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Nectar plants for Swallowtail Butterflies

These swallowtail nectar plants are great at attracting butterflies to your garden. They just can’t resist them!

Nothing makes me smile more than going out into my garden and seeing swallowtail butterflies fluttering around.  Did you know that planting certain plants will make sure that you have these pretty visitors to your yard? 

Swallowtail butterflies are very large and colorful butterflies in the family Papilionidae.  The family is huge and includes over 500 species.

The majority of the butterflies are tropical but you can find them on almost every continent.

Swallowtail butterfly in a patch of zinnias.

I am very lucky to have them as common visitors in my garden.

With such a gorgeous butterfly, it stands to reason that the caterpillar would be showy too! One an almost imagine the change to come after the butterfly emerges from the cocoon just by looking at the coloring.Swallowtail caterpillar eating a leaf.

This swallowtail caterpillar loves to feast on  any of the carrot family plants,  such as dill, parsley, fennel and others.

While you may not enjoy him devouring these plants, he needs to grow and feed to become gorgeous like the photos below.

Butterfly on a pink flower with words Nectar Plants for Swallowtail Butterflies.

If you would like to attract Swallowtails to your garden you can do a few things to bring them near.

  • Provide a water source. A small pond or birdbath will give them places to drink.
  • Add rocks in your garden to give them a place to rest. (I like adding a big rock in my bird bath.)
  • Plant tall grasses, such as Japanese Silver Grass, to give them some shelter at night.
  • And most important, plant some nectar plants to give them something to fee on.

Try growing some of these Swallowtail nectar plants.Collage showing Nectar plants for Swallowtail Butterflies.


These easy to care for annuals are a magnet for swallowtails.  The brightly colored plants always seem to be covered with the pretty butterflies in my garden.

This dark morph tiger swallowtail is very fond of my zinnias!  This guy has a yen for the yellow ones!Blue swallowtail butterfly on a yellow zinnia

Fan Flower

Native to Australia, scaevola aemula is a plant that can really take the heat and is a butterfly magnet. The most popular color is blue but it also comes in white.

The flowers are shaped like fans and look as though they have been torn in half. Find out how to grow fan flower here.

White fan flower with butterfly.


Lantana is a tender perennial that swallowtails seem to love for their plentiful nectar source.Lantana and swallowtail butterfly.

Bee Balm

These pretty perennial has leaves with a minty citrus aroma.  The plant is irresistible to swallowtails.  It’s a good plant for cooler regions of the country.Pink bee balm plant.

Butterfly Weed

This perennial belongs to the milk weed family which is a host plant for monarch butterflies.  However, its flowers attract all sorts of butterflies, including swallowtails.Butterfly weed and swallowtail butterfly.


( can’t even begin to count the times that I’ve walked out to my deck garden to get some parsley and found that it has been stripped clean by swallowtail caterpillars.

They LOVE the stuff. Just goes to prove that parsley is a spice loved by all! Dill and fennel are other food plants that they favor.

More Swallowtail Nectar Plants

Joe Pye Weed

This stunning native perennial can grow to 9 feet tall. One of the nice things about this plant is that it blooms in the fall months, attracting butterflies well into the cooler time of the year.

Joe Pye weed and butterfly.

Thistle Flowers

What a beauty!  A Grand Canyon Swallowtail feasting on a thistle flower. Try growing globe thistles to attract them to your garden.

Grand Canyon Swallowtail feasting on a thistle flower.

Image shared from Wikipedia commons

Butterfly Bushes

If you want butterflies, (and not just swallowtails) in your garden, be sure to plant Buddleia, commonly known as Butterfly bushes.

There is hardly a day that goes buy in the summer when I don’t have dozens of swallowtails feasting on the butterfly bushes in my front garden bed.

Swallowtail on a butterfly bush.Purple Coneflowers

Purple coneflowers will attract Swallowtails as well as bees.  Be sure to leave the spent flowers when the colder temps arrive and the plant goes dormant.

The birds love the seed heads, too!

Did you know that there are many varieties of coneflower than the purple color? Find out more about the echinacea varieties in this post.


Even certain succulents will attract swallowtails.  This variety is Sedum spurium “dragons blood”.

Swallowtails love Sedum spurium "dragons blood" by

Image shared from Drought Smart Plants


All of my sunflower plants are attractive to swallowtails.  How majestic is this pairing?  A huge butterfly needs a huge flower, after all!

This female swallowtail has the perfect markings for this flower. No wonder she is so attracted to it!

Giant Sunflower and female Swallowtail from

Image shared from Magic Touch and Her Gardens

Do you get a lot of these butterflies in your garden? What swallowtail nectar plants attract them there?  Please leave our comments below.

If Monarchs are your thing, check out my tips for attracting monarch butterflies.

Pin this post about swallowtail nectar plants for later

Would you like a reminder of these plants that attract swallowtail butterflies? Just pin this photo to one of your gardening boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.

