The Best Butterfly Plants to Grow in your Desi Garden


Namaskar Desi Gardeners! Let’s talk about the best butterfly plants suitable for an Indian garden and climate. While butterflies flock to a number of plants and flowers, not all of those are easy to grow and maintain in our Indian garden. For example, a flower like tulip is difficult to grow in the warmer regions of but is more suitable for Kashmir, Himachal and other states that have colder climate.

Also, we should stick more to native plants and varieties – which are more beneficial to the insects as well as towards the overall ecology. Butterflies need to collect nectar, lay eggs and some specie of the butterfly may prefer a certain kind of plant that grows in India.

Which are the best butterfly plants that host Indian butterflies? 

Rangan (Ixora)

Rangan has been a very popular plant in our desi gardens. Not only is it one of the best butterfly plants, it is also used to make ayurvedic medicines. Rangan is also known by many names like Ixora, West Indian Jasmine, viruchi, jungle geranium etc.

best butterfly plants

Rangan needs little care in our Indian climate and is more resistant to diseases. Regular watering and full sunlight will give you blooms all around the year. It loves acidic soil. Add compost with mustard cake regularly and you have a hassle free plant.

Rangan comes in red, white, yellow, orange and pink. If picking for growing in pot, go for a dwarf variety. These come as single and double petal.

Panjphulli (Lantana Indica)

We have all seen Lantana growing wildly around the roadside and fields. These are one of the greatest host plants for the butterflies.

Lantana is found in parts of the world but there is a particular type that originates in India called the Lantana Indica.

best butterfly plants

Almost around all the Indian states you can find Lantana. Locally it has different names – पंजफुल्ली (Panjphulli), घनेरी Ghaneri, Joli, Pivale Arippu, Konninimullu, Arippu, Chalakiyam and Putus.

Lantana comes in many bright colours of yellow, orange, red and in mixed hues. It blooms most during the rainy season attracting the butterflies.

Red Puff/ Calliandra

Calliandra is another plant that is easy to grow and one of the best butterfly plants to grow in India. Its bright round blooms will bright up any place attracting both butterflies and humans.


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Calliandra comes in bright red, bright pink, light pink and in some mixed shades of white and pink. The calliandra comes as a tree but if you can get the dwarf variety, it will make an excellent potted plant in your garden.

Portulaca and Purslane

Portulaca and purslane fill up our summer garden and bring a lot of happiness to us gardeners. Plus their colourful blooms also attract the butterflies. Portulaca is also known as the moss rose and nine/ten o’clock flowers and Nonia ( नोनिया ) these plants thrive in full sunlight without much care.

best butterfly plants

I read in an article that ‘as a general rule butterflies prefer flowers that are white, pink, purple, red, yellow and orange’. That sounds perfect for portulaca as these comes in such varied colours.

Jhumkalata (Passiflora)

Passion Flower is known in India in very interesting names, some being  Radhika nachom, Jhumkalata and Ghadee phool. This flower with a very unique look has been associated with Hindu mythology. It is believed that the whole flower represents the main characters of the Mahabharata. Similarly it also held sacred in Christian faith. The Passion flower gets its name from Passion of the Christ.


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Jhumkalata is a vine and with the right soil and water it grows without much care and blooms almost all the year round. It comes in various shades like blue, violet, red, yellow and white. These heavy blooming plants are one of the best butterfly plants you can have in your desi garden.

Gurhal/ Jaba (Hibiscus)

The big brightly- coloured conspicuous blooms of hibiscus attract several types of butterflies, bees and smaller birds like the sunbird. Hibiscus is an easy to grow plant and nowadays you can get several varieties and colours from the nursery.

best butterfly plants

Hibiscus comes in mainly two categories – the native (desi) and hybrids (Like the Pune variety). Natives generally thrive better in soil. The hybrid varieties easily grow in pots; although with the right care you can grow both in pots and soil.


I have not mentioned petunia in my list, instead here is ruellia. Many people say that ruellia is ‘wild petunia’. I don’t know if that is true but the flowers look quite the same. However petunia shrubs are smaller and flower more than ruellia. You can also go for petunia instead.

Ruellia is a native plant that butterflies and bees love. These plants provide food and shelter to lay their eggs.

This plant has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is common to see ruellia planted as borders in parks and roadside gardens.


Magnolia is known for its out-of-this-world fragrance. The grandest of all magnolias are the swarna champas that grow in the fertile soil of India enriched by the rivers.

best butterfly plants

Most magnolias are better grown in soil but nowadays you can get smaller varieties suitable for pots. Magnolia needs some care to bloom well but once it does, it will make the environment heavenly.

Amaltaas (Cassia fistula)

As this is a tree you have to grow it in the soil (unless you make a bonsai). This tree is a native plant that provides food to a number of birds and insects. It is one of the best butterfly plants that you can get for a garden.


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The golden shower tree is locally called Amaltaas, Raajavrikshaand Sonali for its gorgeous blooms. The tree is much like the Gulmohar but it blooms in vibrant yellow with beautiful hanging bunches. Although Amaltas is a tree it does not grow so big as the gulmohar and can be planted in a comparatively smaller soil area.


Here is a non-flowering one. Croton is said to be an excellent choice if you want to attract butterflies. Its beautiful leaves.

best butterfly plants

Here is a croton plant with a self-watering pot that you can get for your home:


Kalanchoe is a succulent that blooms profusely in the winter season in India. Although it is not a native plant but it has become quite popular as it is easy to grow.


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You can get Kalanchoe with flowers of red, yellow, orange and pink in single and double petal variety. It is pronounced here as kalan-cho  as well as kalan-koe. These plants can be very easily grown from its leaf and stem and hardly ever die unless rotting in water.

Sarso (Brassica or Mustard)

The bright yellow flowers of mustard may be small but are full of nectar and beauty. Bees and butterflies are drawn to these plants, making it one of the best butterfly plants. Just spread some mustard seeds on the soil and water and within a month and a half the blooms will start to appear.

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