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Plants for wildlife

Plants for wildlife


There are so many benefits to attracting wildlife into your garden. Apart from saving the decline of our native species, garden wildlife also acts as a natural pest control, preventing the need to spray harmful chemicals all over your garden. If you grow fruit and vegetables, you’ll need the help of bees to pollinate many of your crops. Contrary to popular belief wildlife gardens needn’t be messy! Well-maintained hedges and shrubs are perfect for nesting birds and insects, and a flowing herbaceous border will attract all sorts of beneficial insects to your garden. You could even create a container garden for wildlife with some of the plants listed below! Planting a wildlife garden couldn’t be easier; read on for more ideas on how to make a wildlife garden.


Plants for bees

The number of bees in the UK is declining at an alarming rate, yet there are few explanations. It's suggested that the decline in native and wild flower rich grassland could be a cause. Bees play a key role in pollinating many crops and some 35 per cent of our diet depends on pollination of crops by bees! Bees are active between February and October and it is crucial they have enough food during this time to help them through the winter and early spring. You can help by creating a wildlife garden and choosing a selection of the plants for bees listed below. For more information on how you can help bees take a look at our ‘Save the Bees’ article.


Plants for butterflies

There are 58 species of butterfly native to the UK and many of these are under threat of extinction. Recent reports have shown, however, that recent conservation efforts have given some of our most threatened species a boost. You can do your bit to help the butterflies by planting nectar-rich flowers in your garden. Take a look at the list below for inspiration. For more information on helping butterflies take a look at our ‘Helping to conserve the UK’s butterflies’ page.


Plants for birds

Birds are welcome visitors to the garden and will eat aphids, caterpillars and slugs for you! You can attract birds into your garden by installing a bird bath and by putting out extra food throughout the harsh winter months. You can also grow a wide range of plants for birds, which produce berries, seeds or nuts at the end of the season. Plants can also be used to provide shelter or nesting sites for birds, protecting them from cats and other predators.

For more simple ideas on how you can attract wildlife to your garden take a look at our article about wildlife gardening.


Top tips when planting for wildlife:

  1. Choose single-flowered varieties of plants. Bees and butterflies can’t access double flowers for pollen and nectar.
  2. Leave some of your culinary herbs to flower - they are a rich food source for bees and butterflies and will leave your garden buzzing on warm days!
  3. Leave your autumn clear up until the spring. The dead remains of plants provide valuable shelter for over-wintering insects.
  4. Try not to spray your plants with insecticides as these will kill beneficial insects too. Be patient and the pests will often be eaten naturally by ladybirds, lacewings, spiders, small mammals and birds.

Other 'Plants for a Purpose' articles:





Thompson & Morgan offer of the week

Spring flowering plants for attracting wildlife


Spring flowering plants
for attracting widlife
 Attracts 
Attracts Bees
 Attracts 
Attracts Butterflies
 Attracts 
Attracts Birds
 Interesting
Features 
Fruit trees e.g. Apple, Cherry, Plum, Pear and Almond trees     Fruits to attract wildlifeInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Crab apple   Interesting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowersInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Quince     Fruits to attract wildlifeInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Blackcurrants/Redcurrants     Fruits to attract wildlife
Gooseberries     Fruits to attract wildlife
Alyssum ‘Golden Queen’   Interesting Features - Scented
Aquilegia      
Aubrieta      
Berberis   Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Bergenia   Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Bluebells      
Crocus      
Daphne mezereum   Interesting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Scented
Flowering Currant   Interesting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Forget-me-not    
Hawthorn Interesting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Holly Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Honesty   Interesting Features - Architectural
Muscari      
Pyracantha Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Pulmonaria     Interesting Features - Attractive Foliage
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape) Interesting Features - ArchitecturalInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Scented
Heather     Interesting Features - Evergreen
Sorbus aucuparia (Rowan)   Interesting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birdsInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers
Snowdrop      
Wallflower   Interesting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Evergreen
Wisteria     Interesting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Autumn leaf colour or flowers

Summer flowering plants for attracting wildlife


Summer flowering plants
for attracting widlife
 Attracts 
Attracts Bees
 Attracts 
Attracts Butterflies
 Attracts 
Attracts Birds
 Interesting
Features 
Raspberries/blackberries     Fruits to attract wildlife
Broad beans     Vegetables to attract wildlife
Runner beans     Vegetables to attract wildlife
Alyssum   Interesting Features - Scented
Allium   Interesting Features - Architectural
Borage     herbs to attract wildlife
Campanula      
Chives   herbs to attract wildlife
Cornflower  
Echium    
Fennel   herbs to attract wildlifeInteresting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Architectural
Foxglove     Interesting Features - Attractive Foliage
Geranium      
Hebe   Interesting Features - Evergreen
Helenium    
Heliotrope   Interesting Features - Scented
Lavender   Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Scented
Lime tree     Interesting Features - Good shelter for birds
Lupin      
Marigold      
Monarda      
Monkshood      
Phacelia      
Phlox     Interesting Features - Scented
Rosa canina & Rosa rugosa   Interesting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruitInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Stipa tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass)     Interesting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Architectural
Sweet William     Interesting Features - Evergreen
Verbena bonariensis    
Sage     Interesting Features - Evergreenherbs to attract wildlifeInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Rosemary     Interesting Features - Evergreenherbs to attract wildlife
Thyme   Interesting Features - Evergreenherbs to attract wildlifeInteresting Features - Attractive Foliage
Oregano   Interesting Features - Evergreenherbs to attract wildlife

Late summer/autumn flowering plants for attracting wildlife


 Late summer/autumn flowering
plants for attracting wildlife 
 Attracts 
Attracts Bees
 Attracts 
Attracts Butterflies
 Attracts 
Attracts Birds
 Interesting
Features 
Aster ‘Composition’    
Agastache foeniculum   Interesting Features - Scented
Buddleja   Interesting Features - Scented
Catmint    
Dahlia (single-flowered varieties)    
Echinacea  
Eryngium     Interesting Features - Attractive Foliage
Escallonia   Interesting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Echinops   Interesting Features - Architectural
Eupatorium maculatum    
Hebe   Interesting Features - Evergreen
Hollyhock (single-flowered varieties)     Interesting Features - Architectural
Ivy Interesting Features - EvergreenInteresting Features - Good shelter for birds
Lavatera (Mallow)      
Honeysuckle   Interesting Features - ScentedInteresting Features - Colourful berries or fruit
Panicum     Interesting Features - Attractive FoliageInteresting Features - Architectural
Scabious    
Sedum    
Sunflower Interesting Features - Architectural
Teasel Interesting Features - Architectural
Verbena bonariensis  

Plants for wildlife - Interesting Features - Scented, evergreen, attractive foliage, colourful berries and fruit, good shelter for birds, fruit, herb, vegetable, autumn leaf colour







Teasel is a valuable source of nectar for bees and butterflies, as well as attracting many seed-eating birds

Teasel is a valuable source of nectar for bees and butterflies, as well as attracting many seed-eating birds.









Plants such as Buddleja are ideal for attracting butterflies

Plants such as Buddleja are ideal for attracting butterflies.



Sue Sanderson

Written by: Sue Sanderson

Plants and gardens have always been a big part of my life. I can remember helping my Dad to prick out seedlings, even before I could see over the top of the potting bench. As an adult, I trained at Writtle College where I received my degree, BSc. (Hons) Horticulture. After working in a specialist plantsman's nursery, and later, as a consulting arboriculturalist, I joined Thompson & Morgan in 2008. Initially looking after the grounds and coordinating the plant trials, I now support the web team offering horticultural advice online.

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