Make your garden a butterfly haven

If, like me, you totally appreciate nature and are appalled at the slow decrease of insects in Britain, (specifically butterflies) then this post is for you. I really care about this so i took lots of time to research great plants that butterflies love that you can add to your garden to encourage them.

Rising pollution levels and change in the environment (along with the eradication of their native habitat) has seen numbers in three quarters of Britain’s butterfly species drop significantly. I can’t stress how important it is that the plants we grow in our gardens are the key to their survival! Why not pick some off the list that you like and add them to your gardens this summer?

I know that the first plant that sprang to mind for me as one of the best plants for butterflies was buddleia. This is also referred to, aptly, as the butterfly bush. This plant is popular for 3 reasons. The flowers are tube shaped so that means the butterfly has easy access to the nectar. The flower heads are also made up of tiny flowers that are clustered together – this means the butterfly doesn’t have to use much energy moving from flower to flower. Lastly, buddleia produces a LOT of nectar.

Though apparently we should be using shrubs and perennials as they provide the best nectar sources in our gardens. Annual flowering plants don’t often produce the volume of nectar that butterflies need. Massed flowers are a great place to begin and they can be found in the form of spires (like buddleia and veronicastrum), buttons (scabious for example) and horizontal, flat planes (like sedum). Keep a keen eye for these sorts of shapes when you’re choosing the most butterfly-friendly plants for your garden.  

You can also help butterflies to identify the most nectar-rich plants by grouping them together in threes or fives or planting them in blocks. Planting as a drift makes them easier to identify when butterflies are scouting from above and will reward them with a bumper crop of nectar all in one zone when they land.

Almost as popular with butterflies are the flat-topped flowers of sedum, achillea and eupatorium. The width of these composite flowers makes them easy to spot even if they have not been planted in a butterfly-friendly drift. Daisy-shaped flowers, in particular echinacea, are another good choice; their arrayed petals alert butterflies to the nectar-filled central cone.

Marjoram

Origanum laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’

Popular with small tortoiseshells, especially when the pink and purple flowers of this herb are in bloom. In well-drained soil and full sun, this 60cm plant will flower from June to September and develop a maroon tint to the aromatic foliage after that.

 

Macedonian scabious

Knautia macedonia

This relative of cornflower, field scabious and greater knapweed is easily available as a plant that is ready to pop into your garden straight away. Pincushions of maroon flowers are held at 80cm on wiry stems that may need the support of pea sticks. Plant in full sun, in well-drained soil.

Ice plant

Sedum ‘Matrona’

One of the larger sedum varieties, growing up to 70cm, with bronzed foliage and soft-pink flowers from August to October. Pink-flowered varieties such as Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ and Sedum ‘Matrona’ seem to be the most popular with butterflies. Plant in full sun or partial shade.

Joe-pye weed

Eupatorium maculatum ‘Purple Bush’

These statuesque perennials produce slightly domed plates of flowers. They need a reliable level of moisture in the soil and a position in full sun or partial shade. Flowers appear from July to September. Height and width 2m.

Butterfly bush

Buddleia davidii ‘Black Knight’

This plant produces deep-purple flowers from July to September and can grow to 3m tall and 5m wide. Plant in full sun or partial shade and keep this fast-growing shrub in check with an annual spring prune, taking each stem back to ground level to encourage fresh growth.

Aster

Aster x frikartii ‘Monch’

Plant aster in a sunny spot for flowers from August to October. This robust variety has lilac flowers and a sturdy branching habit. It will grow to just under 1m with a slim footprint of about 40cm.

Red valerian

Centranthus ruber

Clusters of loosely domed, composite flowers appear on this easy-to-grow perennial from July to October. It grows well in full sun and will seed itself in cracks in paving. In fertile soil this plant can become too well established, so for best results plant in poor, chalky or dry soil.

Verbena

Verbena bonariensis

Nectar-filled purple flowers are held high on strong, wiry stems from June to September. Although they grow up to 1.5m, the delicate see-through structure is never too imposing and will provide a useful scaffold that will help to support the growth.

Shrubby veronica

Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’

This compact evergreen produces small spires of composite flowers during June. It will grow to form dwarf mounds of blue-green leaves about 40cm in height and spreading up to 1m in width. Grow in moist but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade.

It is really crucial that we look after our insect population and these flowers are such a great way to start. I hope this has helped you to encourage more of our fluttery friends into your garden! Do you have some tips for me? Or did something in this post help you out? I’d really love to hear from you! Thanks!

– Connie