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List of Butterfly Garden Flowers & Plants for the Southwest

Southwestern Region: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico


This butterfly garden resource provides a complete list of butterflies found in the Southwestern United States, along with their preferred nectar flowers and the host plants they look for to lay eggs that the butterfly caterpillars can feed on. For advice on starting a butterfly garden, see our guide, How to Make a Butterfly Garden.

In the Southwest, what plants you grow can depend heavily on where you live. The varied topography of the Southwest, from the Rocky Mountains in Colorado to the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, creates a wide variety of plant and butterfly species. Summers are usually hot and dry while many places see snow in the winter. Native plants are more adaptable and tolerant of the temperature extremes within the Southwest. It's best to visit your local nursery and ask which plants work best for your specific location.  Here are a few tips for butterfly gardening:

Above is a list of nectar and host plants that will grow well in the Southwest. Most butterflies eat nectar from flowers, though some eat sap, dung, and other things. This list features some of the most popular plants frequented by butterflies.
PhotoButterflyNectar PlantsHost Plants
Brush-footed Butterflies (Family Nymphalidae)

Photo: Linda Tanner
California Sister (Adelpha bredowii)butterfly bush and overripe fruitoaks, especially gambel oak

Photo: Matthieu Gavain
Red- spotted Purple (Limenitis arthemis)butterfly bush, lantana, and milkweedbirches, aspen tree, and willow

Photo: Piccolo Namek
Viceroy (Limenitis archippus)aster, butterfly bush, and milkweedaspen tree and willow

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Weidemeyer's Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyerii)sap, snowberry, tree sap, and carrionwillow, aspen, cottonwood, ocean spray, and shadbush 

Photo: Pondhawk
Empress Leilia (Asterocampa leilia)sap, dung, and occasionally flower nectarhackberry and tree Celtis pallida in the elm family 

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife
Hackberry Emperor (Asterocampa celtis)sap, rotting fruit, dung, carrion, and will take moisture at wet spots along roads and streamshackberry and sugarberry

Photo: Sturm Ken
Aphrodite Fritillary (Speyeria aphrodite)milkweed and viper's buglossviolets

Photo: Noca2plus
Coronis Fritillary (Speyeria coronis)unkownviolets

Photo: Calibas
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)blazing stars, butterfly bush, hibiscus, lantana, zinnia, and salviapassionvines and passion flowers

Photo: Anne Toal
Mexican Fritillary (Euptoieta hegesia)lantana, stachytarpheta, and turnerapassionvines, morning glories, and turnera

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia)goldenrodviolets

Photo: Bill Bouton
Nokomis Fritillary (Speyeria nokomis)thistlesviola nephrophylla

Photo: Carol Delse
Northwestern Fritillary (Speyeria hesperis)gaillardia, rabbitbrush, purple mints, and shrub cinquefoilviolets

Photo: Bill Rhodes
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)butterfly bush and milkweedpassion flowers, woodland stonecrop, and violet

Photo: Arpingstone
Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charithonius)lantana and shepherd's needlepassionvine

Photo: Brian Wood
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)butterfly bush, blazing stars, milkweed, lantana, salvia, blood flower, and coreopsismilkweed and blood flower

Photo: Cary Bass
Queen (Danaus gilippus)climbing milkweed, butterfly bush, lantana, zinnia, and blood flowermilkweed and blood flower

Photo: Bruce Marlin
American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)aster, black-eyed Susan, flowering dogwood, dogbane, and goldenrodhackberry and sugarberry

Photo: Ken Thomas
American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis)aster, milkweed, marigold, verbena, Joe-Pye weed, goldenrod, and dogbaneeverlastings, daisy family, mallow, ironweed, sunflower

Photo: Anne Toal
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)aster, coreopsis, swamp milkweed, and verbenasnapdragon, verbena, ruellia, swamp verbena, and plantain family

Photo: Paul Opler
Dotted Checkerspot (Poladryas minuta)nectar from flowers including yellow compositesbeardtongues  in the figwort family

Photo: Jose Reynaldo de Fonseca
Bordered Patch (Chlosyne lacinia)flower nectarsunflowers, ragweed, crownbeard, and cockleburs 

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Arctic Fritillary (Boloria chariclea)goldenrods and astersviolets, scrub willows, and possibly blueberry

Photo: Sacramento Fish and Wildlife
Callippe Fritillary (Speyeria callippe)impatiens, passion vine, and hibiscusviolets

