Top Ten Plants For Butterflies
If you want to attract more butterflies to your garden here are some of the best. There are of course many more, but by using some of the plants in this list you will definitely be on your way to bringing your garden to life with butterflies. Plant in a sunny but sheltered spot, away from the prevailing wind for best results.
Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
Fabulously nectar-rich flowers make this an easy choice for our top ten. Tall, self-supporting stems bear lilac-purple flowers, and with a growth habit that easily allows for planting in between other plants it’s a great addition towards the back of the border. They can also be successfully grown in pots. As they’re only half hardy they don’t always survive the winter in more northerly areas, but will often set seed in beds if the last of the flowers are left unpruned over winter.
Wallflower ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ (Erysimum)
An old favourite that has stood the test of time, thanks to its easy care and exceptionally long flowering period. In fact, if this plant is regularly deadheaded, you can pretty much count on Bowles’s Mauve being in bloom from spring right through to autumn. There are many other beautiful wallflower cultivars, many of which are wonderfully scented too – but few, if any, tend to be as nectar-rich, or quite as prolific at flowering as this one.
So useful for attracting butterflies, scabious come in various forms and you’re unlikely to go wrong with any that you choose. Garden centres will often offer the cultivar ‘Butterfly Blue’, which is a decent compact form. There’s a range of sizes from the native Small Scabious up to the taller Field Scabious, Knautia avensis. Pale pinks through to lilac-blues are common colours, though the deep red of Knatuia macedonica is also a fabulous addition to any border. Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper are just a few of the species you expect to visit Scabious.
Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
Another top choice for any butterfly garden, the pink, fluffy flower heads of our native Hemp Agrimony, which sit on top of 1m stems, attract butterflies such as Red Admiral, Comma, and Speckled Wood.
Common Knapweed, Black Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)
If you’ve allowed a little bit of your lawn to grow longer (something we highly recommend!) this native meadow flower works wonderfully when planted into existing grass. Of course it will thrive just as well planted into any sunny border too. Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Common Blue, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, and Large White are just some of its frequent visitors.
Wild Majoram (Origanum vulgare)
A must-have herb in any garden, majoram is also a prolific flowerer that’s loved by butterflies. Easy to grow and flowering throughout late spring right through to September it’s a superb choice for our pollinators. Common Blue, Meadow brown and Gatekeeper are especially fond of this plant.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Besides offering ornamental and aromatic value to us, lavender is also an excellent nectar-provider for our pollinators. A lover of sunshine and well-drained soil, lightly clip after flowering. Commonplace varieties like ‘Hidcote’ are a great starting point. Lavender attracts both Large and Small White, as well as Gatekeeper butterflies.
Sedum, Ice Plant (Sedum spectabile)
A wonderful border plant, providing a long succession of blooms in late summer. We’d recommend the pink form, Hylotelephium spectabile, as it tends to be the most nectar rich when compared with some of the red varieties. The variety ‘Brilliant’ is a popular example. Sedum flowers are enjoyed by Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies.
Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber)
If you’ve seen red valerian growing out of walls and on road edges you’ll already know that this is a plant that likes the lightest, driest of soils. But don’t be put off growing this very useful plant in heavier soils; just be sure to add plenty of organic matter (compost) and grit to keep it happy.
Buddleia (Buddleia davidii)
A plant that has become synonymous with butterflies, there are few shrubs that compete with the power of this plant’s flowers to attract a host of pollinating insects. And it’s easy to grow too! There are many to choose from in various sizes, so there’s something for everyone. By growing several different varieties you should be able to have at least one in flower throughout the summer months (July and August are the main flowering periods), providing a long succession of nectar-rich sustenance.