Native Texas Butterfly House & Garden

Open May 29 – October 3, 2021 

Overview

Explore the Beauty of Butterflies

Walk among free-flying native butterflies and other pollinators in our Native Texas Butterfly House & Garden.

The butterfly house includes native species, which vary by season and what is available from suppliers. Our butterfly garden is filled with host plants that naturally attract these lovely creatures.You may even find a few ideas to try in your own garden! 

 

This area is also a great setting for nature photography and portraiture (small fee applies). Please note that the butterfly house is not open during the off-season. The butterfly garden is accessible year-round; however, plant life and inhabitants vary seasonally.

Native Texas Butterfly House

Visit Heard

Get Tickets!

Visit the Native Texas Butterfly House and Garden, w hen open, with a General Admission ticket!

Gardening for Butterflies and Other Polllinators

Attracting butterflies to your garden is easy. Your butterfly garden can be as simple or sophisticated as you choose. You can also add elements over time to provide better resources. If you don’t have a spot to plant things in the ground, you can even use containers. Your garden may also benefit a number of other important pollinators such as hummingbirds, bees or even bats.

A butterfly on a flower

Supporting Butterflies Throughout Their Lives

Butterflies have several stages of development in their lives. To really support the butterflies, it is useful to provide the basic appropriate resources for each stage. This means they will need:

  • Host Plants: Plants for the caterpillars to eat
  • A safe place for them to form their chrysalis and complete their metamorphism.
  • Nectar Plant: Plants that provide rich sources of nectar from flowers that are easy for the adult butterflies to access

Host Plants

Each species of caterpillar (the larval form of butterflies and moths) feeds on specific and different plants all referred to as “host plants.” These plants are also where adult butterflies lay their eggs. Because each species has different needs, providing a variety of plant species will attract different types of butterflies.

Note: Be prepared for the caterpillars to nibble on the leaves. This is how they eat. If you’re uncomfortable with having plants that may not always look pristine as a result of caterpillars feeding on them, try tucking them in a less visible (to humans) location.

  • American Painted Lady: Artemisia, Hollyhock, Thistle, Pearly Everlasting
  • Cabbage White: Mustards, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Nasturtium
  • Checkered White: Mustards, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Clammyweed
  • Cloudless Sulphur: Legumes -Partridge Pea, Sennas
  • Dainty Sulphur: Shepard’s Needle, Greenthread, Marigolds
  • Eastern Black Swallowtail: Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Rue, Queen Ann’s Lace, Wild Carrot, Rattlesnake Master
  • Gorgone Checkerspot: Sunflowers, Coneflowers, Loosestrife
  • Giant Swallowtail: Prickly-Ash/ Hercules Club, Hoptree, Rue, Citrus Family
  • Gulf Fritillary: Passionvine, Maypop
  • Monarch: Milkweeds
  • Painted Lady: Thistle, Sunflower, Lamb’s Quarters, Mallows, Pearly Everlasting
  • Pearl Crescent: Asters
  • Phaon Crescent: Frogfruit
  • Pipevine Swallowtail: Pipevines (Wooly Dutchman’s pipe, Texas Dutchman’s pipe, Virginia Snake Root
  • Queen: Milkweeds
  • Silvery Checkerspot: Sunflowers, Frostweed, Coneflowers, Black-eyed Susan, Buckeye, Snapdragon Vine, Indian Paintbrush, Ruellia, Snake-herb, Plantain, Frogfruit
  • Sleepy Orange: Legumes (Partridge Pea, Sennas)
  • Spicebush Swallowtail: Spicebush, Sassafras
  • Texan Crescent: Flame Acanthus, Mexican Petunia, Snake-herb
  • Tiger Swallowtail: Cottonwood, Ash, Sweet Bay, Cherry, Hoptree, Plum
  • Variegated Fritillary: Passionvine, Maypop, Violets, Pansies, Flax
  • Viceroy: Poplar, Willow, Apple

Nectar Plants

By planting a variety of nectar plants that are attractive to butterflies, you may encourage a greater variety of butterflies to visit your garden. 

Adult butterflies feed on fluid called “nectar” that is made by flowering plants. Nectar is mainly made up of carbohydrates (sugars) and water; however, the concentration of sugars varies across plant species.¹ Small amounts of other chemicals can also be found. Because nectar composition can vary from plant species to plant species, different plants may be attractive to different species.

