Many butterfly habitats in the wild are in decline, and gardens can provide some species with both food and breeding opportunities.
To attract butterflies to your garden, you need to provide nectar-rich plants for the adults to feed on, and larval food plants for their caterpillars. You could also provide shelter for the butterfly species that overwinter as adults.
If possible, choose a variety of plants – perennials and shrubs – to attract a range of species from spring to late autumn. Butterflies are cold-blooded and need warmth, so plant your shrubs in a sheltered, sunny spot. Avoid using pesticides, as these can kill butterflies.
Discover seven shrubs that are perfect for butterflies, below.
Otherwise known as the ‘butterfly bush’, buddleia (Buddleja) is one of the best nectar shrubs you can plant for butterflies. It attracts a wide variety of species, including red admiral, peacock and small tortoiseshell. The Buddleja davidii, Buddleja x weyeriana and Buddleja globosa varieties are the best options.
Lavender (Lavandula) is also a rich source of nectar throughout summer. Attract the widest range of species by planting varieties of English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia and hybrid Lavandula x intermedia, over French lavender, Lavandula stoechas.
Nectar-rich hebe flowers come in shades of white, pink, purple and blue in midsummer, and will attract peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell butterflies.
Ivy benefits butterflies in a number of ways. In autumn its flowers attract late-flying species such as the red admiral. The holly blue butterfly lays its eggs on the flower buds in late summer, and the dense mass of leaves provides shelter for butterflies that overwinter as adults, such as the brimstone, peacock and small tortoiseshell.
Fragrant honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) is a cottage garden favourite, and its nectar-rich flowers attract a wide range of night-flying moths. It’s also the larval food plant for the rare white admiral butterfly, which is highly unlikely to breed in gardens.
The flowers of marjoram or oregano (Origanum vulgare) are a magnet for many varieties of butterfly, including gatekeeper, common blue, small tortoiseshell, peacock, and the meadow brown. Its leaves offer larval food for the caterpillars of the mint moth, Pyrausta aurata.
If left to flower, privet and wild privet, Ligustrum vulgare, their white blooms attract a wide range of butterflies, including speckled wood, comma, holly blue, red admiral and peacock.
Keep plants well watered
Keep plants well-watered – it means they will produce more nectar for butterflies.
More shrubs for butterflies
Both alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus) and purging buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) are food plants for the caterpillars of the brimstone butterfly.
The insignificant flowers of snowberry (Symphoricarpos) are a nectar source for several insects, while its leaves provide larval food for the holly blue butterfly.
Holly is a food plant for holly blue butterflies