Perennial Plants That Attract


Here are some factors to consider when planting perennials that attract birds, butterflies, hummingbirds and catch our eyes and fill them with beauty, scent, and pride.

Among the factors you might consider when selecting perennials for your garden – beyond their beauty – is what “job” do you want your perennial plants to perform? How about attracting butterflies? Providing natural food for birds? Providing flowers for fresh bouquets or for drying? Scenting the evening air with fragrance? Deterring rabbits? Entertaining young visitors or creating conversation? The possibilities are endless…

Perennials for Attracting Butterflies & Birds

*Plants marked with an asterix are rated “top ten” nectar plants by Stokes Nature Guides

Early Season Bulbs (Crocus, Scilla, Chionodoxa, Daffodils) Early Season Nectar Source

Phlox stolonifera & Phlox divaricate  (Woodland Phlox) Early Season Nectar Source

Hosta Hummingbirds Heuchera (Coralbells) Hummingbirds

Aquilegia (Columbine) Hummingbirds

Centaurea montana (Perennial Bachelor Button) Butterflies  (nectar) & Birds (seeds)

Penstemon (Beardtongue) Hummingbirds

Coreopsis  (Tickseed)* Butterflies (nectar)  & Birds (seeds)

Achillea (Yarrow) Butterflies

Monarda (Beebalm) Hummingbirds

Liatris (Gayfeather/Blazing Star)* Butterflies

Nepeta subsessilis (Nepeta) Hummingbirds

Eupatorium (Joe-Pye-Weed)* Butterflies

Lobelia  cardinalis (Cardinal Flower) Hummingbirds

Phlox paniculata & P. maculata  (Summer Phlox) Butterflies & Hummingbirds

Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant) Butterflies & Birds (water source)

Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) Butterflies

Rudbeckia sp. (Black-Eyed-Susan)* Butterflies  (nectar) & Birds (seeds)

Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)* Butterflies  (nectar) & Birds (seeds)

Asclepias sp. (Butterfly Weed & Milkweed)* Butterflies (adult & juvenile)

Solidago sp. (Goldenrod) Butterflies

Aster novae-anglae (New England Aster)* Butterflies (adult & juvenile)

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ Butterflies (adult & juvenile)

Clematis paniculata (Sweet Autumn Clematis) Birds (cover & nesting)

Parthenossisus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper) Birds (fruit)  


Flowers & Foliage for Drying Note: All can simply be harvested at their prime and hung upside down to dry in a cool dry area

Yarrow (Achillea) Flowers (retain brilliant yellow color)

Anise-Hyssop (Agastache) Flowers (fragrant)

Ornamental Onion (Allium) Seedheads (can be colored once dried)

Artemisia Foliage (fragrant)

Astilbe Flowers (dry brown; can be colored once dried)

Belamcanda (Blackberry Lily) Blackberry-like ornamental seeds & pods

Globe Thistle (Echinops) Flowers (retain color)

Sea Holly (Eryngium) Flowers (retain color)

Ornamental Grasses Flowers & Seedheads (dry to tan)

Lavender (Lavandula) Flowers & Foliage (fragrant)

Beebalm (Monarda) Flowers (fragrant & retain color)

Peony (Paeonia) Flowers (retain color)

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum) Flower Bracts (fragrant)

Roses Flowers (retain color)

Tansy (Tanacetum) Flowers (retain color)


Flowers for Cutting Actually, a vast array of flowers work well in bouquets. Experiment!

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla) Beautiful “filler” in arrangements

Asters (Asters) Fabulous color range, late season bouquets

Clematis (Clematis) Float a single blossom in a decorative bowl

Delphinium Striking color palette (true blues)

Dianthus, longer stemmed varieties Long lasting as cut flower

Daisies (Dendranthema, Leucanthemum) Classic simple bouquet or filler

Baby’s Breath (Gypsophila) Airy “filler”

Daylily (Hemerocallis) Each flower only lasts a day; pick a beautiful blossom  in the morning and display it on a pretty dish until evening (needs no water)

Coral Bells (Heuchera) Dainty accent

Iris (Iris) Fleeting but gorgeous

Gayfeather (Liatris) Outstanding vertical accent

Peony (Paeonia) A classic for fresh bouquets

Summer Phlox (Phlox paniculata/maculata) Long lasting & fragrant, good color range

Pincushion Flower Super long-lasting as cut flower  


Fragrant Flowers Plant near a patio, deck or walkway to best enjoy their fragrance.

Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria) Tiny but intensely perfumed.

Dianthus Clove-scented

Scented Geraniums Annuals, but a “must” for patio containers

Hosta Certain varieties have very fragrant flowers

Lilies (Lilium) One plant can scent the entire garden!

Peony (Paeonia) Many are sweet scented


Plants Not Favored By Deer/Rabbits No Guarantees!

Monkshood (Aconitum) Toxic

Ornamental Onion (Allium) Pungent scent & flavor

Bluestars (Amsonia) Milky sap

Artemisia Pungent foliage

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema) Toxic

Astilbe Unattractive taste

Calamint (Calamintha) Pungent scent & flavor

Turtlehead (Chelone) Unattractive taste

Snakeroot/Fairy Candles (Cimicifuga) Unattractive taste

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) Unattractive taste

Gas Plant (Dictamnus) Toxic

Foxglove (Digitalis) Toxic

Joe-Pye-Weed (Eupatorium) Unattractive taste

Spurge (Euphorbia) Toxic

Perennial Geranium (Geranium) Unattractive taste

Lavender & Most Herbs Pungent scent & flavor

Grass, Ornamental Unattractive taste

Lenten Rose (Helleborus) Toxic

Beebalm (Monarda) Pungent scent & flavor

Sweet Cicely (Myrrhis) Pungent scent & flavor

Daffodils (Narcissus) Toxic

Catmint (Nepeta) Pungent scent & flavor

Russian Sage (Perovskia) Pungent scent & flavor

Balloon Flower Milky Sap

Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum) Pungent scent & flavor

Ornamental Sage (Salvia) Pungent scent & flavor

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys) Unattractive taste

Veronica (Veronica) Unattractive taste


Plants for Entertaining Children & Other Garden Guests

Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla) Collects rainwater & dew like jewels on leaf edges

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema) Children are fascinated by the floral “house”

American Ginger (Asarum) Putrid smelling flowers pollinated by flies (little kids love this!)

Butterfly Weed/Milkweed (Asclepias) Monarch butterfly & caterpillar “magnets”

False Indigo (Baptisia) Legend has it that native American children shook the seedheads of this plant to imitate their elders in ceremonies

Bleeding Heart (Dicentra) Girls especially love these “heart plants”

Gas Plant (Dictamnus) Gaseous emissions can supposed be lit with a match!

Cinnamon Fern (Osmunda) Fruiting body resembles a cinnamon stick

Queen-of-the-Prairie (Filipendula) Flowers look like cotton candy

Blanket Flower (Gaillardia) Flowers look like native American blankets

Bedstraw (Galium) Early settlers stuffed their mattresses with this plant

Catchfly (Lychnis) Sticky stems were said to “catch flies”

Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia) A Wisconsin cactus fascinates children

Obedient Plant (Physostegia) Turn the blossom and it “obediently” stays where you place it

Balloon Flower (Platycodon) Buds look like inflated balloons

Soapwort (Saponaria) Early settlers used this plant to make soap

Hens & Chicks (Sempervivum) Mother “hen” surrounded by baby “chicks”

Lamb’s Ear (Stachys) Silky silver “lamb’s ear” foliage


Particularly Long Blooming (6+ weeks)

Deadheading will almost always extend bloom period

Yarrow (Achillea)

Perennial Marguerite (Anthemis)

Daisies (Dendranthema & Leucanthemum)

Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Yellow Bleeding Heart (Corydalis)

Fernleaf Bleeding Heart (Dicentra eximia & cultivars)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea)

Blanketflower (Gaillardia)

Perennial Geranium (Geranium)

False Sunflower (Heliopsis)

Daylilies (reblooming varieties)

Coralbells (Heuchera)

Knautia (Knautia)

Catmint (Nepeta)

Persicaria/Polygonum (all types)

Russian Sage (Perovskia)

Summer Phlox (Phlox)

Lungwort (Pulmonaria)

Coneflowers (Rudbeckia)

Ornamental Sage (Salvia)

Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa)