulf and variegated frits.


    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 8:30PM
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Don't forget Lilacs that the butterflies, especially the Tiger Swallowtails.


    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 8:48AM
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butterflymomok(7a NE OK)

And azaleas and rhododendrums in the springtime.

    Bookmark   November 4, 2012 at 9:15AM
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Here is one of the best late nectar sources in my yard besides my Golden Crownbeard...
Eupatorium havanense or Ageratina havanensis
I have had more varieties of BFs on it than any other plant in my yard right now! I even saw 2 Buckeyes for the first time today since this spring! So far I've had Queens, Monarchs, RAs, PLs, ALs, Pearl Crescents, lots of different kinds of skippers, & now Buckeyes!
Take care,

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 12:42AM
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Fantastic Lila! I need to get some seed of this. Is it perennial or annual. I have Coniclinum coelsistinum (sp), with the bluish purple flowers and the butterflies like it, too. Agreed that Golden Crownbeard is very popular as well right now.


    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 7:16AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)


The kind of Rosemary that blooms.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 12:26PM
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I will hopefully have seeds to share this year & will be happy to. This is the second season I've had the plant that I bought at the Texas Discovery Gardens plant sale. I'm in 7b but what I've seen is it's listed to Zone 8 but it has survived for me. I also have Gregg's Blue Mistflower & have seeds for Chromolaena odorata. Gregg's attracts a lot of monarchs & queens but not all the other BFs I've seen on my White Mistflower!
A few weeks ago I had a lot of BFs nectaring on Frostweed as well!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 3:55PM
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