Encouraging butterflies into your garden

To see butterflies in your garden, you will need to entice them
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with the
right flowers. Adult butterflies feed on nectar that they will take from a wide variety of wild and garden flowers, particularly those growing in warm sheltered places. Butterflies can be encouraged to visit gardens by growing a range of suitable
flowers from March until frosty weather ends the butterfly season in October-November. Put some large rocks in a part of your garden that gets early morning sun to encourage butterflies to visit. They need to be warmed by the sun to be active and will quickly learn where warm rocks are. Buddleia, while not a native plant, is great for encouraging butterflies to a garden. Leave some nettles and thistles to grow in hidden areas of the garden as they form a huge part of many of our butterflies lifecycle.

Click here for a list of plants for butterflies, all of which can be grown in gardens.

Three more ways to help butterflies

  1. Leave fallen fruit under fruit trees. In late summer butterflies, such as red admiral and painted lady, will feed on fruit juices in fallen over-ripe pears, plums and apples

  2. If possible, avoid the use of pesticides, especially on or near plants that are in flower

  3. To increase butterfly numbers, it is necessary to cater for the needs of the caterpillar stage. The following plants are the host plants of butterflies that do or may visit gardens:

  • Alder buckthorn and purging buckthorn: Eaten by Brimstone butterfly caterpillars

  • Birdsfoot trefoil: Food plant for Common Blue caterpillars

  • Cabbage, other brassicas, nasturtium: Eaten by caterpillars of Small and Large Cabbage Whites

  • Docks and sorrels: Food plants for Small Copper caterpillars

  • Garlic/hedge mustard and lady’s smock: Eaten by caterpillars of Orange-tip and Green-veined White

  • Holly and ivy: Holly Blue caterpillars eat holly flowers in late spring and ivy flowers in autumn

  • Mixed grasses grown as a meadow: Provides food for the caterpillars of Speckled Wood, Wall butterfly, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Small Heath.

  • Stinging nettle: Eaten by caterpillars of Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. Needs to be grown in a sunny position to attract egg-laying females, preferably in large clumps

  • Thistles: Painted Lady lays eggs on welted and creeping thistles, also on giant thistle (Onopordum spp.)