Wildlife-friendly plants

Provide food and shelter for garden wildlife by growing the right plants - practical feature from the wildlife gardening experts at BBC Gardeners' World Magazine.

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.


Kate Bradbury

Kate Bradbury says

Aim to have a good mix of plants to provide nectar and pollen, berries and seed, shelter to nest and roost and leaves for caterpillars. A mix of native and non-native plants is ideal.

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