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Butterfly Gardening

Butterfly Gardening

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

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

Golden Dewdrop*

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 find & grow

Wildflowers are growing right under your nose! They can be seen sprouting out of a pavement crack, by sides of drains, among your 'garden' plants (that's when we call them weeds!), on as yet to be developed land, etc? Easily started from seeds or cuttings, they are usually not fussy about their soil. All have a beauty of their own!

Key: N = nectar, C = caterpillar food)

Key Name Description


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


Asystasia 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 Blue. 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



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 the Lime and Leopard, if their foodplants are grown. And of course, no chemical pesticides or fertilisers should be used. Then just sit back and wait for your pretty visitors to arrive!

Citrus (lime, pomelo) * 

Lime Butterfly (U), Common Mormon, 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

Saga # 

Hebe Nawab

Asystasia intrusa **# @ 

Great Eggfly

Crotalaria sp **# 


Urena sp **# 

Neptis sp

Asclepias currasavica

Plain Tiger

Crown flower
Calotropis gigantea

Plain Tiger

Milkweed Vine **# 

Tiger spp

Aristolochia tagala ** 

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

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 a while after being nibbled, but the leaves will grow back.

MacArthur's Palm and 
Yellow Cane Palm * 



commonly available at garden centres


seeds available from Nature Society if you send a self-addressed envelope with a 22 cents stamp (in Singapore only)

easily grown from cuttings

wild plant easily grown from seed


urban butterflies.

Plant Reference

The pocket guide book series published by Singapore Science Centre 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

These two books are by Dr Ivan Polunin.

  • Plants and Flowers of Singapore
  • Plants and Flowers of Malaysia