Swallowtail butterfly on a patch of zinnias with words reading Nectar plants for Swallowtails.

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Saturday 14th of January 2023

My daughter found a black swallowtail caterpillar quite late in the fall. She brought it inside and fed it dill. It made a cocoon, but never became a butterfly until now, in January. We live in Ontario, Canada, and the temp is -5 degrees Celsius. What should I do? I read online to give the butterfly honey water soaked in a paper towel, but the butterfly is not eating it.

Carol Speake

Saturday 14th of January 2023

I've never taken care of a butterfly so I can't give advice on this.


Saturday 25th of July 2020

My neighbour and I grow the Monarch butterlies here in Florida, and we lose a lot of caterpillars. We bring a lot inside and put them in our mesh enclosures. We know the bees get them and I see a lot of lizards on the Milkweed bushes and Im wondering if birds might eat them but not so sure about that. We have had very upsetting issues with our Milkweed bushes being sprayed with pesticides before we buy them. We now wash our bushes when we bring them home.


Tuesday 1st of November 2022

@Linda, is this true of lizards too? I see a lot of lizards here in Central Florida on my milkweed.


Thursday 2nd of September 2021

@Colleen, birds do not eat monarch caterpillars because the milkweed is poisonous, and they know that. That's why they (birds) don't go after the butterflies either. Bright colors are a danger sign to the birds.

Genevieve Ryan

Sunday 26th of July 2020

If the chemical are neonicitinoids they are systemic and do not wash off. Be very careful and ask plant suppilers what chemicals were used. Safest thing is to buy plants from native plant nurseries near you. Or, from organization like wild Ones who often have plant sales and offer much info.


Sunday 28th of June 2020

We have fennel, parsley, dill and a host of flowering plants to attract butterflies in our beds. In particular last year and to God's glory this year we again have black swallowtail caterpillars and so far one crysalis. I am very puzzled....each day ( actually several times a day) I go out and check on the caterpillars on the fennel. Last week we had a total of 12 caterpillars, slowly each day dwindling down to this morning when to my dismay I counted only 5 and now it's late afternoon and we are down to one very hungry caterpillar and still the one crysalis. Can you please explain to me what has happened to them? Our fennel is tall and big so there is plenty of room for lots of caterpillars! I even check our dill and parsley. They have not moved to those. I will greatly appreciate any reason you can give me for their disappearance. Sad in East Texas. Rochelle

Bradley Dean Lundstedt

Monday 6th of September 2021

@Rochelle, Hi Rochelle,

If you have wasps around they will very thoroughly hunt for caterpillars , and take them away . It sounds like what's happening. I made a 36"x36"x36" nursery wrapped with window screen to save monarch caterpillars , and put it over one of my abundant plants , then move the babies in there as soon as I find them and it works. Thanks be to Adonai.

be encouraged you have the ball rolling just don't stop cause if the butterfly's aren't happy nobody is.

Encouraged in DFW,



Sunday 18th of July 2021

@Rochelle, could it be they crawled away to make their chrysalis? The same thing happened to me and today, 22 days later I’ve got 2 swallowtail butterflies on my lantana and coneflowers and one is laying eggs on the fennel!!


Sunday 26th of July 2020

Hello, I believe the cause of your missing caterpillar’s are most likely birds eating them. That’s why I usually bring them in my house in to a container or cover them with a light mash while still in The garden

Carol Speake

Sunday 28th of June 2020

Hi Rochelle, I have no idea what is causing the disappearance. I see less and less butterflies and bees as the years go by but don't know why a specific group would disappear. Perhaps a reader will have some opinions.

Summer Songs

Monday 22nd of August 2016

Oops, I really meant to say in my note, above, to provide native plants for the butterflies (not hummingbirds. . .though they need them, too!)

Sorry for the typo. I probably was looking at my hummingbird feeder or just a senior moment.


Summer Songs

Monday 22nd of August 2016

Hi, thank you for posting caterpillar photos and all the pretty photos and identifying the plants.

Some people are very interested now in providing native plants (for their state) to provide larval food as well as nectar for these beautiful hummingbirds. On our native plant Facebook page, it was suggested that ironweed as well as joe pye weed was suitable for swallowtail butterflies. Do you know of any other native plants they will visit or use as larval food (i.e., plant their eggs upon).

Meanwhile, I wanted to mention something I just learned about this year. There is concern over pesticides (particularly the kind known as "neonicontinoids" or "neonics" for short, that are used in bedding plants and flowers you buy at the "big box" stores (like Home Depot and others). These stores were usually my sources (except for an herb gardening club's sales) for flowers and vegetables. The plants are marked somewhere on the labels so a careful shopping can read the label to avoid buying plants with these pesticides. As you know, pesticides can be harmful to our pollinators, which include butterflies, bees, and others. Also did you know many many flies look like bees? They can also be great pollinators.


Summer Songs

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