Ten plants that butterflies love

May 18th - 25th is Save our Butterflies week and so here are ten suggestions for garden plants that will encourage butterflies to visit your garden, provide plenty of nectar for them to feed on and give them somewhere to lay their eggs.

honesty in a garden border1. Honesty  Lunaria annua

A hardy biennial plant with purple flowers in April and May that provide nectar for the earliest butterflies  it’s also the food plant for the Orange-tip caterpillar. Easy to grow from seed.

Here's a hint:  when planning a garden for butterflies (or bees) it's a good idea to have swathes of flowers, rather than individual blooms dotted here and there.   That way, the butterflies can spot them easier and they won't need to use up too much energy when flying between feeding stations.

 

birdsfoot trefoil2. Birdsfoot Trefoil Lotus coniculatus.

A pretty little low-growing plant with yellow flowers that are tinged with orange.  A favourite with butterflies and bees because its pollen is very rich in protein.  Flowers June and July and makes a lovely flowering lawn.  Food plant for the caterpillars of the blue butterfly family.

 

 

scabious flower3. Field Scabious Knautia arvensis

Delicate purple-blue flowers in late summer and autumn ensure that butterflies have plenty of food when they most need it.  A native plant, Scabious is fabulous in flower borders or in wild flower areas.

 

 

4. Lavender

Praised for the way it attracts bees, lavender is also a favourite with butterflies.  Thrives in well drained soils and the distinctively scented flowers can also be used in cooking.

wild blue geranium5. Wild Blue Geranium Geranium pratense

Beautiful blue-flowered native plant that adapts well to the garden.  Very good at spreading out and keeping the weeds down.  Blooms from June to September and is popular with bees as well as butterflies.  Often found in species rich meadows and wild flower turf.

6. Verbena bonariensis

A garden flower all the way from Argentina….but when have you ever seen a butterfly stop to ask a flower’s nationality?  Likes well drained soils and hates wet winters but my goodness, it’s like a magnet to butterflies AND bees.  This one is a must have.

7. Michaelmas Daisy

An old fashioned kind of plant that attracts peacock, red admiral, tortoishell and painted lady butterflies in droves.   They simply adore the wide open flowers with easy to access nectar.

8.  Buddleia Davidii

Easy to grow garden shrub that is commonly known as the “butterfly bush”  It comes from China and is named for the Reverend Adam Buddle, a botanist from Essex.

There are lots of different buddleia varieties and they all seem to be attractive to butterflies, bees, hoverflies and lots of other insects.

9. Stinging nettles

Not particularly attractive to you and me, but absolutely essential to the vanessid butterflies such as red admirals and peacocks because stinging nettles are food (and protection) for their caterpillars.  They can be invasive, but keeping a nettle patch for the butterflies is a good excuse for not weeding.  Plus, stinging nettles can be used to make a nutritious plant food that will boost your tomato yields.

teasel flower10. Teasel

Not always thought of as a garden plant but the flowers are a beautiful colour and they’re very attractive to butterflies and bees.  As an added bonus, the seedheads (that look stunning in a haw frost) are a favourite food for goldfinches in the winter.

Where to buy butterfly friendly flowers

Remember that these are not the only plants that are attractive to butterflies – your local garden centre will be able to advise you.  Or, even better, visit a park, a plant nursery or a National Trust garden on a sunny day and make a note of the plants you like and that are being visited by butterflies.  Don’t forget to include caterpillar food plants on your list.

 

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