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Butterfly Gardening

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Cultivating Butterfly Plants


Many people are surprised at how easy it is to attract butterflies to their gardens once they have tried. Want to help our butterflies survive in built-up Singapore? Just grow these plants:


1. Cultivated Plants


These are easy to grow, keeping in mind:


a. Plant in good potting soil with compost mixed in. Packet soil may be bought at garden centres. Specify that you want the burnt earth and top-soil mix.


b. Most need at least morning sunlight for proper growth & flowering. Some, like the Pagoda plant and the Aristolochia vine, do better in shaded, more humid conditions.

Golden Dewdrop*

(Duranta species)

bushy with pretty flowers and fruit,


Especially red flowered varieties


Red or orange flowered varieties, experiment with other colours


Forms a compact bush. Looks like Ixora

Pagoda Plant

(Clerodendron paniculatum)

Favoured by Papilios like the gorgeous Common Birdwing butterfly

2. Wildflowers – easy to grow


Wildflowers are growing right under your nose! They can be seen sprouting out of a pavement crack, by the sides of drains, among your ‘garden plants’ (that’s why we call them weeds!), on undeveloped land etc.


Easily started from seeds or cuttings, they are usually not fussy about their soil! All have a beauty on their own!


Key: N = nectar, C = caterpillar food






This is indeed a butterfly bush! Popular with many species especially with the Striped Albatross butterfly. Now you can finally see the difference in colour patterns between the sexes when a group of them is sipping together.

N, C

Chinese Violet

(Aystasia intrusa)

Very popular with most butterflies. Almost non-stop flowering with purple-tongued flowers!


Coat Buttons

(Tridax procumbens)

Popular with smaller butterflies like the Lesser Grass Blues. Very pretty to look at, especially when grown on the lawn, with the flower-heads nodding in the breeze. Just don’t mow so often!



(Stachytarpheta indica)

Another butterfly food-bar plant


Sea Oxeye Daisy

(Wedelia biflora)


N, C

Purple Cleome

Wild Cat’s Whiskers




Caterpillar Food Plants


Most of these plants are easy to grow, even in pots by your window or balcony. Urban butterflies frequenting high-rise mini-gardens include Lime and Leopard, if their foodplants are grown. And of course, no chemical pesticides or fertilizers should be used. Just sit back and wait for your pretty visitors to arrive!

Citrus (lime, pomelo)*

Lime Butterfly (U), Common Mormon (U), Great Mormon (pomelo)

Curry leaf *#

Common Mormon (U)

Weeping Willow *@

Leopard (U)

Bushy Cassia *

Orange Emigrant (U)

Golden Showers Cassia*

(Cassia fistula)

Lemon Emigrant (U)

Seven Golden Candlesticks (Cassia alata) **

Mottled Emigrant (U)

Saga #

Hebe Nawab

Chinese Violet

(Asystasia intrusa) **#@

Great Eggfly

Crotalaria sp.**#


Urena sp. **#

Neptis sp.


(Asclepias currasavica)

Plain Tiger

Crown flower

(Calotropis gigantea)

Plain Tiger

Milkweed Vine **#

Tiger spp.

Dutchman’s Pipe

(Aristolochia tagala)**

Rare Common Birdwing and Common Rose. A firm support will be needed for this climber to grow on.

Wild Cat’s Whiskers #

Psyche (U), Striped Albatross (U), Cabbage White (U)

Albizia #

Common Grass Yellow (U)

Wild Cinnamon *

(Cinnamomum iners)

Bluebottle, rare Common Mime

Cycad *

Cycad Blue. The plant may look bald once in awhile after being nibbled, but the leaves will grow back.

MacArthur’s Palm & Yellow Cane Palm *




*              commonly available at garden centres


**         seeds available from Nature Society (Singapore).

Note: Email us with the subject header "Caterpillar Food Plant Seeds" at Only for Singapore citizens and residents.


@            easily grown from cuttings


#              wild plant easily grown from seed


(U)           urban butterflies



Plant Reference

The pocket guide book series published by Science Centre Singapore is handy and useful for identification purposes. Check out these titles:


Butterflies of Singapore

Wayside Trees of Singapore

Common Horticultural Shrubs

Common Wildflowers of Singapore

Other suggested titles include:

Plants and Flowers of Singapore & Plants and Flowers of Malaysia by Dr. Ivan Polunin