5 Essential Nectar Source Plants for the Florida Butterfly Garden

Updated on February 5, 2018
kittythedreamer profile image

Kitty has a passion for pollinators: bees and butterflies. She enjoys sharing what she's learned about butterfly gardening with others.

The pipevine swallowtail loves to nectar from the salvia blooms.
The pipevine swallowtail loves to nectar from the salvia blooms. | Source

Starting a Butterfly Garden in Florida

Gardening is a simple joy held in high regard to many people. If you are looking to start a garden or expand your garden, why not start a butterfly garden? They are easy to maintain, bring color and joy to your life, and help the environment. It's a win-win-win, right?

If you live in Florida, starting your own butterfly garden is easy and will bring life to your yard in no time! When I first started my butterfly garden, I planted a few host plants and a few nectar source plants, and within a week's time butterflies were racing through my yard and all around my house. If you have kids, having a butterfly garden will entertain them in the spring and summer months, but it will also be educational. They can see a butterfly from all stages of life - they will see the eggs laid, the larva stage where the egg turns into a caterpillar, the caterpillar cocoon itself into its pupa stage, and then the adult butterfly emerge. You can't get this kind of a lesson in such detail and personal experience in a normal classroom.

What is a nectar source? A nectar source is a flower that the butterflies will use as their food source. You'll want to have a range of different size and color of flowers to draw different butterflies to your yard. If you've already added host plants in your garden, this is the next important step. To keep the butterflies returning to your garden, keep host plants and nectar source plants year-round.

1. Salvia

Salvia is a genus of plants in the mint family. The most commonly known is culinary sage, used in cooking and commonly grown in herb gardens. There are many types of salvia, and I've found the Blue Hill and Victoria Blue species are the ones that attract the attention of monarchs and other butterflies, if grown in the garden. Salvia can be a perennial or an annual, depending on the type, but it is easy to grow. It prefers some shade but does well in the sun, and likes to have a moist soil bedding.

Salvia isn't only pretty to look at, it is a nectar source for butterflies (like the monarch) and honeybees. I first took notice of this plant at a Lowe's garden center. It was the only batch of flowers loaded with honeybees and monarchs. You'll want this showy flower in your yard to feed the pollinators!

2. Spanish Needles

You might have seen this "weed" before. In fact, you probably don't have to purposely grow it at all! Spanish needles are a wildflower, commonly called a weed and sprayed with pesticide, that grows rampant in Florida. You can find them in your yard, I guarantee it! The great thing about Spanish needles? They are a huge nectar source for Florida's honeybees, but they are also a host plant for Florida butterflies. These butterflies include the dainty sulphur butterfly and Florida duskywing butterfly. It is also a host plant for the emerald moth. Butterflies do enjoy the nectar from this wildflower, as well.

Spanish needles, often called Shepherd's needles, are often pulled up or sprayed with pesticide. If you notice these in your garden or yard, don't kill them! You will keep the butterflies and bees happy and fed. And the best part? There are zero maintenance and will re-seed themselves.

Spanish needles are an important nectar source for bees and butterflies, and it is also a host plant for butterflies in Florida.
Spanish needles are an important nectar source for bees and butterflies, and it is also a host plant for butterflies in Florida. | Source

3. Cosmos

A friend of mine who is an avid gardener and has a passion for the pollinators turned me on to the beautiful, bright world of cosmos. Cosmos are in the sunflower family, and are seen everywhere from Mexico into the United States. They are mostly annual flowers, blooming from Spring until late Summer in Florida, but I've seen them growing into the Fall season too. They range in color from pink, to white, to orange and yellow and more!

Cosmos are easy to grow, you can even throw the seeds onto open soil and watch them pop up in a few weeks' time! They grow as tall as 7 feet, depending on the species, and will re-seed themselves so that you have them pop up in your garden every Spring, year after year! They are low maintenance, prefer lots of sun, and are a favorite of the butterflies. Be sure to grab some cosmo seeds this year and grow them in your Florida butterfly garden.

Cosmos are a bright and fun addition to your butterfly garden and serve as a nectar source.
Cosmos are a bright and fun addition to your butterfly garden and serve as a nectar source. | Source

4. Pentas

Not only do the monarchs love them, so do the gulf fritillary butterflies. And they are...pentas! Also known as Egyptian star clusters, these flowers are easy to grow in your Florida butterfly garden and attract butterflies of various kinds. Pentas come in a beautiful array of colors - my favorite being the deep reds and pinks. While these flowers are not native, they are drought-tolerant and do well in full sun.

If you're lucky enough, your pentas won't just feed the butterflies, they might also attract hummingbirds! Plant your pentas anywhere in your garden and yard and watch the butterflies rest and feed, happily. Best part about these flowers? They are hardy and are perennials, so you don't have to keep planting them year after year. Not to mention, they are fairly pest-resistant, only succumbing to the power of spider mites.

5. Zinnias

What bright, cheery flower must you add to your Florida butterfly garden? Zinnias, of course! Zinnias are annual flowers in the sunflower/daisy family, so it's no wonder they are colorful and are sure to put a smile on your face! Native to Mexico, South America, and some parts of Southwestern U.S., they are easy to grow in the Florida butterfly garden as they can withstand and prefer lots of sun. Once you've planted your seeds and got your plants established, they are low maintenance and require little watering or pampering.

The butterflies and bees are attracted to zinnias, including monarchs. Zinnias grow quickly, so if you plant in early spring, you'll have flowers in Spring. Much quicker than many other flowers in the butterfly garden grown from seed. Colors are in every variety, except for blue. My personal favorites are the bright pinks and oranges. Grow zinnias in your Florida butterfly garden, and you'll want to plant them year after year. And the butterflies will thank you for it!

Zinnias are a beautiful, bright addition to the Florida butterfly garden and are a wonderful nectar source.
Zinnias are a beautiful, bright addition to the Florida butterfly garden and are a wonderful nectar source. | Source

Participate in a poll:

Do you live in Florida and are you a butterfly gardener?

See results

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Kitty Fields


    Submit a Comment

    • kittythedreamer profile imageAUTHOR

      Kitty Fields 

      10 months ago from Summerland

      Peggy - Yes, I've heard this from other Texan gardeners too! Thanks for reading!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      10 months ago from Houston, Texas

      We can grow many of the same things here in Houston as in Florida. Butterflies seem to like my gardening efforts which is nice.

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 

      11 months ago from Ohio

      Butterfly gardens are wonderful to have and easy to keep. These plants are all so beautiful! I'm sure they will work here in Ohio also.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      Doris James-MizBejabbers 

      11 months ago from Beautiful South

      Nicole, all of these plants are beautiful, and most of them will grow in Zone 8 where I live. I keep trying to add more as we expand our plant beds. My mother always had a bed that contained zinnas, among her other favorites. I love my pineapple sage (I think I've told you that before.) I actually purchased a sheet especially to cover the large tree pot I have the pineapple sage growing in. It dies back in winter, but sometimes the roots die also. It is my favorite butterfly and hummingbird plant.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      11 months ago from Chicago Area

      A friend of mine just moved to Florida. So when I visit, I'll look for some of these plants... and hope to see some of these lovely butterflies.

      In the Chicago area, I've noticed that some summers we have more butterflies than others. But they're always wonderful when spotted. I love zinnias and many of my neighbors grow them. So I'll look for them there.

      Thanks for sharing!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, dengarden.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://dengarden.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)