Shrubs for butterflies - Buddleja davidii 'Cotswold Blue'

Best shrubs for butterflies

Discover shrubs that are a magnet for butterflies - and look great in the garden too.

Many butterfly habitats in the wild are in decline, so gardens are important resource for these beautiful creatures.


To attract butterflies to your garden, you need to provide nectar-rich plants for the adults to feed on, and host plants for their caterpillars. You could also provide shelter for the few butterfly species, such as brimstones, that hibernate over winter.

Discover five garden butterflies.

If possible, choose a variety of plants – perennials and shrubs – to attract a range of species and a food supply throughout the butterfly season, from March, when some species begin to emerge, to late autumn. Butterflies are cold-blooded and like warmth, so plant your shrubs in a sheltered, sunny spot. Avoid using pesticides and insecticides, as these can kill butterflies.

Here are seven shrubs that will set your garden a-flutter.

Butterflies like warmth, so plant your shrubs in a sheltered, sunny spot.


Otherwise known as the ‘butterfly bush’, buddleja is the best shrub you can plant for butterflies. It attracts a wide range, including red admirals, peacocks and small tortoiseshells. The B. davidii, B. x weyeriana and B. globosa varieties are the best options. 



Lavender is also a rich source of nectar throughout the summer; if possible, choose varieties of English lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, to attract the widest variety of butterfly species.



Hebe flowers come in shades of white, pink, purple and blue in midsummer and will attract peacock, red admiral and small tortoiseshell butterflies.



Ivy is a key plant for butterflies – its autumn flowers are popular with a variety of butterflies. The holly blue lays its eggs on the flower buds in autumn, and it also provides shelter for species of butterfly, such as brimstone, that hibernate over winter.



Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) is a cottage garden favourite, and its nectar-rich flowers attract a variety of wildlife. It’s a food plant for the rare white admiral butterfly.


Marjoram (oregano)

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.



If a privet hedge is left to flower in early and midsummer, the white blooms could 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 brimstone butterflies.

The insignificant flowers of snowberry (Symphoricarpos) are a nectar source for several insects; the plant is a food source for the caterpillars of the holly blue.


Holly is a food plant for holly blue butterflies – in the spring, the larvae feed on the flowers and berries.