Many beautiful native Florida plants have the added advantage of attracting butterflies, the most attractive of all winged insects. Since butterflies usually migrate long distances, they require frequent stopovers for food and rest. Specific cultivars fit the bill, drawing different species to them with their color, scent, form and nectar. Conservation groups encourage gardeners to grow plants to attract butterflies, and Florida, with its warm climate and sunny days, has a good native selection.
This small to medium-sized tree or large shrub can grow up to 39 feet tall in south Florida. Butterflies feed from its nectar, which is produced by fragrant white flowers that bloom all year on spikes. It prefers to grow in full sun or partial shade, with some organic nutrients occasionally added to soil. Soil that is moist and well-drained with a humus top layer offers prime fiddlewood growing conditions.
Florida Keys Blackbead
Native to the Florida Keys and found along the state's east coast, the Florida Keys blackbead is a large shrub or small tree with an irregular crown. It grows up to 19 feet and is usually more wide than tall. It is a larval host plant for cassius blue and large orange sulphur butterflies, as well as providing nectar to those and other butterflies such as yellow swallowtail, Miami blue and three-spotted skipper. The plants, which feature white to deep pink, round flowers that bloom all year, grow best in full sun. Nutrient-poor soils are not a growth deterrent, but moisture and some organic content is a plus.
Blue Mistflower grows best in marshes and swamps with light shade to full sun. Bluish-pink rounded flower clusters bloom in summer through fall, and serve as nectar sources for butterflies such as the obscure skipper and southern broken-dash. These plants, which are considered wildflowers, can grow up to 2 feet tall.
Also called lime prickly-ash, this species is a large bush or small tree, growing up to 26 feet tall in south Florida. It is a larval host plant for giant swallowtail butterflies and provides lots of cover for other wildlife. Plants grow well in areas with full sun and moist, well-drained soil, although it can be very drought tolerant as well. Small, inconspicuous clusters of greenish-yellow flowers bloom all year. Green leaves have a lime aroma when crushed.
This medium bushy shrub provides nectar for many butterfly species, and cover for other wildlife. It is commonly found in forested areas of south Florida and grows up to 9 feet tall. Arching branches form a mounded-plant that also features small pink or white flowers and showy reddish-purple berries in summer and fall. These plants prefer full sun to light shade, and moist, well-drained soil.