Butterfly Host Plants versus Nectar Plants

Since we’re talking butterflies, there are two terms you need to know, “Host Plant,” which is the plant on which the eggs are laid and the caterpillars feed and “Nectar Plant,” which are the primary plants they feed on.

Here are a few butterflies that you may find in your garden. If you are interested in the host and nectar plants for a specific butterfly, go to the Buttefly page.

This is what you need to take away from this. If we want to keep butterflies around us, we need to decide which ones we want and plant what they need. You may not always get them the first season or the second but eventually they will make it to your yard.

Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar MONARCH:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Swamp Milkweed, Common Milkweed
Nectaring Plant: Orange Butterfly Weed

PAINTED LADY:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Pearly Everlasting, Field Thistle, Hollyhocks
Nectaring Plant: Coneflower, Tall Verbena

EASTERN BLACK SWALLOWTAIL:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Dill, Fennel, Queen Anne's Lack
Nectaring Plant: Butterfly Bush, Orange Butterfly Weed

RED ADMIRAL:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Cherry, Nettle
Nectaring Plant: Milkweed, Red Clover, Alfalfa

PIPEVINE SWALLOWTAIL:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Pipevine
Nectaring Plant: Butterfly Bush, Milkweed


SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Spicebush
Nectaring Plant: Butterfly Bush, Coneflower, Sunflower

Common Buckeye Butterfly Caterpillar COMMON BUCKEYE:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Turtlehead, Plaintain, Snapdragon
Nectaring Plant: Milkweed

VICEROY:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Cottonwood, Poplar, Willow
Nectaring Plant: Milkweed, Butterfly Bush, Coneflower

MOURNING CLOAK:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Birch, Elm
Nectaring Plant: Tree sap (mostly oak), rotting fruits

EASTERN-TAILED BLUE:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Vetch, Clover, Wild Pea, Alfafa
Nectaring Plant: Milkweed, Coreopsis, Aster, Dogbane

ZEBRA SWALLOWTAIL:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Pawpaw
Nectaring Plant: Milkweed, Cosmos

RED-SPOTTED PURPLE:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Cottonwood, Poplar, Cherry
Nectaring Plant: Milkweed, Butterfly Bush, Rotten Fruit

GIANT SWALLOWTAIL:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Prickly Ash, Hoptree, Rue
Nectaring Plant: Butterfly Bus, Coneflower, Sunflower

Cabbage White Butterfly Caterpillar CABBAGE WHITE:

Caterpillar Host Plant: Mustard, Cabbage
Nectaring Plant: Cosmos, Verbena

Further Information

Butterflies and Moths of North America
WisconsinButterflies.org
Southern Wisconsin Butterfly Assn (NABA)
The Butterfly Site