Photo: Alan Vernon
Edwards' Fritillary (Speyeria edwardsii)flower nectarviolets

Photo: Didier Descouens
Freija Fritillary (Boloria freija)flower nectardwarf bilberry and other plants in the heath family 

Photo: Liz West
Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele)black-eyed Susan, milkweed, blood flower, passion flowers,and  tall verbenaviolets

Photo: James K Lindsey
Silver-bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene)goldenrod, black-eyed Susansviolets

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene)unknownviolets

Photo: Hans Hilliewaert
Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchellus)flower nectarasters

Photo: Colorado State University
Fulvia Checkerspot (Chlosyne fulvia)flower nectarpaintbrush

Photo: Didier Descouens
Green Comma (Polygonia faunus)dung and carrionsmall pussy willow, black birch, alder, western azalea, and gooseberry

Photo: Voker Vaeth
Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa)overripe fruit, tree sap, milkweed, dogbane, butterfly biush, and zinniaelm, aspen, hackberry, birch, and willow

Photo: S Rae
Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)dogbane, fleabane, and white cloverasters

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Northern Crescent (Phyciodes cocyta)dogbane, fleabane, and white cloverasters

Photo: Bill Bouton
Painted Crescent (Phyciodes picta)flower nectarfield bindweed, aster, and hairy tubetongue

Photo: Kabir Bakie
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)aster, blazing stars, butterfly bush, buttonbush, milkweed, verbena, and zinniahollyhock, shasta daisy, sunflower, and mallow

Photo: unknown
Pale Crescent (Phyciodes pallida)flower nectarthistles

Photo: Benny Mazur
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)aster, swamp milkweed, verbena, and zinniaaster

Photo: Anne Toal
Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon)lippia and composites including shepherd's needledogfruit and mat grass in the verbena family

Photo: Derek Ramsey
Question Mark (Polygonia interrogationis)when rotting fruit, tree sap, dung, and carrion are unavailable do Question Marks visit flowers such as common milkweed, aster, and sweet pepperbushAmerican elm, red elm, hackberry, Japanese hop, nettles, and false nettle

Photo: Luc Viatour
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)aster, butterfly bush, milkweed, and shasta daisyfalse nettle

Photo: Tall Timbers
Texas Crescent (Phyciodes texana)flower nectarhoneysuckle, twinseed, and low plants of the acanthus family: ruellia, jacobina, beloperone, and siphonoglossa

Photo: David Bygott
Tiny Checkerspot (Dymasia dymas)unknownplants in Acanthus family

Photo: Walter Siegmund
California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)flower nectarbuckbrush and wild lilacs

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Edith's Checkerspot (Euphydryas editha)flower nectarpaintbrush, beardtongues, lousewort, owl's clover, Chinese houses, and plantain

Photo: Colorado State University
Gorgone Checkerspot (Chlosyne gorgone)nectar, especially from yellow flowerssunflower and crosswort

Photo: USDA Agricultural Research
Gray Comma (Polygonia progne)sapgooseberries and azalea 

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)sweet everlastingcurrants, gooseberries, western azalea, and mock azalea

Photo: Bill Bouton
Leanira Checkerspot (Thessalia leanira)flower nectarIndian paintbrush

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Milbert's Tortoiseshell (Aglais milberti)lilac, goldenrod, and thistlefalse nettle

Photo: Ingrid Taylar
Northern Checkerspot (Chlosyne palla)flower nectargoldenrod, rabbitbrush, and asters

Photo: Bill Bouton
Painted Crescent (Phyciodes picta)flower nectarfield bindweed, aster, and hairy tubetongue

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Variable Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona)flower nectarbesseya, penstemon, Indian paintbrush, snowberry, honeysuckle, and plants from several other families including boraginaceae and rosaceae

Photo: Terry Spivey
West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella)aster, yarrow, and goldenrodhollyhock, mallow, false nettle

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala)rotting fruit and flower nectarpurpletop and other grasses

Photo: David Bygott
Red Satyr (Megisto rubricata)unkownBermuda grass and St. Augustine grass
Parnassians and Swallowtail Butterflies (Papilionidae)

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Rocky Mountain Parnassian (Parnassius smintheus)sedum and asteraceae familystonecrop

Photo: Calibas
Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)zinnia, aster, and butterfly bushdill, fennel, parsley, and Queen Anne's lace

Photo: Mongo
Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes)butterfly bush, milkweed, red clover, and thistledill, fennel, parsley, and rue

