20 Plants That Attract Butterflies in Tennessee

Are you looking to turn your Tennessee garden into a butterfly haven? You’re in luck, as there are a plethora of plants that attract these colorful winged beauties.

We’ve gathered a list of 20 plants that not only add charm to your garden but also provide a sanctuary for butterflies.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)

You may have heard of Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), a stunning plant that attracts numerous butterfly species in Tennessee.

Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)


This colorful perennial is native to North America and offers clusters of small, vibrant orange or yellow flowers perfect for attracting butterflies.

Besides catching the eyes of pollinators, these plants also provide food for the caterpillars, ensuring their survival.

Let’s take a closer look at the characteristics of this plant species:

  • Plant Species: Asclepias tuberosa
  • Plant Family: Apocynaceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, clumping
  • Flowering Time: June to August
  • Distribution: Eastern and Southern United States, including Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Leaves, flowers

Butterfly Milkweed is not only visually striking but also quite adaptable. It can thrive in different soil types, be it sandy, loamy, or even clay-based soils. Moreover, it tolerates dry and well-drained conditions.

Remember, planting native species like Butterfly Milkweed attracts beneficial insects and aids in creating a healthy and diverse ecosystem in your garden.

By including this fashionable plant in your landscape, you’ll enjoy a fascinating and vibrant haven for fluttering friends.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Swamp Milkweed is a lovely native perennial that is sure to attract butterflies to your Tennessee garden.

Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

With its vibrant pink flowers and an affinity for moist soil, this hardy plant creates a wonderful habitat for these winged visitors.

Swamp Milkweed is particularly sought after by Monarch butterflies as a host plant for their larvae.

Planting this beautiful flower will thus offer a valuable resource for these iconic and endangered species.

  • Plant Species: Asclepias incarnata
  • Plant Family: Apocynaceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, clump-forming
  • Flowering Time: Mid-summer to early fall
  • Distribution: Widespread throughout Tennessee and Eastern United States
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Leaves and flowers

Given its preference for damp environments, Swamp Milkweed thrives in areas near ponds, wetlands, and streams.

It is also a robust choice for rain gardens or areas in your landscape with poor drainage. When planting, provide enough space between plants to abstain overcrowding and promote air circulation.

This easy-to-grow plant will reward you with a lush display of flowers and a constant array of butterflies fluttering around.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common Milkweed is a must-have plant when creating a butterfly-friendly garden in Tennessee.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

These hardy plants provide food for the larvae of Monarch butterflies, which are a beautiful and iconic species.

The plants themselves have large, luscious leaves and clusters of pinkish-purple flowers, offering a feast for both the eyes and various pollinators.

The presence of these plants in your garden will attract butterflies and provide them with the resources needed for their survival.

  • Plant Species: Asclepias syriaca
  • Plant Family: Apocynaceae
  • Growth Habit: Perennial, erect
  • Flowering Time: Late spring to early summer
  • Distribution: Native to Eastern and Central North America, including Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Can live for several years and reproduces both by seeds and rhizomes
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers and leaves

By planting Common Milkweed in your Tennessee garden, you’re not only adding beauty to the space but also helping the delicate Monarch butterfly population.

This butterfly species is dependent on milkweed plants for survival, and with its declining numbers, every bit helps.

So go ahead, bring vibrant colors, sweet fragrances, and magical fluttering wings to your garden by incorporating the Common Milkweed.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple Coneflower, also known as Echinacea purpurea, is a popular plant among butterfly enthusiasts in Tennessee.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

With its beautiful, large flowers in shades of lavender, pink, and purple, this plant is sure to add a splash of color to your garden.

Not only are the flowers visually appealing, but they also provide nectar for various butterfly species.

Let’s have a closer look at some unique aspects of the Purple Coneflower:

  • Plant Species: Echinacea purpurea
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, clump-forming perennial
  • Flowering Time: June to September
  • Distribution: Native to eastern and central North America
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Leaves, roots, and seeds

Purple Coneflower is a hardy plant that can tolerate well-drained soil in a number of different conditions.

To make the most out of your Purple Coneflower, ensure plenty of sunlight for optimal growth. Its nectar-rich flowers not only attract butterflies but also other beneficial insects such as bees and hummingbirds.

Adding this plant to your garden is an excellent way to help support the thriving ecosystem in Tennessee.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-eyed Susan is a charming, native wildflower that adds a bright, sunny touch to your Tennessee garden.

Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Known for attracting a variety of butterflies, it’s an essential addition if you are trying to create a butterfly-friendly space.

Their vibrant yellow petals and dark brown center make for a stunning contrast, which will have both you and your fluttering friends mesmerized.

  • Plant Species: Rudbeckia hirta
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, with bright yellow to orange-yellow petals and a dark brown center
  • Flowering Time: June to October
  • Distribution: Native to the eastern United States, including Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Biennial or short-lived perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers, stems, and leaves

Consider planting Black-eyed Susans in sunny spots where they can grow in clumps, creating a showy display and attracting butterflies with their inviting nectar.

These hardy plants can tolerate poor soil and drought conditions, making them an excellent choice for low-maintenance gardens.

The flowers will attract butterflies such as the American Lady, Monarchs, and Painted Ladies.

In addition to being a butterfly magnet, Black-eyed Susans also provide nesting materials and seeds for birds, fostering a thriving ecosystem in your garden.

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Joe Pye Weed, scientifically known as Eutrochium purpureum, is a popular perennial plant that attracts butterflies in Tennessee.

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

This native species displays a tall growth habit and produces large clusters of purple-pink flowers, offering an eye-catching appearance and essential nectar source for butterflies, especially the Swallowtails.

  • Plant Species: Eutrochium purpureum
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Herbaceous perennial, up to 3-7 feet tall
  • Flowering Time: July to September
  • Distribution: Eastern and Central North America
  • Life Cycle: Perennial; blooms mid- to late-summer and first frosts
  • Plant Part Used: Leaves and flowers

Joe Pye Weed prefers full sun to light shade and thrives in moist to wet soil conditions. You can plant it along the edges of ponds, streams, and other wet areas in your garden.

Joe Pye Weed is not only appreciated by butterflies but also attracts bees and other pollinators, making it an excellent choice for creating a biodiverse and wildlife-friendly garden.

To enjoy the beauty of Joe Pye Weed and attract butterflies, plant this species in your garden and watch nature’s beauty unfold before your eyes.

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

Blazing Star, commonly known as Liatris spicata, is one of the plants that bring a burst of color and vibrancy to your garden, attracting butterflies in the process.

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

This eye-catching perennial is native to eastern North America and is suitable for cultivating in Tennessee.

Its spikes of narrow, feathery flowers range from deep purple to pure white, adding a touch of elegance to any landscape.

Not only do these beautiful blooms draw in butterflies, but they also attract hummingbirds and other pollinators.

The flowers’ nectar-rich nature makes it a favorite snack for these winged creatures. Blazing Star is also deer resistant, ensuring that your garden’s beauty remains intact for all to enjoy.

Here are some quick facts about Blazing Star:

  • Plant Species: Liatris spicata
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, clump-forming
  • Flowering Time: Mid-summer to early fall
  • Distribution: Native to eastern North America, including Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Seeds and roots for propagation, flower stems for cut flowers

Consider planting Blazing Star in your Tennessee garden, not only for its stunning looks but also for its role in supporting local butterflies and pollinators.

Ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Ironweed is a tall, bright purple-flowering perennial that attracts multiple varieties of butterflies with its showy nectar-filled blooms.

Ironweed (Vernonia spp.)

Not only do butterflies love this plant, but bees and other pollinators will be drawn to your garden as well.

Let’s dive into the details of this beautiful and easy-to-grow plant that will turn your backyard into a haven for butterflies.

  • Plant Species: Vernonia fasciculata
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, reaching 4 to 6 feet tall
  • Flowering Time: Late summer to early fall
  • Distribution: Widespread across eastern and central United States, including Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers for nectar, leaves for butterfly caterpillar food source

In your Tennessee garden, consider planting Ironweed in a sunny location with well-draining soil. Once established, this plant is drought-tolerant and requires very little maintenance.

Additionally, Ironweed has the bonus characteristic of being deer-resistant, preventing it from being eaten by these garden visitors.

So, go ahead and create a beautiful butterfly sanctuary in your own backyard with vibrant, easy-to-grow Ironweed.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

New England Aster, scientifically known as Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, is a stunning perennial plant native to North America.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

This vibrant flowering plant is favored by gardeners because it attracts a variety of butterflies, including the iconic Monarch.

Let’s dive into its characteristics and how it can enhance your butterfly garden in Tennessee.

