Perennial Nectar Plants
Most butterflies enjoy nectar from a wide range of flowers. Below are a few of their favorite perennials, plants that are winter hardy and return each year.
The following plants are hardy in northern Illinois.
Click on the images for more information about each plant.
You may also download a PDF with a list of perennial and annual nectar plants
by clicking here.
Onions, chives, garlic, etc. are all part of the genus Allium. This group of plants offer nectar rich blooms at a variety of times during the growing season, from early spring to mid-autumn, depending on the species. Flower color ranges from white to pink to shades of purple. Most species prefer full sun (6+ hours) but a few are tolerant of partial shade (4 hours of sun). Height varies with species and ranges from 6'' – 4'.
Asters are an excellent source of nectar for butterflies in late summer and fall. The flower color of native species and cultivars ranges from shades of purple and pink, even red, to white. Native species can found growing in a wide range of soil and moisture conditions. While most asters prefer full sun (6+ hours), some species do well in partial (~4 hours sun) to full shade. Height can range for 1'-6' depending on species. Host plant for crescentspot butterflies.
Bee balm, wild bergamot are plants in the genus Monarda. Their nectar rich blooms are enjoyed by hummingbirds and bees, as well as butterflies. Flower color ranges from very pale pink and purple to fuchsia and burgundy as well as creamy white. They generally prefer moist, well-drained soil with some native species preferring dryer locations. Most varieties will bloom well in full sun (6+ hours) as well as partial shade (4 hours of sun). Heights range from ~1' – 4'.
Blazing star and gayfeather (Liatris spp.) are excellent sources of nectar for butterflies in late summer and fall. Flower color is generally in shades of purple and there is a white cultivar. Native species can be found in a wide ranges of soil and moisture conditions. The majority of species prefer full sun (6+ hours), some cultivars will also do well in partial shade (~4 hours sun). Height can range form 1'-6' depending on species.
Black-eyed and brown-eyed Susans are traditional garden plants in the genus Rudbeckia. Their cheerful blooms occur in shades of yellow – orange, sometimes accented with reds and browns. Native species grow in a wide range of soil and moisture conditions while cultivars prefer moist, well drained soils. Most varieties prefer full sun (6+ hours). However, some native species can tolerate as little as 4 hours of sun. Height ranges from 1' – 6'.
Butterfly bush is a butterfly magnet! Hummingbirds love it too. Often listed by its genus Buddleia, it sports blooms in shades of purple, white, yellow or pink. Preferring full sun (6+ hours), moist well drained soil, it benefits from good drainage in the winter. Generally ranging in height from 4' - 6'+, dwarf varieties grow ~ 1 ½' - 2'. Butterfly bush is often listed as an invasive species but can be short lived in northern Illinois. Many new varieties are sterile, so noninvasive.
Coneflowers (Echinacea ssp.) Among top nectar producing plants for butterflies. Nectar production in some cultivars may be greatly reduced. Flower colors occur in shades of pink, even red, yellow, orange and white. Native species can be found in a range of soil and moisture conditions. Most cultivars prefer moist well drained soil. They prefer full sun (6+ hours); some varieties may tolerate as little as 4 hours of sun. Height ranges from 1' - 5', depending on species and cultivar.
Coreopsis species and cultivars provide daisy-like blooms over a long period of time. Native species grow in a wide range of soil and moisture conditions while most cultivars prefer moist, well drained soils; most preferring full sun (6+ hours). The flowers are generally yellow, some with accents of red; cultivars range in color from the expected yellow as well as peach, pink to cherry red. Height ranges with species from 1' – 9'. !!! Not all cultivars are hardy in northern Illinois. !!!
Goldenrod, genus Solidago, is a common native plant found in a wide variety of soil and moisture conditions. Most prefer full sun (6+ hours) but some species do well in 4 hours or less. In fall, tiny yellow star or daisy-like flowers cluster together in different inflorescent shapes depending on species. Plants range in height from 18'' - 7'. Cultivars stay more contained than native species.
More information coming soon. Thank you for your patience.
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) varieties are great nectar plants in addition to being host plants for monarch and queen butterflies. Flower color is widely assorted including green, white, shades of pink, red, orange and yellow. Species can be found growing in a wide range of soil and moisture conditions as well as from sunny to shady locations. Height can range from 1' - 5' depending on species.
Sedum is a group of hundreds of plants with succulent leaves and tiny star shaped flowers in shades of yellow or pink, as well as white. Most prefer moist to dry well-drained soil and full sun (6+ hours). A few will tolerate less sun. Bloom time varies from spring to fall, depending on species, giving the opportunity to providing nectar sources all growing season. Height ranges from a few inches to ~3'.