Attracting Butterflies with Native Michigan Plants


While the Little Traverse Conservancy works on stewardship projects throughout the year on our preserves, we also would like to provide some ideas to our members on ways to improve the aesthetics and wildlife habitat on their own land. A project that almost anyone can do, whether it is in a small garden or in a large backyard, is to plant native species of flowers, shrubs, or trees to attract wildlife. There is no better time than now to start preparing for wildlife plantings that will attract our summer visitors.

Over one hundred and fifty species of butterflies are found in Michigan. Many of these species prefer specific plants during different life stages. Planting native plant species provides habitat for butterflies that rely on the abundance of a specific food source for survival. The following list is comprised of native species of wildflowers and shrubs that will attract a variety of butterflies as well as hummingbirds. In order to provide continuous food for butterflies it is important to plant an assortment of species so that there will be blossoms throughout the season. Some of these plants may be available at a local nursery or garden center and others will need to be started from seed or ordered from a nursery that specializes in native plants. All species listed are native to northern Michigan. Local natural resource agencies may be of additional assistance with determining which species are best suited for your property or region.


Wildflowers Shade Requirements and  Planting Season

Aniseroot (Osmorhiza longistylis) Shade     Spring Tall
(Agrimonia gryposepala) Shade Summer

Swamp Thistle (Cirsium muticum) Shade Summer
Big- leaved Aster
(Aster macrophyllus) Shade Fall
Blue Lobelia
(Lobelia siphilitica) Shade Fall

Blue Stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) Shade Fall

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis) Shade Fall
Spotted Touch-Me-Not
(Impatiens capensis) Shade Fall

Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) Sun Spring
Bee Balm
(Monarda fistulosa) Sun Summer
Black-Eyed Susan
(Rudbeckia hirta) Sun Summer
Blazing Star
(Liatris cylindracea) Sun Summer
(Eupatorium perfoliatum) Sun Summer
Butterfly Weed
(Asclepias tuberosa) Sun Summer
(Coreopsis lanceolata) Sun Summer
Great Angelica
(Angelica atropurpurea) Sun Summer

Joe Pye-Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) Sun Summer
Swamp Milkweed
(Asclepias incarnata) Sun Summer

Wild Mint (Mentha arvensis) Sun Summer

Smooth Aster (Aster laevis) Sun Fall

Swamp Aster (Aster puniceus) Sun Fall


Chokecherry (Prunus virginia)

Gray Dogwood (Cornus foemina)

Highbush Blackberry (Rubus alleghaniensis)

Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago)

Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)

Serviceberry (Amelanchier laevis/arborea)

Silky Dogwood (Cornus amomum)


Special thanks to Ed Voss for assistance with this article.