A good butterfly garden has plants that flower and provide nectar from spring until autumn. The peak season for UK butterflies is from midsummer to autumn, but some species can emerge from as early as March, and it's important to keep the nectar supply going for them right through to late autumn.


Discover five garden butterflies.

The most nectar-rich plants are shrubs and perennials - most annuals don't produce enough nectar for butterflies. Discover the best shrubs for butterflies.

Butterflies are cold-blooded and like warmth, so plant your butterfly-friendly plants in a part of the garden that is warm, sunny and sheltered.

Here are some of the best butterfly-friendly perennials you can grow for nectar from spring to autumn.

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Nectar can be scarce early in the year, so butterflies on the wing at this time will struggle to find enough nectar. Wild primrose, Primula vulgaris, is a good nectar source. It is also used as a caterpillar food plant by several species of moth.

Primula vulgaris
Pale-yellow wild primrose

Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve'

If regularly deadheaded, Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve' can be relied upon to flower almost all year round, providing early nectar for butterflies in spring, throughout summer and then late in the year, making it a very useful plant. Grow at the front or in the middle of a border.

Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve'
Stems of tiny mauve erysimum flowers


Phlox are pretty cottage garden stalwarts with pretty pastel flowers and a sweet, honey-like fragrance. They're ideal for growing in the middle or front of a border and thrive in rich, moist soil in light shade. They can also be grown in containers.

Phlox paniculata 'Peppermint Twist'
Pink and white phlox


Centranthus ruber (red valerian) does best in poorer, dry or chalky soils, where it forms a tidy, compact plant. It flowers early and continues into summer. If produces masses of seeds - if you see unwanted seedlings appearing, hoe them off or pull them out by hand.

Red valerian
Red valerian flowers

Verbena bonariensis

Tall, with lots of purple flowers on stiff, wiry stems, Verbena bonariensis can be grown through other plants in a mixed border, in a gravel garden or in a border on its own. It flowers from midsummer until late in the season and is extremely rich in nectar.

Tortoiseshell butterfly on Verbena bonariensis
Tortoiseshell butterfly on purple verbena flowers


The old-fashioned pink forms of the ice plant, Sedum spectabile, such as Sedum spectabile 'Carl', pictured, produces the most nectar when it flowers in late summer and autumn. The newer, red varieties are less attractive.

Sedum spectabile 'Carl'
Ball-shaped, pink ice-plant blooms

Michaelmas daisy

Michaelmas daisies (Symphyotrichum) flower in late summer and autumn, hence their common name. They provide a welcome splash of colour when other flowers are starting to fade. They are also an important source of nectar and pollen for late-flying insects, including butterflies.

Symphyotrichum novi-belgii 'Royal Ruby'
Bright-pink michaelmas daisies

Don't forget to water

Plants produce more nectar if they are well-watered, so be sure to keep your plants well hydrated in warm, sunny weather.