Painted lady butterfly

A painted lady on New England aster.

Gardening with plants native to your area is a great way to support local biodiversity. They provide seeds and berries for birds and energy-rich nectar and protein-filled pollen for insects, like bees and butterflies. Native plants are also adapted to local climate and soils, so generally require less care and watering.

Here’s a list of some of the best native plants for gardens within the Greater Toronto Area and throughout Eastern Canada.

Butterfly species native to Eastern Canada:

  • Eastern tiger swallowtail
  • Mourning cloak
  • Red admiral
  • Painted lady
  • Monarch
  • Cabbage white
  • Milbert’s tortoiseshell
  • Silver-spotted skipper
  • Black swallowtail
  • American copper
  • Clouded sulphur

Pollinator-friendly plants native to Eastern Canada:

Nectar plants:

  • New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
  • Wild strawberry Fragaria virginiana
  • Wild strawberry Fragaria vesca
  • Pearly everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea
  • Yarrow Achillea millefolium
  • Wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis
  • Wild bergamot Monarda fistulosa
  • Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
  • Anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum
  • Wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis
  • Virginia mountain mint Pycnanthemum virginianum
  • Lance leaf coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata
  • Wild nodding onion Allium cernuum
  • Woodland Sunflower Helianthus divaricatus
  • Evening primrose Oenothera biennis

Host plants:

  • Pearly everlasting Anaphalis margaritacea — American lady
  • Chokecherry Prunus virginiana — swallowtail, hairstreak
  • Pacific ninebark Physocarpus capitatus — tiger swallowtail
  • Nettles Anthocharis sara ssp. gracilis — red admiral, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell
  • Thistles Cirsium — painted ladies
  • Common milkweed Asclepias syriaca — monarch
  • Swamp milkweed Asclepias incarnata — monarch
  • Butterfly milkweed Asclepias tuberosa — monarch
  • Eastern cottonwood Populus deltoides — mourning cloak, viceroy, swallowtail
  • Willow Salix sp. — white admiral, viceroy, swallowtail

Herbs for bees and butterflies:

  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Chives
  • Rosemary
  • Lavender
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Lemon Balm

The best native plants for Toronto gardens:

Pollinators LOVE city life! With the wide range of flowers they offer, home and community gardens are among bees’ and butterflies’ favourite places to hang out. City folk just need to plant what pollinators need for food and shelter.

Download the Toronto planting guide