My Top 10 Favorite Bird and Butterfly Plants


In our article “Attracting Birds and Butterflies,” we touched upon the types of plants that you’ll want to grow if you’d like to welcome a variety of birds and butterflies into your garden during the spring and summer months. Here are some of my favorites, which appeal to both birds and butterflies for a source of food and shelter. In addition to drinking the nectar, butterflies take to specific plants as a good spot to lay their eggs. Such plants offer protection to the larvae as they grow into caterpillars.

“Bird and Butterfly Plants:”


Abutilon - Flowering Maple is great for attracting birds and butterflies to your garden1. Abutilon – Flowering Maple

The flowering maple is an evergreen shrub that grows to about 8-10 feet tall, although dwarf varieties are available. Main bloom season is spring but white and yellow forms seem to flower continuously. Favorite flowering maple varieties include ‘Crimson Belle’ – deep red blossoms; ‘Linda Vista Peach’ – orange petals protrude from deep pink calyxes; ‘Moonchimes’– drooping, 3-in yellow flowers on compact plant.

Requires full sun to part shade; moderate to regular water.



Lavandula or Lavender is great at attracting birds and butterflies to your garden2. Lavandula – Lavender
Lavender is an evergreen fragrant shrub that thrives best in well drained soil. Keep neat and compact by cutting back by one-third to one-half after bloom. Favorite varieties include L. augustifolia or English Lavender, which grows to about 2 feet and makes it a great variety for smaller spaces; L. dentate, French Lavender, which matures to 3-4 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide; L. ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’ which is 21/2 to 3 feet high and 3-4 feet ttall; L. stoechas or Spanish Lavender which grows to 11/2- 3 feet tall and wide.

Requires full sun, moderate water.





Ceanothus or California Lilac is a wonderful plant to attract birds and butterflies to your garden3. Ceanothus – California Lilac

Full sun, little or no water. Light, well drained soil. Evergreen shrubs.
Typically flower in spring. Most are native to California. Plants vary greatly in habit: some are low and spreading, others compact and bushy, still others upright and angular.
Favorite varieties include C. ‘Dark Star’ – 5-6ft tall, 8-10ft wide, tiny dark green leaves, dark cobalt blue 1 ½ inch clusters; C. gloriosus – Point Reyes Ceanothus – 1-1 ½ ft tall, 12-16ft wide, ground cover variety with dark green oval leaves and light blue, 1-in clusters; C. griseus horizontalis – Carmel Creeper – 1 ½ – 2 ½ ft tall, 5-15ft wide, glossy oval 2-in leaves, light blue 1-in clusters.





Lavatera or Tree Mallow is great for attracting birds and butterflies to your garden4. Lavatera – Tree Mallow

Lavatera is an evergreen shrub with gray-green, maple-like leaves and a summer-long show of light pink flowers with dark rose veining and a deep purple center. The tree mallow grows quickly to about 6-8 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Lavatera maritima is the most commonly planted variety.

Requires full sun, regular water.



Passion flower is great for attracting birds and butterflies into your garden5. Passiflora – Passion Vine
Passiflora x alatocaerulea, or the Passion Vine, is evergreen or semi-evergreen that displays three lobed leaves, each 3 inches long, and fragrant, 4-inch white flowers shaded pink and lavender, with a deep blue or purple crown.

Requires full sun to part shade, moderate to regular water.



Heuchera or Coral Bells is great at attracting birds and butterflies to your garden6. Heuchera – Coral Bells
Many varieties of Coral Bells exist with a range of leaf colors from orange-peach through lime green, chocolate brown to deep purple. The flower stalks of coral bells are what attract birds and butterflies. They grow to 1-2 feet tall and wide, with flower spikes that are 1 to 2 1/2 feet high.

Requires full sun to part shade, moderate to regular water; perennials.





leonotis or lions tail is good at attracting birds and butterflies into your garden7. Leonotis Leonurus – Lion’s Tail

Lion’s tail is an evergreen shrub that branches 4-6 feet tall and wide. Hairy square stems carry opposite pairs of narrow toothed, 2-5-in long leaves. Blooms summer into fall with showy, dense wholes of tubular, deep orange, 2-in flowers covered with fur like coat of fine hairs.

Requires full sun, little or no water.





Salvia leucantha is a great plant to attract birds and butterflies to your yard8. Salvia – Sages
Favorite varieties of sage include:

  • S. clevelandii, or Cleveland Sage which is an evergreen shrub with rounded arching growth to3-5ft tall, 5-8ft wide. Blooms early summer with pale lavender to violet-blue flowers
  • S. greggii, or Autumn sage, which is an evergreen or deciduous shrub. Rounded plant branching from base; typically grows 1-4ft high and wide. Blooms summer through fall. Colors range from deep purplish red through true red to various rose and pink shades to white. Prune in spring to shape plants and keep compact
  • S. leucantha, or Mexican Bush Sage is an evergreen shrub that matures to 3-4 feet tall and 3-6 feet wide; sprawls in bloom. Blooms fall through spring. Flowers are white with purple calyxes.

Sage comes in many different varieties, mostly needing full sun, regular water and good drainage.




The fruits from Arbutus unedo or Strawberry Tree9. Arbuts Unedo – Strawberry Tree

The regular version of the strawberry tree will grow to 8-35 feet high, but ‘compacta’ stays at around 10 feet, making it perfect for smaller yards. Dark green, red-stemmed leaves with clusters of small white or greenish white, urn-shaped flowers and round, three-quarter inch fruit, which start out as green-yellow and mature to red with a strawberry-like texture.

Requires full sun, little to regular water, evergreen tree or shrub.

10. Epilobium canum – California Fuschia


Several different varieties are available, giving different heights and spreads, but all flower their hearts out at the end of the summer when most everything else is a little tired from the heat. Requires full sun, will put up with seasonal flooding, and takes well to being cut back each Fall.

Diane Downey - The Yard Fairy, low water, xeriscape and low maintenance landscape design Since 2003 Diane E Downey has owned The Yard Fairy, a North San Diego County based award winning landscape consultancy, design, installation and maintenance company creating low water, low maintenance landscapes that are as functional as they are pleasing to the eye. She continues to share her passion for landscaping, water conservation, water quality and carbon sequestration teaching many different classes across the county.