Butterflies are an incredibly charming sight in the garden and make the days brighter with their presence. Delight in their dancing around your flowerbeds, showing off their splendid wing patterns as they bask in the sunshine.
Most butterflies are active from Spring to Autumn so having nectar-rich plants that bloom in different seasons will cater for their needs throughout the year and bring you as many butterflies as possible.
There are a variety of perennials, shrubs and trees that butterflies are attracted to and here are some great plants that you can mix and match to suit your garden style and size. If you are planting a border, always start at the back with taller plants and work your way forwards to smaller varieties so that you can see all who visit. Or just go for it and scatter a mix of wildflower seeds! Container or window boxes are just as important as they provide the boost needed to reach a larger environment. Just a few choice plants will suffice and can stay blooming provided you have adequate drainage holes. Choose the sunniest part of your garden or a bright windowsill and make their day.
Low lying plants such as Grape Hyacinth, Aubretia, Honesty and Heather are spring favourites so you may need to think about bulbs in the winter before too. And don’t forget the Cuckoo Flower and Forget-Me-Not! If you can fit a tree into your space then apple, plum and pear produce irresistible spring blossom that is full of nectar.
Into Early Summer
Herbs are a great way to utilise small space for insects as the likes of Thyme, Sage and Marjoram produce very attractive flowers containing nectar. More common plants such as Wallflower, French Marigold, Cranesbill, Allium, Red Campion, Bellflower (Campanula), and not least Birds-Foot-Trefoil are all great selections!
Open roses pack a punch and our range of compact Bee Perfect (Bijenweelde®) roses, which bees love too obviously, are easy to maintain in both borders and containers alike. Multi-use shrubs like Thistle, Cotoneaster, Hawthorn and climbing Honeysuckle work wonders for birds too.
Summer and Autumn
If you haven’t heard of a ‘butterfly bush’ then you have been missing out, or maybe your butterflies have. The Buddleja, to give it a proper name, has lance shaped blooms of thousands of tiny flowers, whose fragrance is a magnet for butterflies. With dwarf varieties available you don’t have to worry about it taking over the garden. However if you want a mix of standard perennials then these are ones to go for amongst many others:
Verbena, Scabious, Lavender, Ice Plant, Phlox, Asters, Catmint, Cornflower, Cosmos, Hyssop, Michaelmas Daisy, Cardoon, Purple Loosestrife and Hebe. Ivy is also a late flowering climber which, alongside essential nectar, provides valuable shelter when the weather turns colder.
Providing plants that attract butterflies is only half the story, include food plants that support caterpillars for the next generation to grace your borders.
Don't forget to feed the youngsters
Many plants are also suitable as food sources for caterpillars (larvae) who need their nutrients as they emerge from eggs. Unusually, Nettle is a perfect meal for many common species we see in our gardens such as Red Admiral, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell and thistle is preferred by the caterpillar of the Painted Lady. So if you can manage a small spot somewhere for these plants you will be doing a great job. Holly and Ivy climbers provide food for the Holly Blue butterfly, whilst Blackthorn and Buckthorn shrubs suit the Brown Hairstreak and Brimstone. Nasturtiums are favoured by the many White butterfly species and Small Copper caterpillars can be found on Common Sorrel, but if you want a glimpse of Orange Tips then Honesty or Lady’s Smock will help their caterpillars develop.
Help is at Hand…
To help get you on your way, we’re putting together instant ‘garden bundles’ for attracting butterflies, bees and birds. These include quantities of different plants and habitats. Full details show the area they can cover, but if you need something different, we have lots of multibuys on plants so you can decide how to fill your garden space.