Butterflies are attracted to plants by the sight and fragrance of the flowers. They come for the nectar and in return pollinate the flowers, helping them reproduce. Florida has species of butterfly plants that grow as bedding flowers, shrubs or vines. The different colors and forms make a butterfly garden that will keep them visiting all summer long.
The firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis) is also known as the coral plant, coralblow and the fountain plant. It is a shrub with branches that grow to 4 feet in length and droop over with the tips touching the ground instead of growing straight up. The plant produces scarlet tube-shaped flowers that measure about 1 inch long and look like firecrackers. It is native to Mexico and in Florida can be grown from the mid to southern part of the state, USDA zones 9 and 10. The plant likes full sun or partial shade and rich, well-drained soil. The fireplant goes well in hanging baskets, cascading down over a stone wall or climbing on a trellis. The nectar attracts both butterflies and hummingbirds.
Autumn sage (Salvia greggii) is a shrub that grows to about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide. The branches grow from the base of the plant, as opposed to other shrubs where the branches grow from a central trunk. The plant produces flowers that can be red, pink or white and small evergreen leaves. If it is exposed to heavy frost, it will die back to the ground and grow again the next spring. Fertilizer can harm autumn sage. It needs full sun or partial shade and soil that is well drained and can be grown in all but the hottest zone in Florida, zone 10. Autumn sage will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds.
Blue Passionflower (Passiflora caerulea) is also called hardy passionflower and deciduous passionflower. It is a vine that grows up to 30 feet long. The plant produces shiny evergreen leaves and white purple-blue flowers that are followed by deep orange fruits that appear in late summer and last through the fall. It likes loose soil that is sandy or contains gravel. Too much fertilizer will diminish the number of flowers. It needs heat and humidity and can be grown in all zones in Florida. Planting blue passionflower near a brick wall will allow it to benefit from heat radiating off it. The plant will die back in a freeze and come back again the next spring. It will attract butterflies, especially the zebra longwings, fritillaries and solid orange julia species.