Photo: Mongo
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)red Mexican bird of paradise,  lantana, azalea, bougainvilla, bouncing Bet, dame's rocket, goldenrod, Japanese honeysuckle, and swamp milkweedtrees and herbs of the citrus family: prickly ash, hop tree, and common rue

Photo: Steve L Martin
Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra)red Mexican bird of paradise, flower nectararomatic herbs of the parsley family growing among rocks

Photo: Alves Gaspar
Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)red Mexican bird of paradise, flower nectarrarely plants in the parsley family and sagebrushes: Arctic wormwood and wild tarragon

Photo: Kaldari
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)red Mexican bird of paradise, butterfly bush, lantana, swamp milkweed, mexican sunflowers, verbena, and petuniapipevine

Photo: Jim Conrad
Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon)red Mexican bird of paradise, California buckeye, yerba santa, and wallflowerwild cherry, wild plum, coffee berry, ash

Photo: Jay Williams
Two- tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)red Mexican bird of paradise, lilac, swamp milkweed, and thistlevelvet ash, chokecherry, common hoptree, and flowering ash

Photo: Brocken Inaglory
Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)red Mexican bird of paradise, lavender, zinniaflowering ash, aspen tree, willow
Whites and Sulphur Butterflies (Family Pieridae)

Photo: Stephen Patrick
Cabbage White (Pieris rapae)scarlet monkeyflower, impatiens, passion vine, lavender, verbena, aster, cosmos, and oreganomustard (cabbage) family, nasturtium, spider flower

Photo: Bob Peterson
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)red Mexican bird of paradise, and flower nectarsenna, cassia, and desert senna

Photo: Anne Toal
Dainty Sulphur (Nathalis iole)red Mexican bird of paradise, common dogweed, Labrador tea, asters, wild marigold, and rabbitbrushdaisy family, dogweed, and low-growing plants in the aster family: shepherd's needle, sneezeweed, fetid marigoldd, and cultivated marigold

Photo: Anne Toal
Large Orange Sulphur (Phoebis agarithe)lantana, shepherd's needle, bougainvilla, rose periwinkle, turk's cap, and hibiscusfeather tree, and pithecellobium and inga species in the pea family

Photo: Megan McCarty
Mexican Yellow (Eurema mexicana)flower nectaracacia and diphysa, especially fern acacia

Photo: Megan McCarty
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)aster, common milkweed, and goldenrodalfalfa, clovers, related legumes, and white clover

Photo: Megan McCarty
Southern Dogface (Zerene cesonia)alfalfa, coreopsis, houstonia, and verbena.small-leaved plants in the pea family: alfalfa; prairie clovers, indigo, and clover
Gossamer-wing Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae)

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides)trailing lantana and sweet bushdocks, sorrels, and knotweeds

Photo: Clinton & Charles Robertson
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)sweet bush, trailing lantana, milkweed, blood flower, goldenrod, and Queen Anne's lacelegumes, hibiscus, hollyhock, passion flowers, and mallow

Photo: Anne Toal
Great Purple Hairstreak (Atlides halesus)sweet bush, trailing lantana, desert broom, goldenrod, Hercules club, shepherd's needle, sweet pepperbush, and wild plummistletoes

Photo: Megan McCarty
Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus)sweet bush, trailing lantana, winter cress, dogbane, common milkweed, wild carrot, shepherd's needle, butterflyweed, and white sweet cloverjunipers, especially alligator juniper

Photo: David Bygott
Leda Hairstreak (Ministrymon leda)sweet bush, mesquite, trailing lantana, and seepwillowmesquites

Photo: Gary Jue
Boisduval's Yellow (Eurema boisduvalliana)scruffy prairie clover, buckwheat, false indigo, and white sweet cloversenna and cassia species in the pea family 

Photo: Anne Toal
Caeraunus Blue (Hemiargus isola)scruffy prairie clover, buckwheat, false indigo, and white sweet cloveracacias, kidneywood, and baja fairy duster

Photo: Bill Bouton
Greenish Blue (Plebejius saepiolus) scruffy prairie clover, buckwheat, clovers, and falseindigoclovers, especially alsike

Photo: Anne Toal
Marine Blue (Leptotes marina)scruffy prairie clover, buckwheat, false indigo, and white sweet cloverbaja fairy duster, kidneywood, false indigo, members of the pea family, leadwort, alfalfa, milkvetch, and mesquite

Photo: Anne Toal
Reakirt's Blue (Hemiargus isola)buckwheat, white clover, and false indigopea family

Photo: Michael Rosenberg
Sleepy Orange (Abaeis nicippe)scruffy prairie clover, cassia, wild indigo, and white sweet cloversennas and shepherd's needle

