This is a guest post by Alicia Owen — mother, teacher, and homesteader!

It’s that time of year again; the skies are full of butterflies! Many species are not too choosy about what flowers and plants they drink from, and you probably have no shortage of them in your area. We could always use more pollinators though, because who doesn’t love watching these colorful creatures gracefully glide from flower to flower? If you are looking to attract more butterflies to your yard or garden, here is a list of several common species you can find in central Indiana and the native plants they can’t resist!


I’m sure we’ve all seen one type of swallowtail in our lives. They are easily recognizable due to their larger size, and the following are the most common in our part of the state:

Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Tiger Swallowtails

You can identify these butterflies by their bright yellow and black coloration. Interestingly, males are always yellow, but females can be yellow or all black!

Spicebush Swallowtails

As the name implies, these guys are fond of the native spicebushes that grow abundantly in central Indiana, with all black bodies and white spots along the outer edges of their wings. These butterflies also have brilliant blue at the bottom of their hindwings.

Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly
Zebra Swallowtail Butterfly

Zebra Swallowtails

With their black and white stripes, these intriguing butterflies are hard to miss! Like the Monarchs, these guys are a bit picky about where they lay their eggs and rely solely on pawpaw (Asimina triloba) trees in much of their range.


Although you may not be familiar with the term, I’m sure you are familiar with at least one of these species below.

Monarch Butterfly, pollinator


We are probably all familiar with this massive black and orange favorite! They can be found all over the U.S. during warmer spring and summer months as well as many parts of Canada. Like the picky Spicebush Swallowtail, Monarch parents will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants.


These butterflies are often confused with Monarchs, understandably so, with their similar colors and markings. Viceroys are slightly smaller, however, and aren’t quite as fancy looking as the Monarchs. They have a dusty looking quality to them as if they are old.

Viceroy Butterfly

Red Admirals

The most distinguishing factors of this butterfly are its orange lines and white spots on the top of its forewings. These butterflies are numerous and often one of the first butterflies to be seen of the season.

Red Admiral Butterfly
Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady and American Painted Lady

If there is a butterfly species more commonly seen throughout central Indiana than the Red Admiral, it’s the Painted Ladies. Painted Ladies are not particular at all about where they lay their eggs. Whereas Monarchs prefer only to lay one egg per host plant, these butterflies will go nuts and put dozens on one plant!

Other Misc. Species

Keep an eye out for these plentiful wings in the sky as well!

Clouded Sulphur Butterfly

Clouded Sulphur

More than likely, these are the medium-sized yellow butterflies you see everywhere, especially in open meadows and next to fields, during the summer. These guys love clover both for nourishment and laying their eggs.

Cabbage White

While not particular about where they get their food from, this is one of your enemies if you have a garden. These butterflies, as the name implies, love laying their eggs on plants from the cabbage and mustard families.

Cabbage White Butterfly

Native Nectar Plants Butterflies Love

Ready to take the plunge in some butterfly gardening? There are tons of native plants butterflies can’t resist!

  • Ironweed
  • Joe-Pye Weed
  • Blue Mist Flower
  • Butterflyweed
  • Milkweed (but not the invasive vining type!)
  • Azaleas
  • Rhododendrons
  • Coneflowers
  • Bee Balm
  • Violets
  • Blazing Star
  • Hyssop
  • Goldenrod
  • Black-Eyed Susans
  • Passionflower
  • Aster
  • Spiderwort

Don’t Forget the Host Plants

Butterflies don’t necessarily dine on the same plants their caterpillars do. Help them out with some host plants as well!

  • Milkweed
  • Violets
  • Plantain
  • Tulip trees
  • Black Cherry trees
  • Pawpaw trees
  • Clover
  • Verbena
  • Daisies
  • Mallow
  • Willow trees
  • Spicebush
  • Sassafras trees
  • Hackberry
  • Thistle
  • Hops
  • Nettle

What is your favorite butterfly found in the Hoosier state? Let us know in the comments! If you’re ready to plant a butterfly garden, let Greenscape Geeks help! They have the expert knowledge and the passions to make your backyard a haven for fluttering beauties like the ones mentioned above. Happy Summer!

Greenscape Geeks is a central Indiana landscape architecture and landscape design, construction, and lawn maintenance company, serving Indianapolis (including Meridian Kessler, Herron Morton, Williams Creek, and Irvington), Carmel, Noblesville, Fishers, and Zionsville.