Insects > Butterflies > Butterfly Host Plants

Butterfly Host Plants

Butterfly Host Plants are important when you create your butterfly garden to provide a site for the butterfly to lay eggs and also food source for the emerging caterpillar. Be prepared for heavy munching on your host plants!

Because tiny caterpillars cannot travel far to find their own food, the female butterfly locates and lays her eggs on only the type of plant that the caterpillar can use as food. Most species of caterpillars are particular about the type of plants they can eat. If the egg was not placed on the correct plant, the caterpillar hatching from that egg will not survive. Many gardeners do not like to see plants in their gardens that have been chewed on by bugs. To avoid this, you may want to locate your butterfly host plants in areas that are not highly visible, but still a short distance from the butterfly nectar plants. If you do not provide host plants, you will have fewer butterflies.

Butterfly Garden: Articles on Creating Butterfly Gardens: Plans, Plants, Attracting Butterflies, More. Specific Host Plants are Important for Each Kind of Caterpillar"

Many native trees and other plants found in and around our yards are host plants for caterpillars. There are a variety of plants that can be included in a butterfly garden that are excellent host plants. The Native Plants Database is a great resource for folks interested in selecting native plants for their yard.

Here's a list of common butterflies and their preferred host plants:

Butterfly Type

Caterpillar Food / Host Plant

Alfalfa butterfly

Alfalfa, clovers, deerweed

Anise Swallowtail 

Sweet Fennel, Lomatium, Citrus

Black swallowtail

Dill, parsley, fennel, carrot


plantains, gerardias, toadflax, snapdragons, false loosestrifes

Cabbage White

Many plants in mustard family, cabbage family

Checkered skipper

Mallow, hollyhock

Checkered white

Tumble mustard

Clouded sulfur

Alfalfa, clover

Cloudless Sulfur

Ornamental Cassia, Canary Bird Bush 

Common hairstreak

mallow family , hollyhock , rose and marsh mallows


Common Snout Butterfly


Dogface Butterfly

lead plant, false indigo, prairie clover


Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

sycamore, willow

Edwards fritillary

Nuttall's violet

Cabbage White

Broccoli, cabbage (mustard family)

Gorgone checkerspot


Hackberry butterfly


Melissa blue

Wild licorice, alfalfa, etc.



Mourning cloak

Willow, aspen, cottonwood, elm

Orange sulfur

Alfalfa, vetch, pea

Painted Lady

Thistle, hollyhock, sunflower

Pale Swallowtail

Redberry, California Coffeeberry, California Lilac, Holly-leafed Cherry

Question Mark

nettle, elm, hackberry, hops, false nettles

Red Admiral

nettle, false nettle, pellitory

Red-Spotted Purple

Wild cherry, oak, poplar, hawthorn, willow

Silver-spotted skipper

Wild licorice, locust, etc.

Spicebush Swallowtail

spice bush, sassafrass

Two-tailed swallowtail

Green ash, chokecherry

Variegated fritillary

Various, including pansy

Viceroy Butterfly

willow, poplar, apple

Weidemeyer's admiral

Willow, aspen, cottonwood

Western tiger swallowtail

Willow, cottonwood, chokecherry

Wood nymph


Zebra Swallowtail


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