Photo: Katja Schulz
Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon)scruffy prairie clover, buckwheat, dogbane, privet, blackberry, false indigo, common milkweed, and white sweet cloverwoody shrubs and occasionally herbs: dogwood, New Jersey tea, meadowsweet, and collinsia

Photo: Forest & Kim Starr
Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)scruffy prairie clover, buckwheat, false indigo, and white sweet cloverpigweed, saltbush species, and others in the goosefoot family
(Family Riodinidae)

Photo: Anne Toal
Fatal Metalmark (Calephelis nemesis)flower nectarseepwillow and sometimes virgin's bower

Photo: Megan McCarty
Palmer's Metalmark (Apodemia palmeri)flower nectarmesquites

Photo: Svdmolen
Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) eriogonum, buckwheat, and yellow-flowered composites: senecio and rabbitbrushbuckwheat
Skippers Butterflies (Family Hesperiidae)

Photo: Systasea Zampa
Arizona Powdered-Skipper (Systasea zampa)French marigoldmallows

Photo: Brocken Inaglory
Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis)white-flowered composites: shepherd's needles, fleabane, and asters; also French marigold, oregano, sedum "autumn joy," red clover, knapweed, and beggar's ticksglobemallows, mallow, hollyhock, alkali mallows, velvet-leaf, and poppy mallow, and beggar's ticks 

Photo: David Bygott
Erichson's White Skipper (Heliopyrgus domicella)French marigoldmallows

Photo: Northern Prairie Wildlife
Small Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus scriptura)French marigoldalkali mallow, scarlet globemallow, and desert globemallow

Photo: Stonebird
Northern White Skipper (Heliopetes ericetorum)French marigoldunknown

Photo: Vitaly Charny
Golden-banded Skipper (Autochton cellus)French marigold, trailing arbutus, blackberry, abelia, and hollyhocklegumes, New Mexico locust, and hog peanut

Photo: Bill Bouton
Violet-clouded Skipper (Lerodea arabus)French marigold, bidens, and lantanaBermuda grass and green spangletop 

Photo: Eugene Zelenko
"White" Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis albescens)French marigoldmallows

Photo: Aaron Gunnar
Northern Cloudywing (Thorybes pylades)nectar from blue, purple, pink, or white flowers including dogbane, selfheal, crown vetch, Japanese honeysuckle, thistles, common milkweed, Deptford pink, and hoary vervainlegumes, and plants in the pea family: beggar's ticks, bush clover, clover, and lotus 

Photo: Pbedell
Golden-headed scallopwing (Staphylus ceos)unknownpigweeds and Fremont's goosefoot 

Photo: Kretyen
Funereal Duskywing (Erynnis funeralis)deerweed and California buckwheatdeerweed, legumes: New Mexican locust, bur clover, desert ironwood, and vetch

Photo: Bill Bouton
Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius)flower nectarlupine, golden banner, lotus, and other legumes

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Mexican Cloudywing (Thorybes mexicana)flower nectarclover, wild pea, and vetch

Photo: Northern Prairie Wildlife
Mohave Sootywing (Hesperopsis libya)flower nectarshadscale

Photo: Lymantria
Afranius Duskywing (Erynnis afranius)flower nectarlegumes: deerweed, lupine, and milkvetch

Photo: Anne Toal
Common Sootywing (Pholisora catullus)ogbane, marjoram, oxalis, white clover, common milkweed, peppermint, cucumber, and melonlambsquarters, amaranths, and cockscomb 

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus)lueberry, wild strawberry, blackberry, Labrador tea, dogbane, New Jersey tea, winter cress, purple vetch, and lupinewillows, poplars, aspens, and occasionally birch

Photo: Bill Bouton
Persius Duskywing (Erynnis persius)flower nectarlupine, golden banner, lotus, and other legumes

Photo: Cody Hough
Sleepy Duskywing (Erynnis brizo)wild azalea, blueberry, blackberry, and dandelionscrub oak and other shrubby oaks

Photo: Calibas
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)aster, ironweed, verbena, milkweed, and woodland stonecropgrasses, sedges, especially bermuda grass

Photo: Bill Bouton
Orange Skipperling (Copaeodes aurantiacus)flower nectarside oats grama, Bermuda grass, sideoats grama, and green spangletop

Photo: Museum of Comparative Zoology
Dull Firetip (Apyrrothrix araxes)nectar from monarda and baccarisoaks: Arizona blue, emory, and Mexican blue

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