Wildlife-friendly plants

Any garden created for wildlife must provide shelter and food for local fauna. It should include a good mixture of plants, including shrubs, trees and grasses, and nectar- and pollen-rich flowers.

As a general rule, native shrubs and trees offer the best choice for wildlife – providing caterpillar foodplants for a variety of moths, and berries and seeds for birds and small mammals. Both native and non-native flowers appeal to bees and other pollinators, as long as the pollen and nectar is made available to them. Choose only single-flowered plants, which have an open habit. Many double flowers are inaccessible to insects, or have small amounts of nectar and pollen.

Year-round nectar

Although many insects are inactive in winter, some will still seek nectar late into the autumn, or on a warm day in late-winter. Having a selection of plants flowering throughout the year can help ensure there are always nectar sources available.

Choose autumn-flowering plants, such as buddleias, asters, ivy and sedums, to attract insects later in the season. Plant crocuses, winter aconites, winter honeysuckle and winter clematis for insects on the wing during the coldest months.

Grasses and meadows

The perfect lawn may please the gardener, but attracts few insects. Why not leave the grass to grow longer, attracting butterflies and small mammals? Wildlife turf is another option, enriched with dozens of wildflowers, such as red clover, field scabious and greater knapweed, and several types of grass. Simply cut twice a year in autumn and early spring.

Wildlife-friendly hedge

A mixed native hedge provides nectar and pollen, berries and nuts, caterpillar foodplants and shelter for nesting birds. Good hedging plants include birch, beech, oak, hazel, dogwood and hawthorn.

Discuss this plant feature

Talkback: Wildlife-friendly plants
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kaycurtis 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I rate this highly as we need to look after our native creatures, so that we maintian a healthy balance, so we can grow and survive rather than importing every thing from abroad polluting the world with airmiles.

soniamclean 24/11/2011 at 15:27

I would love to grow insect friendly flowers around our pond but it is a very large clay bottomed pond (abt 100 sq mtrs) and the water seeps several metres into the lawn. I think the only thing I can grow would be bog plants and they would have to compete with the grass. Most of the pond is surrounded by rushes but there are several gaps - any ideas for suitable wild-life and insect friendly plants please.

Jarrah 24/11/2011 at 15:27

We have left some long grass and wildflowers in our garden and would like to do mow it twice a year as suggested in this article. But at what time of year should these mowings take place??

gabamandoc 24/11/2011 at 15:29

Feeding them is great and easy. But you have to stop poisoning them too. Go organic in your garden and remove all chemicals. At least we can make gardens a safe haven for our insects.

smallfry 24/11/2011 at 15:29

I love wildlife gardening, we have got a patch where my little sis plays that is wild :)

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