Attracting Butterflies To Your Garden

If you would like to attract butterflies to your garden, try planting some Pentas shrubs.
We originally planted some Buddleia, AKA Buddleja, bushes commonly referred to as the “butterfly bush”, one of which took over an entire corner of the garden.
We were later told by the manager of a local wholesale nursery we visit that it is a weed and he was correct. It is an invasive species which has become naturalised in Australia.
We got rid of them and replaced them with Pentas shrubs which were highly recommended to us.
Now we have the magnificent Ulysses butterflies feeding on them several times a day, almost every day.
A few years ago, there was a population crisis which was reported in the Cairns Post. Even the Butterfly Sanctuary at Kuranda lost their breeding stock and there were fears that the iconic butterfly could become extinct.
One commentator said that it could be some sort of infection that would die out when the butterfly population severely declined and it appears he was correct because they have certainly rebounded.
Now we can look out our kitchen window or go out to our back patio to watch them feeding as well as listening to the Mistletoe birds.
As well as supporting the butterflies, the Pentas flower all year round, and we have them in various shades of white, red, pink, lavender and blue.
Now if only we could just attract more of the spectacular Cairns Birdwing butterflies.


Each species of Butterfly favours a particular plant on which to lay it’s eggs. The larvae are very fussy eaters. Each species has one or several only preferred host plants.

The vine aristolochia is the commonly preferred host for the birdwing butterfly :butterfly: found in NQ. It’s important to plant according to locally occurring species as well as having a range of butterfly friendly plants if you have a favourite.

Many of our local councils in each state and some local nurseries have web pages devoted to which plants are best suited to different climates. And often guides to which host plants are required in your area.

Note that Buddleia ( a common garden plant with numerous varieties) is currently not listed as a weed in Queensland. It is commonly still recommended and sold for domestic gardens. At least one variety is a weed in Victoria.
Ref Qld Govt DAF

As it is very vigorous perhaps it is good that it has been replaced. Pentas are also foreign plants and noted for their durability. They appear to have been on trend recently as they can be grown in most climate zones.

It’s some times important to know what we are planting and why.
One person’s endemic (native to your locale) plant is another person’s weed. So the native to NQ Alexandra palm and Cadagi rain forest tree are common around Cairns but weeds if they are found in the wild in SE Qld where they can out compete local species.

There is a wealth of information on line and support available from local wildlife and landcare groups in all states.


I was only referring to a plant to attract the butterflies, not their host plants. We already have a large Melicope Rubra growing behind our rear fence that the original owners planted.
Interestingly, at our previous home, we planted a row of Duranta Geisha Girl along the side boundary which the Ulysses loved, while the inflorescence of the Golden Cane palms at the front of our property and a Foxtail palm at the rear attracted swarms of Cairns Birdwings. I had seen around 20 at the one time when I normally only ever see just one or a pair.



How useful is it for others to also understand the need for host plants, which are native species? Something foreign garden plants (exotic species) can’t be.

The more host plants the more butterflies. Many Australians live in areas where most of the original vegetation is gone for good. Is it good advice for most not blessed and living near a national park that they should also plant host plant species to suit their local butterflies?

We know and appreciate this fact. Can we all do more good by encouraging others to plant host species as well as our favourites?