Top Native Perennials for Butterflies:

  • Garden/Tall/Fragrant Phlox, Phlox paniculata, (choose deep purplish pinks)
  • Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii
  • Havana Snakeroot, Ageratina havanensis, (for late Monarch migration; north-protect)
  • Mealy Sage, Salvia farinacea, (avoid white selections, e.g., ‘Augusta Deulberg’)
  • Pink Prairie Phlox, Phlox pilosa, (deepest pink available)
  • Prairie Verbena, Glandularia bipinnatifida, (NOT ‘Homestead Verbena’)
  • Purple Coneflower, Echinacea purpurea
  • Texas Gayfeather, Liatris mucronata, (avoid ‘Kobold’ not a local type)
  • Texas Lantana, Lantana urticoides, (avoid L. Camara, Tropical Lantana)
  • Zexmenia, Wedelia hispida

More Native Perennial Favorites for Butterflies:

  • Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens
  • Coreopsis
  • Fall Aster, Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
  • Flame Acanthas, Anisacanthus quadrifidus
  • Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora
  • Frostweed
  • Goldenrod
  • Ironweed
  • Late Blooming Boneset
  • Liatris
  • Maximilian Sunflowers*, Helianthus maximiliani
  • Milkweed (Green or Antelope Horns), Asclepias viridis and Asclepias asperula
  • Monarda
  • Purple Prairie Clover, Dalea purpurea
  • Salvias & Sages
  • Turk’s cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii
  • Yarrow, Achillea millefolium

Top Native Annuals for Butterlies:

  • Clammy Weed, Polanisia dodecandra
  • Common Sunflower, Helianthus annuus, (not the huge, showy cultivars; just wild – big plant!)
  • Cowpen Daisy, Verbesina encelioides, (sow March 1; deadheading prevents reseeding)

More Native Annual Favorites for Butterflies:

  • American Basket Flower
  • Barbara’s Buttons
  • Brown Eyed Susan
  • Cutleaf Daisy
  • Cypress Vine, Sunflowers*
  • Indian Blanket, Gaillardia pulchella
  • Partridge Pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata
  • Texas thistle, Cirsium texanum

Texas native small trees:

  • Buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis
  • Kidneywood, Eysenhardtia texana
  • Mexican Plum, Prunus mexicana
  • Redbud
  • Rusty Blackhaw Viburnum, Viburnum rufidulum

Non-native favorites**:

  • Autumn Joy Sedum
  • Butterfly Bush, Buddleja marrubiifolia
  • Gomphrena
  • Mexican Sunflower
  • Mints
  • Pentas
  • Zinnia

*Note that some sunflower species are annual and some are perennial.

**When possible, it is best to utilize native species.

  • Butterflies are near-sighted and can more easily see large groupings of flowers that are the same color. As a result, planting multiple plants of the same kind in clusters may make them easier for the butterflies to find. 
  • Butterflies have a strong sense of smell (through their antennae) and may be more attracted to flowers with a stronger smell. 
  • When possible, use native species. The native butterflies have co-evolved with them and so they are best suited for their needs.
  • Try including plants that have staggered bloom times to provide food throughout the year rather than just in one season. For a list of bloom periods for many native nectar sources for areas in Texas and Oklahoma, click here. (See pages 16-17)². To find a guide for a different location, click here. 
  • Butterflies feed through a tubular mouthpart called a proboscis. Their body structure (namely long, delicate wings) requires them to be able to easily reach their food. So the length of their proboscis can determine which flowers they may or may not be able to use. (As humans, we could compare this to trying to drink from the bottom of a tall cup with a short straw.) Provide plants that have flowers with easily accessible nectar. For example, some of the plant varieties that have been bred for human landscaping have extra petals that hinder access.

Other Butterfly Gardening Tips

  • Don’t use chemical pesticides. Many of the pesticides that you may use to target what you consider a “pest” insect may also affect butterflies.
  • A source of water can be beneficial to some butterflies in some conditions. This can easily be done by providing a dish of wet sand for them. They will likely not use a deep dish of water.
  • Native plants can sometimes be difficult to find. Be sure to check out the Heard’s annual Spring Plant Sale (see event page for future dates). Also, here are some tips from the Native Plant Society of Texas on how to find them.

Sources:
 Nicolson, Susan W.; Nepi, Massimo (2007). Pacini, Ettore, ed. “Nectaries and Nectar; Nectar Components“. Springer Publications. pp. 8–9. ISBN 9781402059377.

Ley, Elizabeth L., Stephen Buchmann, Ph.D., Larry Stritch, Ph.D., and Gil Soltz. “Selecting Plants for Pollinators: A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners in the Prairie Parkland (Subtropical) Province.” Pollinator Partnership. Pollinator Partnership, n.d. Web. 06 July 2017.

Additional Resources

Watch for scheduled programs–coming soon. Butterfly Talks are included in general admission and are free for Heard Museum members. Designed primarily for adults. Interested youth may attend with an adult. May not be suitable for children younger than 10 years.Talks are led by Melanie Schuchart, one of our key butterfly volunteers. Each presentation will last about an hour, followed by a walk through the butterfly house and garden.