Butterfly gardening in ohio

In August I visited my mom at my childhood home in Rocky River, Ohio, an old suburb on the west side of Cleveland. She has a spot in her yard that used to be a square foot vegetable garden that is too shady for veggies now. Much to my delight, she decided to turn it into a butterfly garden, since the monarchs migrating across Lake Erie from Canada will likely stumble into her yard, exhausted and hungry after their long journey across the lake on their way to Mexico via my yard in Austin. She asked me to help her choose some plants and we took a trip to Petittis nursery which was very fun. They have good plants for good prices. Here’s the list of plants I made for my mom. Since her garden is part shade, I found butterfly plants that I thought would do well in those conditions. All of these plants provide either food for adult butterflies or food for caterpillars. It’s important to surround the garden with some trees, rocks or logs where the caterpillars can pupate safely.

Butterfly garden plants for part shade in Ohio (probably would work in PA and the rest of the Midwest too)

Cherry, sassafras and mallow(rose of sharon) are caterpillar host plants for many species- mom already has these in her yard!


Joe pye weed

Violets (mom already has these too)


Parsley, dill, fennel

Woodland stonecrop sedum ternatum

Passionvine, pipevine

White yarrow


Inland sea oats (mom loves these And wanted them anyway)

Zanthoxylum americanum prickly ash

Conoclinium coelestinum wild blue shade mistflower

Eupatorium perfoliatum

Eupatorium hyssopifolium

Ratibida pinnata grayhead coneflower

Native milkweeds for shade:

Poke Milkweed (Asclepias exaltata)

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens)

Four-leaved Milkweed (Asclepias quadrifolia)

White milkweed (A. variegata) (Southern Ohio only)

After I visited mom I went to see my pal Ruth in Minneapolis. She had some white mistflowers in her Yard growing wild in shade. I collected some seeds to send to mom. I’m not sure which species it is but I bet they will work.