Do Gardenias Attract Butterflies?

You may have more on your mind than just aesthetics when planning your flower garden. Some people select edible dual-purpose flowers, while others use local wildflowers. Others still want to attract birds and butterflies with their natural bouquets. 

If you’re the latter, you may be curious to know how well gardenias attract butterflies. Do gardenias attract butterflies, or do other flowers work better? 

Gardenias don’t attract butterflies particularly well. Butterflies like brightly colored petals and gardenias are typically pure white. Gardenias do attract other pollinators like moths and bees thanks to their wonderful fragrance.

What Is a Gardenia?

Do Gardenias Attract Butterflies?

Gardenia refers to a genus of evergreen shrubs and small trees. It’s native to the tropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, Australia, and other similar places. The bushes produce single flowers with between 5-12 petals and white or sometimes pale yellow. 

Gardenias can be challenging to grow because of their specific needs. They prefer full sun, but if they get too much, their leaves burn. Their roots need moist soil, but if it’s too wet, their buds won’t open. 

It’s a good thing these shrubs have such an intoxicating fragrance and beautiful flowers. Otherwise, people wouldn’t bother planting them.

Why Don’t Butterflies Like Gardenias?

Do Gardenias Attract Butterflies?

Butterflies don’t like gardenias because gardenias aren’t very resplendent. Butterflies prefer flowers that are red, purple, yellow, pink, and orange. They will land on gardenias if there’s nothing else, but it isn’t their first choice. 

Another point to consider is that the caterpillars also need something to eat. That has nothing to do with color because they eat leaves. Caterpillars eat a limited assortment of leaves, and gardenia leaves aren’t a part of that.

Do Gardenias Attract Other Pollinators?

Gardenias do attract other pollinators that you’ll be interested in. Moths and bees like gardenia for its fantastic fragrance and bright white petals. These insects are amazing pollinators that will work well in your garden. 

Moths, like bats, pollinate flowers during the night. White petals reflect the moonlight better, making it easier for moths to locate them. That’s also true for the plant’s fragrance. While gardenias don’t do it for butterflies, they really do it for moths.  

Bees are excellent pollinators that operate during the day. They’re driven more by the smell of a flower than its appearance. Bees eat a flower’s nectar, which smells sweet, so they’re attracted to sweet-smelling things. That’s why they like gardenias.

Which Flowers Do Attract Butterflies? 

Do Gardenias Attract Butterflies?

There are several steps you can take to make your garden butterfly-friendly. Having brightly colored flowers is just one of those steps. Plants such as azaleas can help attract butterflies. 

Butterflies need:

  • Nectar for adults
  • Host plants for caterpillars
  • Spots to sunbathe
  • Spots for puddling

You should make sure to meet these requirements before planting butterfly-friendly flowers. You may end up disappointed otherwise. 

As for which flowers do attract butterflies, there are quite a few. You’ll have much better success attracting them when you plant sunflowers, daises, Joe-Pye weed, ironweed, coneflowers, goldenrod, and asters. That list is certainly not exhaustive. 

Different flowers attract various species of butterflies. If you want to attract a certain kind, you can be even more selective with the flowers you plant in your garden.


While it’s true that gardenias do not attract butterflies, they do attract other important pollinators. Their white petals and potent perfume make them a perfect snack for nocturnal moths and diurnal bees. 

Their creamy white petals and dark green leaves help balance the vividly colored flowers that will attract butterflies. They’re also pleasant for people to look at and smell. Gardenias are a great addition to any garden and certainly worth your time.