  • Plant Species: Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, branching stems with lance-shaped leaves
  • Flowering Time: Late summer to early fall
  • Distribution: Throughout Tennessee and eastern North America
  • Life Cycle: Herbaceous perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers and leaves

Planting New England Asters in your garden not only adds pops of bright purple and pink to your landscape but also provides an essential food source for butterflies.

These flowers thrive in full sun and well-drained soil, making them an excellent choice for your butterfly garden.

In addition, their tall, sturdy stems offer a perfect landing spot for various butterfly species.

As the blooming season progresses, you’ll notice an array of fluttering wings gracing your garden, all thanks to the New England Aster.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee Balm is a popular plant among gardeners who want to attract butterflies in Tennessee.

Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Not only does it draw these beautiful pollinators to your garden, but it also brings hummingbirds. As its name suggests, Bee Balm is also a favorite of bees.

The vibrant shades of red, pink, or purple flowers are hard for butterflies to resist, and the plant’s sweet aroma adds a lovely fragrance to your garden.

  • Plant Species: Monarda didyma
  • Plant Family: Lamiaceae (mint family)
  • Growth Habit: Perennial, growing between 2 to 4 feet tall with a bushy habit.
  • Flowering Time: Early to late summer, with blooms lasting for several weeks.
  • Distribution: Native to eastern North America, found in woodlands, meadows, and prairies.
  • Life Cycle: Perennial—returns year after year and continues to grow in size. However, it needs dividing every few years to prevent overcrowding and maintain plant health.
  • Plant Part Used: Both leaves and flowers are edible and can be used to make tea, as well as added to salads and other dishes for their minty flavor.

Bee Balm is an excellent choice if you want to attract butterflies and other pollinators to your Tennessee garden.

Its vibrant colors, delightful aroma, and versatility make it a fantastic addition to any landscape.

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

Goldenrods are a group of herbaceous perennials native to North America that are sure to bring butterflies to your Tennessee garden.

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)

They are known for their bright yellow flower clusters that bloom in late summer and autumn, as well as their hardiness and ability to thrive in various habitats.

  • Plant Species: Solidago spp.
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, clump-forming
  • Flowering Time: Late summer to autumn
  • Distribution: North America
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers, leaves

Goldenrods are not only beautiful but also serve a vital role in the ecosystem by providing nectar for pollinators like butterflies and bees.

Their bright yellow flowers attract various butterfly species, such as Monarchs, Swallowtails, and Fritillaries.

Moreover, Goldenrod is an essential source of food for many native insects, making it an excellent choice for any naturalistic or pollinator-friendly garden.

Planting Goldenrod in well-drained soil and full sun will ensure a stunning display of flowers that will have butterflies flocking to your garden.

It’s also worth noting that Goldenrod’s leaves stay green through most of the winter, adding year-round interest to your landscape.

So, if you’re looking to create a butterfly oasis in your Tennessee garden, make sure to include Goldenrod in your plant list.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

Sunflowers are one of the most recognizable flowers in the world, and they also serve an essential purpose in any butterfly garden.

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus)

The large, bright yellow petals draw in butterflies, providing them with a bountiful source of nectar.

Furthermore, sunflowers create an attractive and energetic ambiance in any outdoor space.

  • Plant Species: Helianthus annuus
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, with tall and sturdy stalks
  • Flowering Time: Summer to early fall
  • Distribution: Common across the United States, specifically in Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Annual plants that complete their life cycle within one year
  • Plant Part Used: The flower heads provide nectar for butterflies, while the seeds are a valuable food source for birds and other wildlife.

To attract a wide variety of butterflies, plant sunflowers in groups. This will create a more significant nectar source, making it easier for the butterflies to locate your garden.

Opt for native sunflower species, as they are better adapted to the local climate and have a higher chance of attracting native butterflies.

Sunflowers are low-maintenance plants, requiring minimal care and thriving in various soil types, making them perfect additions to your butterfly garden in Tennessee.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal Flower is a stunning, vibrant red wildflower that will undoubtedly catch your eye and attract various butterfly species to your Tennessee garden.

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Besides being a popular source of nectar for butterflies, this perennial native plant is also an excellent choice for hummingbird gardens.

With its tall spikes of brilliant red flowers and attractive dark green foliage, Cardinal Flower adds a pop of color to any garden setting.

Its adaptability to various soil types and moisture levels makes it easy for gardeners to incorporate this beautiful flower into their landscapes.

