These orange, black, and silver-spotted beauties have been in my garden a lot this summer. I’ve seen Gulf fritillary butterflies (Agraulis vanillae) feeding at the black and blue salvia, the pineapple sage, and some of the other flowers in my garden.
Caterpillar Host Plants
The hatching of their eggs was announced by the complete de-leafing of my two purple passionflower vines. Now I love the unique flowers purple passionflower vine, but without their leaves, the vine didn’t bloom. This is a small price to pay for seeing the butterflies emerge from their cocoons in my front yard. It’s amusing to watch the caterpillars, which are bright orange with black spikes, munching away on the vines.
If you live in the southern U.S., you may have seen this butterfly in your area. It spends the winters in Florida and migrates north in the summer. You can find this butterfly as far as the central U.S. but it doesn’t travel much further than that.
Living in Mississippi, it was always a happy surprise to come across a Gulf fritillary, as they aren’t that common. This year though they seem to be everywhere. Now that migration has started, I’ve been seeing them throughout town.
Tips for Attracting Gulf Fritillary Butterflies to Your Garden
If you’d like to encourage these butterflies to spend time in your garden, there are a few things you should do. As with all wildlife, they require food and water, shelter, and places to reproduce.
Plants for Gulf Fritillary Butterflies
Providing flowering plants that offer nectar is a first step. Generally, I recommend using native plants, especially when feeding native butterflies. Native salvias, bee balm, Tithonia, asters, and others are great, but the fritillaries also love to feed on lantana, zinnias, and other plants. See a list of flowering plants that provide nectar and host plants for butterflies.
To help this butterfly thrive and reproduce, plant the host plant for their larvae: the passionflower vine. This is the number one item that should be in your garden to attract these butterflies. In my garden I plant the purple passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata).