Top 10 Plants For Butterflies

With 58 species of butterflies native to the UK, there are many that you can hope to see, although unfortunately many are now under threat of extinction, so any help that you can offer through you planting in the garden will, of course, be more than welcomed by them!

Top 10 Plants For Butterflies

With 58 species of butterflies native to the UK, there are many that you can hope to see, although unfortunately many are now under threat of extinction, so any help that you can offer through you planting in the garden will, of course, be more than welcomed by them!

Top 10 Plants for Butterflies

There's something quite magical about butterflies floating around in the garden. These whimsical insects are not only a beautiful sight, but they are also, together with their caterpillars, an important part of the food chain, being good food for many other creatures.

For our part, we can help to encourage butterflies and also moths into our gardens by planting out various annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs that will attract them with colourful blooms and rich nectar.

With 58 species of butterflies native to the UK, there are many that you can hope to see, although unfortunately many are now under threat of extinction, so any help that you can offer through you planting in the garden will, of course, be more than welcomed by them.

It is probably better to start off with planting out to encourage caterpillars into your garden, after all, it’s where the butterflies begin, as we all know. Creating an area for them to lay eggs for and produce young will certainly attract breeding butterflies for you to watch as well.

Oddly enough, many of the most common plants that we choose to attract the actual butterflies are not particularly suitable for caterpillars to live on. Unfortunately a lot of caterpillars like to eat plants that we often term as weeds, such as nettles, thistles, ivy or docks. These plants can however, easily be incorporated to a wildflower area in your garden, where cornflowers, daisies and other more attractive annuals can be grown too.

If you really want to have a wide range of butterflies in your garden, then it is better to plant out flowers that will bloom through the different seasons, giving these wonderful creatures a chance to feed for as long as possible and also giving you the opportunity to see as many as you can through spring, summer and autumn.

Our top ten recommendations for butterfly attracting plants in your garden are:


1. Buddleja

Flamboyant plumes of brightly coloured flowers create a vibrant summer display that lasts right through to autumn. The grey-green foliage is slender and elegant, turning to buttery yellow in autumn. Buddleja has a compact upright habit that is easily accommodated in borders without overcrowding its neighbours. These handsome butterfly bushes are always popular with pollinating insects and makes a useful addition to wildlife gardens and cottage garden borders.



2. Sedum

Sedum is a magnet for butterflies in the garden; and is reliable, hardy and always colourful! Sedums tend to form a clump, with drought tolerant, fleshy foliage, and pink autumn blooms. Sedum plants are most at home in hot, sunny borders, and require zero maintenance, so are ideal for beginners. Their autumn flowering period is useful for extending the season of interest in the garden.


3. Hebe

Hebes offer impact and structure in the garden for minimum effort. Often slow-growing and compact in nature and also very easy to grow ad incredibly resilient! The summer flower spikes, range in colour from deep blue or purple through to pure white. The flowers are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Hebes perform perfectly in large pots or in out in the garden, proving bone hardy to whatever the British winter throws at it.


4. Verbena bonariensis

Tightly clustered florets form glowing lavender flower heads that float atop stiffly upright, branching stems. The long lasting blooms of Verbena bonariensis attract clouds of bees and butterflies. This perennial verbena has enjoyed resurgence in popularity in recent years, associating beautifully with grasses for a tranquil planting scheme, or adding a touch of architectural style to the back of herbaceous borders. This elegant perennial is at its most effective when planted in large swathes.


5. Echinops

Echinops are a well loved perennial with a strong architectural impact. Spiky globes of electric blue flowers perch upon silvery green stems, which make superb cut flowers, whether fresh or dried. The late summer blooms rise above clumps of spiny, deeply cut foliage which forms an attractive contrast with other perennials. Globe Thistle works well in sunny cottage garden borders and hot gravel gardens. Pollinating insects love it too, so plant a few in your wildlife areas for the local butterflies.


6. Echinacea

Echinacea are known for their stunning, large, blooms, with contrasting cones standing proudly above strong stems. Blooms can reach 7-10cm (3-4in) in diameter. Once established, bushy plants produce clusters of stems adding height to your borders, attracting butterflies and beneficial insects to your garden, as well as making dramatic long lasting cut flowers. and choose something fun and colourful to try!


7. Aster

Possibly one of the easiest plants to grow in any garden and especially popular in cottage garden themes, Aster is a perfect addition for late summer and autumn colour. These compact, hardy perennials will burst forth in August with a smothering of beautiful violet/blue daisy like flowers that will continue to give you a generous show right through until the end of autumn. Once these plants are established in your beds or borders, they will come back year after year and we guarantee you will look forward to seeing them bloom, as will many bees, looking for a late chance for nectar.


8. Lavender

English lavender is well known for bearing masses of dark purple-blue flower spikes. The fragrant stems of Lavender are ideal for cutting or drying, and the nectar-rich flowers are particularly attractive to butterflies and bees. Lavender makes an excellent low hedge or path edging where the perfume can be appreciated as you brush past the aromatic evergreen foliage.


9. Cornflowers

Dense heads of large, flowers ranging from white through to a beautiful deep blue are freely produced on compact, bushy plants. Once a common sight in cornfields the annual cornflower stills creates a big impact in summer borders and meadows. The intensely coloured blooms of Cornflowers are excellent for cutting and a magnet for bees and butterflies in the garden.


10. Fennel

Don't get caught out with a colour-less, late summer garden - Helenium actually flower much later in the summer, so are excellent for extending the season of colour! This hardy perennial is loved by bees and butterflies, and many are proud holders of RHS Awards of Garden Merit, so comes highly recommended as a reliable garden plant. Sneezeweed is tall, and is great for filling gaps in borders and adding height. It looks particularly good with grasses.

No matter which varieties you choose for your garden, butterflies will be grateful for the source of nectar, so get planting up now!


Graham Ward

Written by: Graham Ward

I've been gardening for as long as I can remember, my earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather's prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone. Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I've continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you've either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I'm keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.

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