  • Plant Species: Lobelia cardinalis
  • Plant Family: Campanulaceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright
  • Flowering Time: Late summer to early fall
  • Distribution: Eastern and central United States, southeastern Canada
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers

When planning your butterfly garden, be sure to include Cardinal Flower as one of the many native plants that create a visually striking and beneficial environment for both butterflies and other pollinators.

Its low maintenance requirements and adaptability to various growing conditions make it a perfect addition to any landscape.

Phlox (Phlox paniculata)

Phlox paniculata is a popular garden plant known for its showy, fragrant flowers that attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators.

Phlox (Phlox spp.)

Its dense clusters of colorful flowers make it a versatile plant for borders, beds, and naturalistic plantings.

Besides being an excellent butterfly magnet, Phlox also adds color and life to your garden and can easily become a favorite among your blooming plants.

  • Plant Species: Phlox paniculata
  • Plant Family: Polemoniaceae
  • Growth Habit: Perennial herbaceous plant
  • Flowering Time: July to September
  • Distribution: Native to eastern United States, from Maine to Georgia and west to Minnesota and Louisiana
  • Life Cycle: Perennial, with a tall, erect growth habit reaching 2-4 feet in height
  • Plant Part Used: Primarily grown for ornamental purposes, with attractive flowers and foliage.

To ensure a healthy and thriving Phlox, plant it in well-drained soil and provide full sun to light shade. Regular watering is also recommended, especially during dry periods.

Deadhead spent blooms to promote continuous flowering and trim back in the fall to maintain a tidy appearance.

With the right care, Phlox paniculata can grace your garden with its presence and, most importantly, attract those lovely butterflies for seasons to come.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

If you’re looking to attract butterflies to your Tennessee garden, then consider planting Buttonbush.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Known for its distinctive spherical flowers, this native shrub can grow 6 to 12 feet tall and offers an excellent source of nectar to butterflies and other pollinators.

Their unique appearance will definitely add a visual interest to your garden.

Here are some essential details about Buttonbush:

  • Plant Species: Cephalanthus occidentalis
  • Plant Family: Rubiaceae
  • Growth Habit: Deciduous shrub
  • Flowering Time: June to September
  • Distribution: Native to the southeastern United States, including Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Flower heads (for attracting butterflies)

Buttonbush is versatile and can be grown in various soil types. However, it prefers moist soils and can even tolerate areas with standing water.

It also adapts well to full sun or partial shade. With proper care, Buttonbush will produce beautiful white flower clusters, attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your garden.

As a bonus, Buttonbush is low maintenance and provides nesting habitat for native songbirds.

Furthermore, it can stabilize soil in wet areas, which is another advantage if your garden experiences drainage issues.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Zinnias are a popular ornamental flower that looks beautiful in gardens and attracts butterflies in Tennessee.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

These vibrant and colorful flowers come in various colors such as pink, red, yellow, orange, and white.

They are easy to grow from seeds, and their low maintenance nature makes them an excellent choice for any garden.

Some key features of the Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) include:

  • Plant Species: Zinnia elegans
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, bushy growth
  • Flowering Time: Summer through fall
  • Distribution: Native to Mexico, but cultivated throughout the United States
  • Life Cycle: Annual
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers and leaves

Growing zinnias in your garden will not only add a touch of cheer, but will also invite butterflies to visit your outdoor space.

Zinnias are an ideal choice for gardening enthusiasts of all levels.

With their bright and varied colors, zinnias are sure to make your garden stand out while attracting various pollinators, including butterflies.

If you want to attract butterflies and enjoy colorful flowers in your Tennessee garden, consider planting Zinnia elegans. Their beauty and low maintenance make them a must-have addition to any butterfly garden.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel is a versatile herb known for its fragrant, licorice-like flavor and its many culinary uses.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

It’s a popular choice among gardeners, not only because of its unique taste but also because it attracts butterflies to your garden.

With its feathery, delicate leaves and yellow, umbrella-like flowers, it provides an attractive landing spot for many butterfly species.

In addition, Fennel is often used as a host plant for swallowtail butterfly caterpillars, providing much-needed sustenance for these beautiful creatures.

