Summer Blooms for Butterflies

You may be aware that milkweed is the only food that monarch caterpillars eat. Monarch butterflies, however, need more than just milkweed to sustain them. Monarchs and other butterflies need gardens that have different species of summer-flowering plants to provide nectar.

Today’s post features five terrific summer-blooming California native plants for butterflies that are great additions to your garden.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) is from the rose family. This plant grows quickly, becoming a small tree up to 25 feet tall. In the hottest days of summer, toyons are covered with white blossoms that butterflies love.

Toyon blossoms and the monarch butterfly. (Kevin Alison)

After the toyon’s white flowers are pollinated, they form bright red berries at Christmas time. The abundant holly-like berries are the reason that one of toyon’s common names is California Christmasberry. Migrating birds like cedar waxwings come to Southern California in the winter to munch on the red fruit.

Two cedar waxwings eating toyon berries. (E. Wallace)

Coyote mint (Monardella sp.) is an easy-to-grow shrub that blooms throughout spring and summer with pink flowers that attract butterflies.

Swallowtails feasting on nectar from coyote mint. (Kevin Alison)

Another low-growing flowering shrub is Verbena lilacina. Verbena’s blossoms are butterfly magnets throughout the summer months.

Western white butterfly finding a sip of nectar. (E. Wallace)
Painted lady butterfly on Verbena lilacina. (E. Wallace)

You can count on native Milkweed’s (Asclepias sp.) creamy white flowers to provide nectar for butterflies and other pollinators. The leaves and seed pods also feed hungry monarch caterpillars.

Monarch butterflies on narrow-leaf milkweed. (Rachel Whitt)
Monarch caterpillar eating narrow-leaf milkweed. (E. Wallace)

Lastly, the classic California native plant, Buckwheat (Eriogonum sp.), with its beautiful white snowball blossoms, provides nectar for butterflies and pollinators all summer long. There are many species of buckwheat that are great additions to every garden.

Marine blue butterfly visits buckwheat. (Kris Ethington)

Toyons, coyote mint, verbenas, milkweed, and buckwheat are just a few of the many lovely California native plants that flower in the summer, supporting butterflies and other pollinators. You can bring nature to your landscape by planting these easy-to-grow, low maintenance plants in your garden.

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