Skip to Main Content


List of Butterfly Garden Flowers & Plants for the West


West Region: California and Nevada

This butterfly garden resource provides a complete list of butterflies found in the Western 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 West, what plants you grow can depend heavily on where you live. In northern California near Berkeley, the soil is clay so lots of compost is needed. Elsewhere in the state, compost should only be added to the soil minimally. Northern California has a mild climate that doesn't get too cold or too warm, so butterflies and caterpillars can be found almost year round. However, Southern California and Nevada can get very warm in the summer. Native plants will be more drought- and sun-tolerant than non-native plants. Mix native with non-native plants in your garden. 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:

Below is a list of nectar and host plants that will grow well in the West. 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)scarlet monkeyflower, impatiens, passion vine, lavender, verbena, aster, cosmos, and butterfly bushmustard (cabbage) family, nasturtium, spider flower, oaks

Photo: Calibas
Lorquin's Admiral (Limenitis lorquini)aster, yarrow, buttonbush, common milkweed, and overripe fruitcottonwoods, poplars, willows, and chokecherry

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

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Weidemeyer's Admiral (Limenitis weidemeyerii)tree sap, carrion, and flower nectaraspen and cottonwood, willows, ocean spray, and shadbush 

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

Photo: Noca2plus
Coronis Fritillary (Speyeria coronis)flower nectarviolets

Photo: Chris Harshaw
Great Basin Fritillary (Speyeria egleis)flower nectarviolets

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

Photo: Calibas
Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)burmarigolds, lantanas, blue leadwort, impatiens, and verbenapassion vines

Photo: W Siegmund
Hydaspe Fritillary (Speyeria hydaspe)flower nectarviolets

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Mormon Fritillary (Speyeria mormonia)goldenrodviolets

Photo: Bill Bouton
Nokomis Fritillary (Speyeria nokomis)thistlesviolets

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

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Pacific Fritillary (Boloria epithore)flower nectarviolets

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife
Unsilvered Fritillary (Speyeria adiaste)flower nectarviolets

Photo: Bill Rhodes
Variegated Fritillary (Euptoieta claudia)butterflyweed, common milkweed, dogbane, peppermint, red clover, swamp milkweed, and tickseed sunflowermaypops, may apple, violets, purslane, stonecrop, and moonseed 

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

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Zerene Fritillary (Speyeria zerene)asters, daisy, and sunflowersviolets

Photo: Brian Wood
Monarch (Danaus plexippus)glossy abelia, butterfly bush, blazing stars, milkweed, lantana, salvia, blood flower, coreopsis, Jupiter's beard, and Mexican sunflowerblood flower, Mexican milkweed, and narrow-leaved milkweeds

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

Photo: Bruce Marlin
American Snout (Libytheana carinenta)aster, dogbane, dogwood, goldenrod, sweet pepperbushhackberry

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

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

Photo: Bill Bouton
California Crescent (Phyciodes orseis)flower nectarthistles in the sunflower family

Photo: Bill Bouton
California Patch (Chlosyne californica)flower nectardesert sunflower

Photo: Walter Siegmund
California Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis californica)Jupiter's beardbuckbrush and wild lilacs

Photo: Anne Toal
Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia)anchor plant, asters, coastal buckwheat, burmarigolds, and Jupiter's beardplantain, monkeyflower, and snapdragon

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Compton Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis vaualbum)sap, rotting fruit, and nectar of willow flowersaspen and cottonwood, willows, gray birch, and paper birch

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

Photo: Hans Hilliewaert
Field Crescent (Phyciodes pulchellus)anchor plantasters

Photo: Stickpen
Gabb's Checkerspot (Chlosyne gabbii)lantanaspenstemon, azardia, and beach aster

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

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

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Hoary Comma (Polygonia gracilis)sap and nectar from flowers of sweet everlastingcurrants, gooseberries, western azalea, and mock azalea

Photo: Bill Bouton
Hoffmann's Checkerspot (Chlosyne hoffmanni)lantanasasters and penstemon

Photo: Bill Bouton
Leanira Checkerspot (Thessalia leanira)lantanaspaintbrush and penstemon

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

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

Photo: S Rae
Mylitta Crescent (Phyciodes mylitta)anchor plantthistles

Photo: Ingrid Taylar
Northern Checkerspot (Chlosyne palla)lantanaspenstemon, goldenrod, rabbitbrush, and asters

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

Photo: Kabir Bakie
Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)blue leadwort, scarlet monkeyflower, deerweed, coastal buckwheat, aster, blazing stars, butterfly bush, buttonbush, milkweed, verbena, and zinniasidalceas, hollyhock, cheeseweed, thistles, passion vine, sunflower, mallow, and shasta daisy

