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Native Virginia Plants for a Butterfly Garden

From the mountains to the ocean shore, Virginia holds a wealth of native plants that attract butterflies. Creating a butterfly garden with the state’s native plants will be relatively easy. To give the butterflies a complete habitat in which to feed and breed, choose nectar giving and host plants. Use both in the landscape to fulfill the butterfly’s needs and attract more to the area. Whether you are seeking trees, bushes, or flowers to fill your butterfly garden with, Virginia is growing the native plant that is right for you.


Virginia grows several milkweed species commonly found in fields and meadows growing wild. Milkweed is a hardy and essential addition to any butterfly garden, especially for those wanting to attract monarch butterflies. Its leaves are poisonous to many animals, but are the main food source for monarch caterpillars. They become poisonous themselves if eaten by predators. Native species of milkweed growing in Virginia are common milkweed, swamp milkweed and butterfly weed. All species have the same growing requirements.


Virginia has several varieties of phlox that are native to the region. Thick-leaf, wild blue, summer, creeping and moss phlox can all be found growing wild in rich fields, woods and meadows. Their colorful, long lasting flowers and ease in care make them perfect additions to a native plant butterfly garden. All the species of phlox found in Virginia have the same growing requirements. Many species of butterflies are attracted to the flowers. Skippers, swallowtails, and the common buckeye are a few of the butterflies you will notice visiting the phlox for nectar.


Quite a few native bushes and trees attract butterflies. Butterflies use their flowers for nectar and the leaves as a host for their caterpillars. Spicebush is a rather large bush, growing six to ten feet tall. The bush develops red to yellow berries and its leaves produce an aroma when crushed. The spicebushes blossoms are generally the first to bloom in spring, thus attracting butterflies looking for nectar after winter. Spicebush is quite hardy once established and prefers a moist site, as it is found in the wild growing in swamps and wet woodlands. The spicebush swallowtail uses the plant as a host.

Wild Cherry

Growing 50 to 60 feet tall is the Virginia native, the elegant black cherry tree. The tree grows in the wild in old fields, or moist, woodsy sites. The tree blossoms in spring, attracting a variety of butterfly species to get nectar from the blooms. Wild cherry trees added to your butterfly garden will not only attract butterflies, but is hardy and will also produce edible fruits. The tree is a host for the eastern tiger swallowtail and red and white admirals.

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