Whether you want to have a few butterflies visiting the garden or attract several species by planting a habitat, Florida has many butterfly-attracting plants from which to choose. The state's warm, tropical climate makes it desirable for both butterflies and year-round blooms, so creating a butterfly garden will not be difficult. When creating a habitat, you will need host, nectar and shelter plants in your garden to meet the butterflies' living requirements.
Florida has many butterfly attracting trees suitable for a garden. Trees will not only attract butterflies to their blossoms, but they also act as shelter. Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera), also known as tulip tree, attracts the eastern tiger swallowtail to its yellowish/orange flowers that bloom spring through summer. The fast-growing tree grows best in northern regions of the state, reaching heights of 80 to 100 feet. Golden Shower (Cassia fistula) attracts the little yellow and sulfur varieties of butterflies to its bright, showy yellow flowers that bloom in summer. The tree grows best in the central and southern regions, reaching heights of 30 to 40 feet. Bottlebrush (Callistemon) attracts hummingbirds as well as swallowtails and sulfurs to its long, red blooms produced spring through summer. The tree grows 6 to 30 feet in height and attracts insects beneficial to the garden as well.
Gardeners have many choices in shrubs to add to their butterfly gardens. Many of the shrubs work as host, nectar and shelter plants. Pawpaw (Asimina), also known as custard apple, grows best throughout the entire state and attracts Florida's state butterfly the zebra swallowtail, which uses the plant as larval food. Their height and spread are variable depending on the cultivar for your region. Butterfly bush (Buddleia lindleyana) grows best in the northern and central regions of the state, attracting a variety of butterflies such as admirals and soldiers. This fast-growing shrub produces purple/pink blossoms, reaching heights of 4 to 6 feet. Fiddlewood (Citharexylum spinosum) is a Florida native that grows best in the south-central and southern regions. It produces white, fragrant flowers that attract swallowtail butterflies year-round and can reach heights of 15 to 25 feet.
Florida has many annual and perennial flowers that gardeners can add to their butterfly gardens. Many of these act as annuals in the cooler northern sections. Milkweed (Asclepias) grows throughout the entire state but goes dormant in the cooler, northern regions. The orange/yellow/reddish flower is a host and nectar plant for Monarchs and attracts queens and soldiers as well as hummingbirds. Plants attain heights of 2 to 5 feet. Mexican heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia), also known as false heather, grows throughout the entire state, attracting buckeyes and zebra longwings to its purple/white/pink flowers. Plants grow 1 to 2 feet in height and make good border plants. Tickseed (Coreopsis) grows throughout Florida and is its state flower. The plant produces yellow/orange flowers in summer, attracting monarchs, buckeyes and the Florida white. Depending on the cultivar and region, the plant acts as both a perennial an annual, reaching heights of 1 to 4 feet.