  • Plant Species: Foeniculum vulgare
  • Plant Family: Apiaceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, branching, semi-hardy perennial herb
  • Flowering Time: Early to mid-summer
  • Distribution: Native to the Mediterranean region, widely cultivated and naturalized elsewhere
  • Life Cycle: Biennial or short-lived perennial
  • Plant Part Used: Leaves, seeds, and bulb

Planting Fennel in your Tennessee garden will not only provide a flavorful herb for your kitchen but also contribute to a lush, butterfly-friendly environment.

Remember to provide enough space for this tall herb, as it can grow up to 6 feet in height. In no time, you’ll enjoy both the culinary benefits and the elegant beauty of butterflies visiting your Fennel plants.

Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum)

Daisies are a favorite among gardeners and butterfly enthusiasts alike.

Daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum)

Their simple yet beautiful flowers not only bring a touch of charm to any garden, but also provide a rich nectar source for various butterfly species.

As a hardy perennial, daisies offer years of enjoyment with little maintenance required.

  • Plant Species: Leucanthemum x superbum
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae (Aster family)
  • Growth Habit: Herbaceous perennial, growing up to 3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide
  • Flowering Time: Blooms typically appear in late spring and last until early autumn, peaking during the summer months
  • Distribution: This plant is native to Europe but has been naturalized in many regions, including North America and Tennessee
  • Life Cycle: Perennial; returns each year to produce new blooms, which then produce seeds that can germinate the following spring
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers and leaves have been used in traditional folk medicine for their soothing and astringent properties, and they can be added to soothing teas or salves

Incorporating daisies into your Tennessee garden is an excellent way to attract a vibrant array of butterflies while adding a touch of timeless elegance to your outdoor space.

With their low-maintenance needs and versatile design potential, these beautiful flowers are a must-have for any butterfly-friendly garden.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)

Coreopsis, also known as Tickseed, is a popular plant among butterfly enthusiasts. It is highly attractive to butterflies, making it an excellent addition to your Tennessee butterfly garden.

Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)

The vibrant colors and dazzling display of Coreopsis flowers not only brighten up your garden but also provide a valuable nectar source for butterflies and other pollinators.

Coreopsis is easy to grow, drought-tolerant, and adaptable to various soil types, making it an ideal choice for gardeners of all levels.

  • Plant Species: Coreopsis tinctoria
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Upright, clump-forming perennial
  • Flowering Time: Summer to fall (June-September)
  • Distribution: Native to North America, commonly found throughout the United States
  • Life Cycle: Annual or short-lived perennial, depending on the variety and growing conditions
  • Plant Part Used: Leaves, stems, and flowers

The beauty of Coreopsis is not just in its bright blooms. It is also a low-maintenance plant, requiring minimal care once established.

Give it a sunny spot with well-draining soil, and you’ll be rewarded with a lovely display of butterfly-attracting flowers all summer long.

So, consider planting Coreopsis in your garden, and watch butterflies flock to the colorful feast you have created for them.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Yarrow, also known as Achilles’ plant, is a popular choice for attracting butterflies in Tennessee.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

This easy-to-grow perennial adds stunning colors to your garden, ranging from white to shades of pink and red.

Yarrow is also known for being low maintenance, drought-tolerant, and suitable for a wide range of soil types.

Butterflies love Yarrow because its tiny, overlapping flowers provide an excellent landing pad for them to feed on nectar and pollen.

Moreover, it also attracts beneficial insects that keep harmful pests at bay. So, by including Yarrow in your garden, you can effortlessly boost its biodiversity!

Here’s a quick overview of Yarrow’s essential features:

  • Plant Species: Achillea millefolium
  • Plant Family: Asteraceae
  • Growth Habit: Perennial herb, 1-3 feet tall
  • Flowering Time: Late spring to early fall
  • Distribution: Native to Europe and Asia, now widespread in North America
  • Life Cycle: Perennial, self-seeding
  • Plant Part Used: Flowers and leaves

If you want a beautiful, low-maintenance plant that attracts butterflies to your Tennessee garden, Yarrow is a perfect candidate.


Incorporating these 20 butterfly-friendly plants in your Tennessee garden will not only create a beautiful and colorful landscape, but also provide a natural habitat for these magnificent creatures.

Get started with adding some of these plants to your garden today, and enjoy the enchanting presence of butterflies all season long.

We hope you found this list helpful, and please feel free to leave a comment if you have any other favorite plants for attracting butterflies!

Butterflies   Updated: June 19, 2023
avatar Welcome to Insectic, a blog to learn about insects and bugs. I'm Richard, and I've created this website to share my experience, knowledge, and passion with others.

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