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Portland Nursery

NW Native Plants for Attracting Butterflies

Having a garden that is a welcoming place for butterflies can be a real joy. There are a lot of butterflies that are native to our region, and one way to be able to best attract them is by planting natives.



Many people mistakenly focus all their attention on the nectar plants to attract the adults, without equal attention to the larval plants that will feed the growing caterpillars — helping to insure that you will have generations of returning butterflies to your garden.

Many of the NW Native plants we carry at the nursery are good butterfly plants as well as good garden plants. Here is just a partial list of what we usually see during the year:

  • Allium cerneum (wild onion)
  • Erigeron spp (flea-bane)
  • Eriophyllum lanatum (Oregon sunshine)
  • Holodiscus discolor (oceanspray)
  • Philadelphus lewisii (mock orange)
  • Achillea millefolium (yarrow)
  • Sidalcea spp. (checker mallow)
  • Rhamnus purshiana (cascara)
  • Spiraea spp. (Spirea)
  • Aquilegia Formosa (columbine)
  • Aster spp. (aster)
  • Penstemon spp. (Penstemon)
  • Amelanchier alnafolia (serviceberry)
  • Dicentra formosa (bleeding heart)
  • Camassia spp. (camas)

Attracting butterflies to your garden requires more time and patience than attracting birds. There are also considerations of placement of plants and providing a water source. Below are some links that should go a long way to helping you set up a garden area attractive to butterflies:

Good information about Willamette Valley plants and general advice from the Eugene Chapter of the North American Butterfly Association. (Note: some of this a little outdated, for example the invasive Buddleia is no longer available for sale – but much of the information is still current and valuable)

Great graphic list for both butterflies and hummingbirds from East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District (EMSWED).

Local photographer Chris Carvalho has put together a thorough (and beautiful) resource on native butterflies and the plants that feed them. (He includes a few compatible non-natives here, too)

Our brochure on gardening for butterflies lists more natives, along with non-natives, designates whether the plant is for nectar-feeding or larval-feeding.

…and last but not least, the Portland Plant List, an amazing resource on plants native to the Portland Metropolitan area, to help you learn which butterfly-attracting plants would be most appropriate for your landscape.

Peggy Acott