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.

Monarch butterfly.

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.

Attracting Butterflies with Native Plants. Credit: Florida Wildflower Foundation

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


Additional Resources:

Gardening for Butterflies on Gardening Solutions

Butterfly Gardening in Florida EDIS publication

Community Butterfly Scaping


Have plant questions? Email photos to us at or call our Help Desk at 813-744-5519.


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by Tia Silvasy

Source: UF/IFAS Pest Alert

Note: All images and contents are the property of UF/IFAS.




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