Are Butterflies Attracted to Sunflowers?

Sara Sabharwal
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Bold and beautiful, it is hard to deny the uniqueness of a stately sunflower. The bright orange-yellow petals surrounding a large open face are attractive to more than just humans. Bees and birds are known to love them. But, are butterflies attracted to sunflowers too?

Yes! As sunflowers are full of easy-to-access nectar, butterflies are attracted to them. Ultimately, butterflies will love any flower that has an open flowerhead full of nectar.

Butterflies love the ease of accessing the nectar from sunflowers and will flock to them as they bloom in mid to late summer.

Sunflowers are often grown, en masse, in a field with many flowers growing at once. This makes a great spot to watch the butterflies fluttering from sunflower to sunflower in the setting sun. 

What Else Do Sunflowers Attract?

With their large faces, sunflowers are the perfect combination of resting place and food. Bees, hummingbirds, wasps, and butterflies all take advantage of the shelter and beauty of sunflowers.

While butterflies can see a large range of colours, including red, unlike bees, they are attracted to brightly coloured blooms and sunflowers fit the bill.

The ease of nectar access is also a great indicator of if a plant will make a good addition to a pollinator-friendly garden. Due to the large flat face of the sunflower, bees can be seen clustering in the centre of the flower both napping and gathering pollen.

Sunflowers can grow very tall. While they are grown by farmers to harvest the seeds for human consumption, they are also a popular choice for home gardens as well.

Planting a few sunflowers in your garden can increase the butterfly and bee populations in your garden, but be wary that the seeds can cause a large mess and also attract a large number of birds.

Some birds can be a predator of bees or butterflies (full list here) and will eat them as well as the seeds from the flowers. 

Which Varieties of Sunflower Attract Butterflies? 

Sunflowers offer a bright beacon of light, pulling in butterflies and bees from a distance. All types of sunflowers provide butterflies with nectar, pollen, and a safe resting place when they become tired from all the flying. 

Sunflowers tend to bloom in mid to late summer, which happens to be the time that many butterflies begin to migrate. Large sunflower fields provide bountiful food sources to travelling butterflies and the foliage of the sunflower provides a great place for caterpillars to grow and cocoon. 

Do Mexican Sunflowers Attract Butterflies?

Mexican sunflowers, or tithonia, do attract butterflies. Monarch butterflies, in particular, love Mexican sunflowers. The huge benefit of them is that they have multiple blooms on one plant. Monarch on Mexican sunflower

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Why Do Butterflies Like Sunflowers?

Butterflies are attracted to sunflowers because these plants offer a large flat surface where the nectar of the plant is easily accessible.

The sunflower’s foliage also makes a great place for caterpillars to grow, eat, and cocoon.

This is especially helpful during migration times with a variety of butterfly species. Since sunflowers bloom around the same time that the butterflies will be migrating, these large fields offer a sanctuary for wary and tired travellers. 

If you want to grow flowers in your garden that helps feed and attract butterflies, there are other options, of course.

Unfortunately, sunflowers can become messy as they dry out and the seeds begin to form. The seeds can also attract birds and other foraging animals that tend to be predators of butterflies and bees. 

Some gardeners, who have a wild naturalistic garden do like the appearance of the flower heads so it comes down to personal preference.

Instead of sunflowers, plant asters or daisies. These plants also have a large flat face that allows for ease of eating as butterflies can access the nectar without much work.

Hibiscus plants also are a favourite of butterflies and add a unique tropical vibe to your garden space. A purple butterfly bush will attract butterflies and bees thanks to its bright purple-hued flowers. 

Do All Butterflies Like Sunflowers?

In general, all butterflies will be attracted to sunflowers as it is a decent source of nectar. Butterflies are not known to be that fussy, providing that the nectar is easy to obtain.

Summary

Butterflies prefer plants that allow them to easily access the nectar with little or no extra work. Sunflowers are a great option for butterflies thanks to the sunflower’s large flat face.

The surface of the sunflower provides the butterfly with bountiful nectar as well as a resting place. Sunflowers tend to bloom in mid to late summer, the same time many butterflies are flying south for their migration.

Since many farmers grow large fields of sunflowers for their seeds, the timing is perfect to help nourish butterflies on their journey.

Growing sunflowers is not the only way to help butterflies. In fact, sunflowers in your home garden may not be a great idea. The seeds will attract many birds and other foragers that could eat the butterflies or bees in your garden.

Not to mention, the seeds can get quite messy.

Instead, grow asters or daisies as these flowers also offer a flat face and easy nectar access for butterflies. Milkweed is also an important plant to grow for butterflies as monarch butterfly caterpillars will only eat milkweed. Planting milkweed in your garden is a sure-fire way to get those beautiful orange butterflies to visit you. 


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