Photo: Benny Mazur
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)dogbane, swamp milkweed, shepherd's needle, asters, and winter cresssmooth-leaved true asters

Photo: Anne Toal
Phaon Crescent (Phyciodes phaon)lippia and shepherd's needledogfruit and mat grass

Photo: Luc Viatour
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)aster, butterfly bush, milkweed, and shasta daisypellitory, nettles, baby tears, and false nettle

Photo: Colorado State University
Rockslide Checkerspot (Chlosyne whitneyi)lantanasrabbitbrush, penstemon, and aster 

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife
Sagebrush Checkerspot (Chlosyne acastus)tree sap, rotting fruit, and flower nectar from blackberry and almondnettles

Photo: Mark Tomasello
Satyr Comma (Polygonia satyrus)tree sap, rotting fruit, and flower nectar from blackberry and almondnettles

Photo: Tall Timbers
Texas Crescent (Phyciodes texana)anchor plantlow plants: ruellia, jacobina, beloperone, and siphonoglossa

Photo: David Bygott
Tiny Checkerspot (Dymasia dymas)lantanashairy tubetongue and penstemon

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Variable Checkerspot (Euphydryas chalcedona)lantanasCalifornia bee plant, monkeyflower, besseya, penstemon, and Indian paintbrush, snowberry, honeysuckle, boraginaceae, and rosaceae

Photo: Terry Spivey
West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella)blue leadwortcheeseweed, globemallows, hollyhocks, mallows, and sidalceas

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia)scarlet monkeyflowergrasses and rushes
Parnassians and Swallowtail Butterflies (Papilionidae)

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Clodius Parnassian (Parnassius clodius)flower nectarbleeding hearts

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

Photo: Icosahedron
Sierra Nevada Parnassian (Parnassius behrii)sedum and asteraceae familystonecrop

Photo: Calibas
Anise Swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon)California fuchsia, crimson columbine, escallonia, lantanas, Cape Plumbago, verbena, sage, and Jupiter's beardfennel, parsley, and anise

Photo: Mongo
Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes)crimson columbine, escallonia, Cape Plumbago, crimson columbine, butterfly bush, California buckwheat, California fuchsiacitrus

Photo: Steve L Martin
Indra Swallowtail (Papilio indra)California fuchsia, crimson columbine, escallonia, and Cape Plumbagoherbs of the parsley family

Photo: Alves Gaspar
Old World Swallowtail (Papilio machaon)California fuchsia, crimson columbine, escallonia, and Cape Plumbagosagebrushes, Arctic wormwood, wild tarragon, and sometimes parsley

Photo: Jim Conrad
Pale Swallowtail (Papilio eurymedon)crimson columbine, escallonia, Cape Plumbago, crimson columbine, butterfly bush, California buckwheat/buckeye, California fuchsianative buckthorn, ceanothus, wild cherry, wild plum, coffee berry, ash

Photo: Kaldari
Pipevine Swallowtail (Battus philenor)crimson columbine, Mexican sunflower, escallonia, lantanas, sage, Cape Plumbago, crimson columbine, butterfly bush, California buckwheat, California fuchsia, yerba santa, wallflower, and Jupiter's beardpipevines

Photo: Jay Williams
Two- tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata)California fuchsia, crimson columbine, escallonia, Cape Plumbago, lilac, swamp milkweed, and thistleflowering ash, chokecherry, common hoptree

Photo: Brocken Inaglory
Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus)California fuchsia, crimson columbine, escallonia, Cape Plumbago, lantanas, Mexican sunflower, Chinese hibiscus, and hibiscussycamore, willow, alder, and California sycamore
Whites and Sulphur Butterflies (Family Pieridae)

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

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife
Checkered White (Pontia protodice)scarlet monkeyflower, hibiscus, lantana, cardinal flowermembers of the mustard family and passion flower

Photo: US Fish and Wildlife
Large Marble (Euchloe ausonides) fiddleneck, brodiaeas, and members of the mustard familymustard family: rockcress, dyer's woad, mustards, and hedge mustard

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Sara Orangetip (Anthocharis sara)scarlet monkeyflower, mustards, thistles, fiddleneck, and brodiaeasmembers of the mustard family

Photo: Walter Siegmund
Western White (Pontia occidentalis) flower nectarflowers and fruits of various members of the mustard family

Photo: Colorado State University
California Dogface (Zerene eurydice)bougainvilleafalse indigo

