Annual Nectar Plants

Most butterflies enjoy nectar from a wide range of flowers.  Below are a

few of their favorite annuals, plants that complete their lifecycle in one growing

season and/or are generally NOT winter hardy.  The following plants are

considered annuals in northern Illinois.  As they are susceptible to cold, they

should not be planted until after the last spring frost date.  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.

! Descriptions are in the process of being added for each plant. !
Please return to view the updates.
Thank you for your patience.
ageratum / floss flower
ageratum / floss flower

Ageratum is covered with fuzzy button-like blooms until the fall frost, particularly if deadheaded. Most common flower colors are shades of blue and purple but varieties are also available with pink or white blossoms. It has a mounded habit that ranges from 6” to 2’ depending on the variety. Performs best in full sun (6+ hours) but will tolerate as little as 4 hours of sun. Prefers moist well-drained soil. Deer and rabbit resistant.

alyssum
alyssum

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) has a mounded 6 to 12” habit, covered with clusters of four-petal scented flowers throughout the season. It may fade in extreme heat but does bounce back. Blooming is enhanced by deadheading and consistent moisture, particularly on hotter days. However, it does not appreciate soggy soil. Preferring full sun (6+ hours), it will tolerate as little as 4 hours of sun. Varieties are available with flowers in shades of purple, pink and white.

cosmos / Mexican aster
cosmos / Mexican aster

Cosmos is an easy to grow long-blooming annual with varieties in a wide array of flower shapes and colors. Blossoms may be simple and daisy-like, semi-double, fully ruffled pom poms or with unique fluted petals. Select from pure white, shades of pale pink and purple to deep red, soft yellow to vivid orange. There is a lot to choose from in height as plants range from 18” to 4’. All prefer full sun (6+ hours). Most plants on the market are derived from Cosmos bipinnatus and Cosmos sulphureus.

lantana
lantana

Lantana is an easy to grow annual in the north, perennial in zones 8-11. Rounded clusters of small tubular flowers, rich in nectar, are butterfly and hummingbird magnets. Varieties include shrub and trailing habits and blossoms in a wide range of colors – white, yellow, lavender, shades of pink, red, orange and mixed combinations. All prefer full sun (6+ hours) and moist well-drained soil. Drought tolerant once established. Grows well in pots. Deadhead to encourage flowering.

marigold
marigold

The name “marigold” is used for plants in a few different genus, the ones that generally come to mind are in the genus Tagetes and the species erecta, patula or tenuifolia. Single, semi-double to full pom-pom flowers occur in a range of colors from pale yellow (almost white) to orange, red, bronze and multiple combinations. Height varies from a few inches to nearly 5 feet! They prefer full sun (6+ hours), fertile, moist well-drained soil. Once they begin to bloom, they continue until frost.

Mexican sunflower
Mexican sunflower

Plant description coming soon. Thank you for your patience.

pentas
pentas

Pentas is a butterfly, bee and hummingbird magnet. It is aptly named for the tubular five-petaled blossoms that grow in mounded clusters on well branched plants about 1-2 feet high. While available in white and lavender, flowers are most commonly in shades of red and pink. They prefer full sun (6+ hours) and fertile moist well-drained (not soggy) soil. They enjoy the summer heat and are drought tolerant. However, overly stressed plants may be susceptible to spider mites. They flower until frost.

Phlox drummondii
Phlox drummondii

Plant description coming soon. Thank you for your patience.

Scabiosa - pincushion flower
Scabiosa - pincushion flower

Plant description coming soon. Thank you for your patience.

sunflower
sunflower

This North American native was first domesticated by Native Americans, possibly before corn. Now the sunny blossoms are available in colors from nearly white, deep burgundy and multiple shades of yellow and orange. An assortment of heights is also available from 1 foot to 20++! The tallest on record was 30 feet! They prefer full sun (6+ hours) and are heavy feeders that prefer rich, loose, well-drained soil.

Verbina
Verbina

Plant description coming soon. Thank you for your patience.

zinnia
zinnia

Zinnias are easy-to-grow, bloom-busting, nectar-rich work horses in the pollinator garden. Available in every color of the rainbow except blue and sizes ranging from 1–4 feet. They prefer full sun (6+ hours) and moist well-drained soil. They stand up to summer heat in northern climates like Illinois and bloom until frost. In high humidity, they can be prone to powdery mildew and benefit from good circulation. Plants in the Zaharas and Profusion series are more mildew resistant.