8 Plants to Attract Butterflies in New York

Butterflies and pollinators are great for your garden. What plants can you grow in New York to attract them?

Choosing the right plants to add to your landscape is essential because it invites various other pollinators and beneficial insects, including bees and butterflies. Butterflies are drawn to plants that produce nectar and can serve as homes for their larvae. Butterflies are attracted to red, yellow, orange, pink, and purple flowers, and most butterfly-attracting plants are perennials that return year after year

A garden’s biodiversity is one indicator of its performance. A garden that is vibrant and bustling with activity is a healthy and flourishing garden. The butterflies that you might see in the New York City area are the black swallowtail, clouded sulphur, buckeye, spring azure, monarch, and pearl crescent.. 

1. Betula papyrifera

Betula papyrifera, or paper birch, is a small to medium-sized tree with large, thin leaves and broad-winged fruits. One of its defining features is the white bark, which often peels off in sheets.

Birch trees are excellent additions to any garden because they attract butterflies that feed on the bark while offering shade and color. Because the leaves change color with the seasons, your landscape will have year-round diversity and stability for decades.

yellow leaves of a Betula papyrifera tree

2. Helianthus annuus

Helianthus annuus, or common sunflower, is an annual sunflower widely grown in the United States. The unique thing about mature sunflowers is that they always face the sun, no matter the time of day.

Birds and butterflies are drawn to the sunflower’s brilliant, dazzling ray petals. It is an excellent late-nectar plant for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.

yellow and red petals of Helianthus annuus

3. Aster (Aster spp.)

Asters are a native flower perfectly adapted to New York’s climate and growing conditions and are a must-have in a butterfly garden. 

Aster flowers can be purple, pink, blue, or white, but no matter what color, most have yellow centers. They typically bloom in summer and fall, providing nectar to pollinators as other flowers begin to decline.

Late-blooming asters attract butterflies to your garden late in the season. They are especially beneficial to monarchs since they bloom during monarch migration. Caterpillars also love them for their leaves.

a butterfly pollinating on the purple asters

4. Rhododendron

Azaleas (Rhododendron spp.) bloom in the spring. They have trumpet-shaped flowers that attract various types of pollinators. These plants supply nectar to giant swallowtail, pipevine swallowtail, and spicebush swallowtail butterflies.

Azaleas can be planted in almost every garden and immediately add color and interest to dull spots. They are easy to grow and have a long blooming period, lasting to fall.

beautiful baby pink rhododendron flowers

5. Viburnum

Viburnums are aromatic and come in a variety of sizes. They have long been some of the most popular flowering landscape plants. 

The Baltimore checkerspot butterfly prefers viburnum nectar. Most of these shrubs bloom from early April to early June. Following that, they produce lovely fruit and have spectacular fall foliage.

Their flowers are classified into three types: flat floret clusters, flat umbels with larger flowers that resemble hydrangeas, and dome-shaped, snowball-like clusters.

6. Baptisia

False indigo, or baptisia, is a hardy native perennial plant that can bloom and flourish for decades. It has a long lifespan and a long season of interest that starts in the spring and lasts well into the fall.

The nectar is consumed by various butterflies like the frosted elfin, hoary edge, orange sulphur, clouded sulphur, and wild indigo duskywing. The butterflies lay their eggs on the plant’s leaves, which provide the caterpillars with their first source of nutrition.

blossoming false indigo baptisia flowers

7. Liatris

Liatris, often known as blazing star or gayfeather, is a long-blooming perennial wildflower native to eastern North America. 

It has one-of-a-kind flower heads with tiny star-shaped flowers arranged around a tall upright bottle-brush spire. In late summer, monarch butterflies are drawn to the Liatris’s bright purple flowers. There are also pink and white variants. The small, inconspicuous, grass-like leaves grow in a basal cluster.

8. Echinacea

Echinacea purpurea, eastern purple coneflower, makes an excellent plant in butterfly gardens. It’s beautiful, hardy, low-maintenance, and nectar-rich. These plants require little attention and are pest-free, as they can endure heat and drought.

Echinacea is just one of the many species of coneflowers available to gardeners. Coneflowers get their name from their cone-shaped center. 

Echinacea flowers come in various colors, such as purple, white, yellow, orange, red, and green, and bloom for months at a time.

Carley Miller
Carley Miller is a horticultural expert at Bustling Nest. She previously owned a landscaping business for 25 years and worked at a local garden center for 10 years.
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