Watch our webinar recording of Butterfly Gardening in Central Florida here.
The key to attracting butterflies to your yard is to plant species that butterflies can use for food and shelter. Larval host plants are specific to butterfly species, they are the plants that adult butterflies lay their eggs on. Caterpillars are the larvae of butterflies and once those little eggs hatch the caterpillar is ready to eat its host plant. The caterpillar eats and eats until it grows large and eventually transforms into a butterfly in its chrysalis. This process is called metamorphosis. Adult butterflies are generalists and can feed on any plants that provide a sweet nectar. They are attracted to masses of color so group your butterfly plants together. Once you plant enough host plants and nectar plants you will have butterflies year-round.
Common Butterflies for Central Florida and their Host Plants
Monarch – milkweeds, see Milkweeds for Monarchs to learn more about the milkweed species
Gulf Fritillary – passion vine
Zebra longwing – passion vine
Sulphur – Cassia, Senna and other leguminous plants
Buckeye – Carolina petunia, Indian plantain
White peacock – frogfruit
Swallowtails – feed on a variety of larval host plants depending on the species
Creating Habitat for Butterflies
It’s a good idea to plant Florida native wildflowers, as these plants have co-evolved with our native species of butterflies. Florida Wildflower Foundation has a nice list of these. https://www.flawildflowers.org/attracting-butterflies/
Butterflies also need shelter from wind and predators so it’s a good idea to plant a variety of plants with different heights. In Florida-Friendly Landscaping (FFL) we call this concept Vertical Layering. Shrubs and vines can add some height to your Central Florida garden include firebush, giant milkweed, jatropha, and coral honeysuckle.
The UF/IFAS FFL program has created a butterfly gardening app, where you can search for Florida-Friendly butterfly plants by zip code. Check it out at https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/resources/apps/butterfly-gardens/
Gardening for Butterflies on Gardening Solutions
Butterfly Gardening in Florida EDIS publication
Community Butterfly Scaping
Have plant questions? Email photos to us at email@example.com or call our Help Desk at 813-744-5519.
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Hillsborough County Master Gardener Volunteer website
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Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert
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