En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 28, 2009

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Butterfly plants for Washington DC area
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am a teacher working with very young students to establish a wildlife garden. We received a donated butterfly bush of a smallish cultivar, but wondering if there is a native shrub not too large for our corner garden that would also attract butterflies, etc. What are native alternatives to butterfly bushes?


On our Recommended Species page you will find under "Special Collections" a  list titled Butterflies and Moths of North America containing native plants that are valuable to moths and butterflies.  Once you have opened that database with more than 350 species of native plants, you can limit the list to your area by using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option and choosing either Maryland or Virginia.  This will give you a list of more than 180 native plant species for butterflies that grow in those states.  You can also use the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to select for what type of plant you want (e.g., Shrub, Herb, Fern, etc.) and to choose plants that will work with the amount of sunlight and soil moisture your site has.

Here are a few suggestions from that list using Maryland as the state choice.  There are many more choices of plants for you to see.

Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo)

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Ceanothus americanus (New Jersey tea)

Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle)

Lupinus perennis (sundial lupine)

Rudbeckia hirta (blackeyed Susan)

Spiraea tomentosa (steeplebush)

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae (New England aster)

Amorpha fruticosa

Asclepias tuberosa

Ceanothus americanus

Lonicera sempervirens

Lupinus perennis

Rudbeckia hirta

Spiraea tomentosa

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae



More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Native plants for a school butterfly garden
February 11, 2008 - My son's school is having a beautification work day and one of the projects is a butterfly garden. Parents are being asked to donate plants, and we would like to suggest appropriate plants for this ...
view the full question and answer

Butterflies attracted by Pink Evening Primrose from Burnet TX
July 30, 2012 - I see information on Pink Evening Primrose that says it attracts 'many butterflies' Please tell me which butterflies and name them? I've looked everywhere and am just exhausted and frustrated with...
view the full question and answer

Growth rate of non-native Asclepias curassavica
April 29, 2014 - As a volunteer at the National Butterfly center, I wonder how long from starting the seeds until the plant reaches approximately 20 cm tall does it take a tropical milkweed (asclepias curassavica) to ...
view the full question and answer

Flowers that attract Queen butterflies
August 17, 2014 - Walking into the cloud of Queen butterflies around my Gregg's Mistflowers is one of the coolest things I've ever experienced, so I started wondering how I could prolong this "visitation". Can you...
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant with small lilac flowers in Laredo
May 14, 2013 - Need help identifying the following: small lilac flowers in a cluster with seed pods, unpleasant scent which can be up to 3 feet tall ..wild flower or weed? am interested if it attracts hummingbirds...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center