We’re here to help! Wild Yards is a completely free website that is 100% dedicated to helping you create a wildlife-friendly, sustainable yard. Read more
Hibiscuses are among some of the most popular plants to grow around the nation. They are beautiful, often-tropical plants that can grow seemingly anywhere, as long as they have plenty of sun and water. However, they also work hard at keeping pollinators well-fed – but do butterflies like hibiscus?
Hibiscus is great for attracting butterflies. Bold, bright, and easy for butterflies to perch on, these flowers are very easy to spot and eat nectar from. Therefore, hibiscus plants are firm favorites among many pollinators for sheer convenience.
Why do butterflies like hibiscus?
Hibiscus flowers offer a perfect blend of colorful petals and bountiful nectar. Bursting in a range of colors, the hibiscus’ tropical aesthetic will normally appeal to insects looking for bright reds and yellows. That said, hibiscus can grow in a varied palette.
The flowers of the hibiscus are also famous for being relatively large in full bloom. At the widest, they can produce petal arrangements that extend to six inches across! That’s a perfect platform for butterflies that want a quick snack.
Interestingly, the hibiscus is a little more trumpet-shaped than most of the flowers butterflies head for. Butterflies aren’t particularly fussy regarding plants, providing they are nectar-filled – but flat-faced flowers tend to fit the bill best of all. It’s likely due to the immense width of the hibiscus flower that it helps these insects to sit and feed for a while.
The hibiscus is also known for giving a highly potent scent, which butterflies will naturally take to mean it’s fertile and ready to feed on. Butterflies don’t always prioritize smell receptors, but the heady musk of hibiscus flowers is hard to ignore!
Hibiscus flowers also tend to grow at a reasonable height for butterfly access. Butterflies won’t always flutter down too low for fear of predators – nor too high.
You’ll also find that hibiscus flowers attract hummingbirds, thanks to their deep, trumpet shapes. There’s likely to be some competition between pollinators over this bloom, so always make sure to plant various species in your garden.
Is hibiscus a host plant for butterflies?
The hardy hibiscus, in particular, is indeed a host plant for butterflies, or more precisely, for caterpillars. Host plants are those on which certain insects live, sometimes throughout their lives. They are born and thrive here!
Therefore, if you grow hardy hibiscus (typically easy in USDA zones five up to eight), you may find butterfly populations starting to form. Be prepared for your hibiscus to act as food for growing caterpillars!
The hibiscus typically acts as a host plant for Painted Lady and Grey Hairstreak butterflies, both of which are extremely common to spot across gardens in the US. Interestingly, the Painted Lady is regarded as perhaps the widest-spread butterfly species on the planet – and that’s largely thanks to hibiscus hosts you’ll find on most continents!
However, caterpillars that grow into butterflies won’t munch away on hibiscus plants for long, and don’t tend to be the most destructive. Once they’ve reached the end of their life cycle and begin metamorphosis, you may start to notice frequent butterfly births across your garden. Therefore, hibiscus not only attracts butterflies, but also helps them to breed!
Is it easy to grow hibiscus plants?
Hibiscus, unlike many other sunny plants, is easy to grow with regular watering. As mentioned, there are specific zones ideal for hardy varieties. For the tropical variation of the species, however, USDA zones eight through eleven prove ideal for growth.
Regardless of variety, the hibiscus plant will generally need plenty of sunlight. Choose a spot in your garden with full sun, preferably throughout the day. Around six hours, maximum, is likely enough to satisfy its chlorophyll needs. This works well for the butterfly, too – as these pollinators generally hunt for flowers in the wide-open sun.
Hibiscus’ soil will, on the whole, need to be fairly moist. It’ll also need to drain well, too, so that you can avoid rotting conditions around the roots. It’s also safe – and recommended – to feed your hibiscus with fertilizer regularly.
Regardless of species or zone, you’ll normally find that hibiscus plants will suffer in the winter. When the colder months start rolling in, simply cut your plants down to about five inches from the ground. Then, once the spring comes, they should regrow.
Hibiscus plants tend to reappear around late spring, even at the beginning of summer, so do give your plant plenty of time to rejuvenate before assuming that it is dead.
Remember, too, that the hibiscus is notorious for growing a little wild – pruning across the season is a must to ensure it doesn’t overgrow or choke other flowers in your garden.
Is hibiscus the best plant for attracting butterflies?
Red, orange and pink flowers with flattish surfaces, grown in full sun, tend to be ideal for butterfly visits. Therefore, hibiscus ticks most boxes. There’s often little need to worry about how you plant butterfly flowers – providing they are out of the shade.
Growing hibiscus is a fantastic way to start off a butterfly garden – just make sure to water them regularly, and to grow a variety of other flowers to ensure your pollinators get a balanced diet of nectar.