Attracting Butterflies To Your Miami Garden – The 16 Best Butterfly Attracting Plants For South Florida
Butterfly gardens are easy to create and butterflies bring joy every time they flutter by.
So, if you love butterflies and if you enjoy having nature around your home, then install a butterfly garden. Butterfly gardening not only brings butterflies but also a small host of other wonderful wildlife to your doorstep.
South Florida, Miami and all of the surrounding cities and suburbs of Dade and Broward counties are perfect spots to create a year round and fully functioning butterfly garden. Caterpillars, which transform into butterflies, require special kinds of plants to feed upon and these plants grow extremely well in the South Florida sub-tropic planting zones. These are called hostplants.
In this article we will highlight the best plants for Attracting Butterflies To Your Miami Garden – Our 16 Favorite Butterfly Attracting Plants.
These host plants are amazing sources of nectar and other flowers that provide food for those winged beauties.
Firebush, Hamelia patens, is a native to Florida and is perfect for south Florida and the Miami area! This beautiful perennial grows year round in our sub tropic heat and produces flowers from late spring until the first frost (as if there were frost in Miami). This semi-woody shrub can reach fifteen feet in height and produces bright red flowers that attract hummingbirds and butterflies, including the zebra longwing and gulf fritillary butterflies.
The Hamelia patens grows and flowers best in full sun and it is best to trim your Firebush to five or eight feet tall. It works well in hedges, mixed borders, or as a stand-alone shrub. Firebush can be planted in any well-drained soil and will do best if it is watered regularly until it is established. Once this native south Florida plant has caught hold it is amazing at attracting both birds and butterflies.
Firespike is known botanically as Odontonema strictum and adds a bright red pop to your south Florida garden and is perfect for attracting hummingbirds and several species of butterflies that feed on the nectar. The Odontonema strictum grows between 4 to 6 feet tall and produces clusters of 3-inch-long, tubular red flowers.
Firespike can be planted year-round in Florida and blooms best under full sun.
This Ruby Red Pentas also known as Egyptian Star Cluster and Pentas lanceolata is a south Florida plant that produces some of the most vivid red flowers of any of the Pentas.
It blossoms from spring until fall and bares 3″ flower clusters that will attract butterflies and other nectar loving creatures like bees and hummingbirds to your gardens throughout summer The Ruby Red is an upright rounded shrub-like tropical perennial that is often grown as an annual.
Blue Porterweed also known as Stachytarpheta jamaicensis is one of the most popular of South Florida’s butterfly attracting plants, with brilliant blue flowers appearing partway up the funky, swirly, upright stems.
This plant is a fast grower and best kept between 2-1/2 to 3 feet tall.
The Blue Porterweed is best in part sun and partial shaded areas. Trim the shrub occasionally to keep it shaped. Give these plants a regular watering, but don’t keep them overly wet.
The Jatropha integerrima aka Jatropha tree produces scarlet flowers which attracts a ton of beautiful butterflies and it blooms 365 days a year.
The dwarf Jatropha tree (Jatropha integerrima ‘Compacta‘) is the one to buy…it stays smaller and denser and is the one most commonly sold at nurseries.
This red flowering tree is actually a Jatropha shrub and can be trained to a single trunk or grown as a bush. Keep the trunk free of baby shoots to maintain the tree look.
One of South Florida’s most consistent butterfly attracting plants, Jatropha is also a favorite with hummingbirds.
This tree is a fast grower – the dwarf variety gets only 6 to 8 feet tall. It needs full to part sun and a well-drained spot.
Ruellia brittoniana the Mexican petunia is a tender evergreen perennial that forms colonies of small and medium sized stalks it has a maximum height around 3 ft.
The lance-shaped leaves are to 6-12 inches in length and are 1/2-3/4 wide. It blossoms scores of trumpet shaped blue beauty flowers that accent the bluish metallic cast the leaves give when grown under hot sunny conditions. This Mexican petunia is very good at attracting swarms of admiring butterflies.
Varieties with white, pink, and many shades of blue are available, as are dwarf versions.
The flowering almond bush (Prunus glandulosa and Prunus triloba) put on a spectacular show in the garden, which makes this a great butterfly and natural wildlife attractor. For smaller areas chose the P. glandulosa, or dwarf flowering almond as it grows between 4 and 6 feet tall and equally wide. The Almond Bush produces white or pink flowers in mid-spring.
Select a planting site that receives full sun to partial shade. Flowering almond prefers a loamy soil that drains well, but keep away from salty water and salt saturated air.
The Turk’s Cap is also known as the Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii it is a spreading shrub that grows between 2 to 3 ft but, it can reach heights of 9 ft. if left unattended. The bright-red petals resemble a Turkish turban, thus the name Turk’s Cap. The flowers never fully open. They overlap to form a loose tube with a protruding staminal column. This is a perfect flower type for bee’s, butterflies, hummingbirds and other nectar gathering insects.
The Milkweed is the king plant for the king of butterflies, the Monarch. It is also very important for many other insect species like Milkweed Bugs, and Milkweed Leaf Beetles that only eat milkweed.
Common Milkweed grows up to six feet tall. It has large, broad leaves, usually four to ten inches long. They sometimes have red veins and have flowers that are pinkish-purple clusters which often droop.
They are very hardy plants and grow nearly anywhere in any condition.
Purple Passionflower & Purple Passion Vine
BONUS: This passion flower plant produces a delicious edible fruit.
Cassia trees are known for their bright yellow insect attracting display. These trees come in several varieties and sizes: Desert cassia, Cassia surattensis (“Scrambled Egg Tree”) and Cassia fistula (“Golden Shower Tree”). All three varieties are incredibly beautiful in full bloom and they make perfect small-space trees.
Desert cassia (Senna polyphylla) grows only to 10 feet tall with spring and fall flowers. This little giant is salt-tolerant, evergreen and an ideal centerpiece for your butterfly garden.
Cassia surattensis grows between 12 to 15 feet high. It is another butterfly attractor that blooms twice – in spring and fall. It stays green with thick foliage year round. This tree is very happy in South Florida.
Cassia fistula blooms in summer and occasionally blooms in the fall. It produces incredible cascading flower clusters that sometimes are so prolific you can barely see the green leaves through the flowers.
Fistula can grow to heights of 30 feet, but can be easily maintained at 20 feet in home landscapes. They’re salt-tolerant and fast growers.
The Pagoda flower also known as the Clerodendrum paniculatum is an erect, open semi-woody shrub with large evergreen leaves and huge clusters of orange-red or scarlet flowers. It is a bush with multiple stems and grows between 3 and 5 ft, spreading 2-3 ft across. The leaves have heart shaped bases and the individual flowers are only about 0.5 in long but are arranged in massive panicles up to 1 ft or more in height. The pyramid shaped flowers are somewhat like that of a Japanese pagoda. The flower blooms from summer through autumn with additional sporadic flowering throughout the year in warmer environments like south Florida..
Lantana is a genus of about 150 species of perennial flowering plants The genus includes both herbaceous plants and shrubs growing between 1.6 and 6.6 ft tall. Their common names are shrub verbenas or lantanas or also called the Viburnum lantana.
Lantana’s aromatic flower clusters called umbels are a mix of red, orange, yellow, or blue and white florets.
Lantanas are useful as honey plants for nectar seeking insects and are excellent for butterfly gardening. Butterflies which are attracted to lantana flowers are most notably Papilioninae (swallowtail and birdwing utterflies). Hesperiidae (skippers) and certain brush-footed butterflies (namely Danainae and Heliconiinae), as well as some Pieridae (e.g. cloudless sulphur, Phoebis sennae) and Lycaenidae (e.g. the aforementioned lantana scrub-hairstreak), also like to visit the plants’ flowers.
Plumbago auriculata is called by several common names, leadwort, plumbago and skyflower, it is an evergreen shrub with semi-woody stems that grow between 3 and 10 ft height. Plumbago can be pruned to grow like a vine, pruned to become more compact like a shrub, or left to sprawl with its long, gracefully arching branches. It produces 2 in light yellowish green leaves and a sky blue flower that is about 1 in long with 5 petals spreading about 1 in across. In South Florida and Miami this beauty blooms all year long.
A white flowered variety (P. auriculata var. alba) is available. The cultivar, ‘Royal Cape’ has intense cobalt blue flowers.
A favorite of butterflies, plumbago also is one of the most popular flowering shrubs in Central and South Florida gardens. It is very fast-growing, has few problems and is almost always smiling.
Plumbago does best in light, sandy soils with good drainage. Do not add lime to the soil; plumbago likes a slightly acidic pH..
As a south Florida gardener you should take the time to discover the Florida coontie. It is a Florida native plant that is well adapted to the south Florida heat. Its recent increased use in landscapes has encouraged the presence of the rare Atala butterfly, which uses coontie as a larval host plant.
The coontie, an unusual Florida native, is a cycad—a “living fossil.” These primitive plants were a dominant form of plant life during the dinosaur age.
Coontie Species. Some botanists report only a single coontie species in Florida (Zamia floridana), while others feel the coontie has several species such as Z. integrifolia, Z. pumila, and Z. umbrosa. Z. pumilais
This herbaceous plant looks like a small fern or palm. Typically they are 1–3 ft. high. The coontie has stiff, featherlike leaves, up to 3 ft. in length
The coontie serves as the sole host plant for larvae of the rare Atala butterfly (Eumaeus atala), once thought to be extinct in Florida. The hungry larvae are able to withstand the coonties’ natural toxins and, in turn, incorporate them into their tissues, rendering the larvae and adults unpalatable to various predators, particularly birds.
Corky Stem Passion Vine
The Passiflora suberosa is commonly known as the Corky Stem Passion Vine. It gets tiny green flowers that are about the size of an adult fingertip. Planting this passion vine is one of the easiest ways to make your yard a butterfly habitat for some of the following major butterflies; Zebra Heliconian, Gulf Fritillary and Julia Dryas.
So there you have it folks! A highlight of the Best Plants for Attracting Butterflies To Your Miami Garden – The 16 Best Butterfly Attracting Plants For South Florida. No matter what county or city in south Florida you may live (Broward County, Dade County, Miami, Coral Gables, Davie, Ft Lauderdale or anything in-between) these plants will surely attract dozens if not hundreds of beautiful and colorful butterflies to your home or office garden.
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