Photo: Bob Peterson
Cloudless Sulphur (Phoebis sennae)flowers with long tubes: cordia, bougainvilla, cardinal flower, Chinese hibiscus, hibiscus, lantana, and wild morning glorysenna, cassia species in the pea family 

Photo: Megan McCarty
Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme)aster, common milkweed, goldenrodalfalfa, clovers, and related legumes, and white clover
Gossamer-wing Butterflies (Family Lycaenidae)

Photo: Dianne Fristrom
Mariposa Copper (Lycaena mariposa)flower nectarplants in the heath family and vaccinium arbuscula in California

Photo: Jerry Friedman
Purplish Copper (Lycaena helloides)flower nectardocks, sorrels, and knotweeds

Photo: Linda Tanner
Bramble Hairstreak (Callophrys dumetorum)rosemarydeerweed

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

Photo: Clinton & Charles Robertson
Grey Hairstreak (Stymon melinus)milkweed, blood flower, goldenrod, Queen Anne's lace, and rosemarysidalceas, legumes, hibiscus, hollyhock, passion flowers, mallow, and buckwheats

Photo: Calibas
Acmon Blue (Plebjus acmon)flower nectarbuckwheats, lotus, deerweed,  lupines, and milkvetches

Photo: Leppyone
Ceraunus Blue (Hemiargus ceraunus)flower nectarwoody legumes: partridge pea, mesquite, and rosary pea

Photo: Eugene Zelenko
Echo Azure (Celastrina echo)toyon, cascara, pussypaws, wild lilacs, California buckeye, and blackberries wild lilacs, California buckeye, coffeeberry, and blackberries 

Photo: Bill Bouton
Greenish Blue (Plebejius saepiolus) cloversclovers, especially alsike

Photo: Anne Toal
Marine Blue (Leptotes marina)flower nectarpea family, leadwort, alfalfa, milkvetch, and mesquite

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Silvery Blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus)asteraceaedeerweed, astragalus, lotus, lupine, melilotus, oxytropis, lathyrus, and vicia

Photo: Felder
Sonoran Blue (Philotes sonorensis)unknownlive-forever and stonecrop

Photo: Forest & Kim Starr
Western Pygmy-Blue (Brephidium exile)flower nectarpigweed, saltbush species, and others in the goosefoot family

Photo: Doug Waylett
Western Tailed-Blue (Cupido amyntula) flower nectarlegumes with inflated pods: false lupine, milkvetch, crazyweed, and vetches
Skippers Butterflies (Family Hesperiidae)

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 

Photo: Stonebird
Northern White Skipper (Heliopetes ericetorum)statice, Cape Plumbago, burmarigolds and dandelionbushmallow, globemallows, hollyhock, and mallow 

Photo: Liam O'Brien
Mournful Duskywing (Erynnis tristis)flower nectarcoast live oak, blue oak, and valley oak

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

Photo: Barry Breckling
Propertius Duskywing (Erynnis propertius)flower nectarcoast live oak and garry oak

Photo: Jerry Oldenettel
Pacuvius Duskywing (Erynnis pacuvius)ceanothuswild lilacs, deer brier, mountain whitethorn, and hairy ceanothus

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

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

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

Photo: D Gordon E Robertson
Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus)blueberry, 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)heaths: wild azalea and blueberry; also blackberry and dandelionscrub oak and other shrubby oaks

Photo: Anne Toal
Eufala Skipper (Lerodea eufala)dandelion, burmarigolds, croton, alfalfa, composites, statice, and lippiagrasses: Johnson grass, Bermuda grass, and sugarcane

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

Photo: Donald Hobem
Umber Skipper (Poanes melane)statice, Cape Plumbago, burmarigolds, and dandeliongrasses and sedges, tufted hairgrass, Bermuda grass, California brome

Photo: Calibas
Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus)statice, Cape Plumbago, dandelion, aster, ironweed, verbena, milkweed, woodland stonecrop, and burmarigoldsgrasses, sedges, especially bermuda grass

Photo: Ken Thomas
Sachem (Atalopedes campestris)swamp and common milkweeds, buttonbush, dogbane, peppermint, red clover, tickseed sunflower, thistles, marigold, and astersgrasses: Bermuda grass , crabgrass, St. Augustine grass, and goosegrass
Metalmark Butterflies (Family Riodinidae) ​

Photo: Anne Toal
Fatal Metalmark (Calephelis nemesis)flower nectarbush sunflower, seepwillow, and sometimes virgin's bower

Photo: Svdmolen
Mormon Metalmark (Apodemia mormo) eriogonum, especially yellow-flowered composites: senecio and rabbitbrushbuckwheates

Share your thoughts!
Leave a note Was this article helpful?