The Butterfly Project
Butterfly Larval Plants

Below are some common Central California butterfly species and their preferred larval host plants. Some larval plants are also nectar plants.

Be aware that virtually any plant purchased from a commercial nursery has been doused with insecticides, and may also have systemic pesticides in its soil. If you want protect all butterflies inhabiting your garden already, repot all non-organically grown plants in fresh soil, and rinse leaves and flowers repeatedly for at least a week before introducing them into your butterfly garden.

  Butterfly Species   Larval Plant
  Monarch   Milkweed (Asclepias ssp.)
  Buckeye   Plantain, Snapdragon
  Painted Lady   Mallow, Hollyhock, Nettle
  West Coast Lady   Mallow, Hollyhock
  Red Admiral   Babies Tears, Nettle, Hops
  Gulf Fritillary   Passionvine
(Passiflora except P. vitifolia)
  Great Spangled Fritillary   Violet
  Mourning Cloak   Willow, Cottonwood, Poplar, Elm
  Lorquin's Admiral   Willow, Poplar, Chokecherry
  California Sister   Canyon & Coast Live Oak
  Viceroy   Willow, Aspen, Apple, Cherry, Plum
  California Dogface   False Indigo, Clover
  Anise Swallowtail   Fennel, Anise, Carrot, Parsley
  Pipevine Swallowtail   Pipevine (Aristolochia ssp.)
  Pale White Swallowtail   Ceanothus, Cherry, Coffeeberry, Alder
  Western Tiger Swallowtail   Willow, Poplar, Aspen, Alder, Sycamore

  Larval Plant Species Common Plant Name Common Butterfly Name
  Aesculus californica Buckeye Echo Blue
  Alnus oregnona Red Alder Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak
  Althea rosea Hollyhock Common Checkered Skipper, Large White Skipper, West Coast Lady, Painted Lady, Gray Hairstreak
  Artistolochia californica Dutchman's Pipevine Pipevine Swallowtail
  Asclepias speciosa Milkweed Monarch
  Asclepias fascicularis Milkweed Monarch
  Asclepias fruticosa Swan Shrub Monarch
  Brassica campestris Field Mustard Cabbage, Sara Orange-tip, Veined White
  Carex species Carex Skippers
  Ceanothus species California Lilac Echo Blue
  Cirsium sp. Thistle Mylitta Crescent, Painted Lady
  Cornus species Dogwood Echo Blue
  Diascia 'Ruby Fields'   Buckeye
  Diascia vigilis   Buckeye
  Diplacus species Monkey Flower Buckeye, Common Checkerspot
  Eriogonum species Buckwheat Common Hairstreak, Aemon Blue
  Foenicululm vulgare 'Purpureum' Bronze Fennel Anise Swallowtail
  Foeniculum vulgare Common Fennel Anise Swallowtail
  Gnaphaluim species Everlasting Flower, Cudweed Virginia Lady
  Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon Echo Blue
  Holodiscus discolor Cream Bush, Ocean Spray Lorquin's Admiral
  Humulus lupulus Common Hop Common Hairstreak, Red Admiral, Anglewing, Mourning Cloak
  Linaria purpurea Baby Snapdragon Buckeye
  Lippia repens   Buckeye
  Malva species Mallow Lg. White Skipper, W. Coast Lady, Painted Lady, Virginia Lady, Common Checkered Skipper, Common Hairstreak
  Passiflora 'Coral Seas' Passion Vine Gulf Fritillary
  Passiflora alatocaerula 'Lavendar Lady'   Gulf Fritillary
  Passiflora caerulea 'Blackmer'   Gulf Fritillary
  Passiflora 'Mixta'   Gulf Fritillary
  Phoradendron villosum Oak Mistletoe Great Purple Hairstreak
  Plantaego hirtella Plantain Common Checkerspot, Buckeye
  Poaceae sp. Grasses, Burmuda Grass Skippers
  Populus sp. Poplar Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak
  Quercus Oak Echo Blue, Mournful Duskywing
  Raphanus saticus Wild Radish Cabbage, Sara Orange-tip, Veined White
  Rumex Dock Purplish Copper
  Salix species Willow Lorquin's Admiral, Western Tiger Swallowtail, Mourning Cloak
  Scrophularia californica Bee Plant Common Checkerspot
  Sidalcea malvaeflora Checkerbloom West Coast Lady, Common Checkered Skipper, Gray Hairstreak, Painted Lady
  Spiraea species Spiraea Echo Blue
  Symphoricarpos albus Snowberry Common Checkerspot
  Urtica sp. Nettle Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Anglewing
  Viola pedunculata Wild Violets Fritillaries
  Viola glabella Wild Violets Fritillaries

Butterfly Nectar Plants


The following list includes a variety of nectar plants that will attract butterflies. When creating a butterfly garden, the size of the flower is important as to whether a species of butterfly can nectar on it. Larger, trumpet shaped flowers are used by larger butterflies (which have a longer proboscis), while smaller butterflies require shorter tubed flowers on which to nectar.

Try not to purchase nectar plants that have been heavily hybridized to create double flowers, as these are generally poor nectar producers. In descending order of color preference, butterflies prefer flowers that are red, yellow, orange, purple, pink, blue or white.


  Nectar Plants Common Name
  Purple Coneflower
  Black-Eyed Susan
  Butterfly Weed (Asclepias ssp)
  Obedience Plant
  Joe-pye Weed (Eupatorium ssp.)
  Pentas/ Penstamon
  Passion Vine
  Bee Balm
  Lavender Tree
  Jupiter's Beard
  Lady's Eardrops Fuschia

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 The Butterfly Project is sponsored by Benedictine Healing Products LLC