How to attract butterflies to your garden

Comma butterfly on pink flower
Attract loads of gorgeous butterflies to your garden with our top tips!

There's nothing nicer than seeing lots of lovely butterflies fluttering about the garden, but you might have noticed that there are fewer around these days.

The UK has 59 different types of butterfly. But sadly numbers have declined recently due to loss of their habitat, pollution and changing weather patterns. We've put together our top tips on how you can give them a helping hand by making your garden a haven for butterflies.

Butterfly-friendly plants

Butterflies feed on nectar, so a really simple way to encourage more butterflies to visit your garden is to plant lots of colourful flowers. It’s also a fun, hands-on activity children will love to get involved with.

Nectar-rich flowers

Butterflies flock to flowers like bluebell, lavender, red campion, cornflower, primrose, bird's-foot-trefoil and clover. Buddleia is a real favourite of butterflies too, but we wouldn't recommend it as it is an invasive plant. This means it’s not from the UK originally and it spreads really quickly, often at the expense of other plants.

Grow your flowers in a bright, sunny spot that’s sheltered from the wind. If you have less space, plant them in a window box or large pot.

There are plenty of other plants that attract butterflies too. Try to include a mix that flower and fruit at different times of year. This will help support lots of other wildlife too!

Fruit trees

Fruit trees not only produce delicious fruit for you, butterflies also love to drink fruit juice in the autumn and spring blossom is a great nectar source for pollinators. Did you know that some butterflies can get drunk on fermenting fruit?

Peacock butterfly on blossom
Spring blossom will add lovely colour to your garden, and pollinators will love it too!

Other plants

They might not seem an obvious choice, but these plants are great for butterflies, some because of their flowers and others as food plants for the caterpillars!

  • Trees and shrubs like hawthorn, holly and bramble.
  • Herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano and mint.
  • Ivy is a great late source of nectar in autumn, when many other plants have finished flowering.
  • Nettles! They’re not a garden favourite, but stinging nettles are an important food source for the caterpillars of small tortoiseshell, red admiral, peacock, comma and painted lady. Plant them in a quiet part of the garden away from spaces where children play.

If you’d like to plant trees in your garden, you can choose from lots of native trees in our online shop.

Holly blue butterfly on holly leaf
Some plants have specialist butterflies they attract, like holly blues that are attracted to (you guessed it) holly.

Attract butterflies with a 'puddling pool'

Some butterflies like to gather on muddy patches of ground or puddles to drink and to feed on nutrients from the earth. Mix some soil with water in a shallow pan and put it in a shady area near your flower patch. Be sure to keep it wet.

They also need somewhere to rest and soak up the sun's rays, so place a large flat stone in a sunny spot. It'll give you a chance to inspect them too!

Leave out food for butterflies

As well as planting for butterflies and their caterpillars, you can also help them by leaving out a few sweet snacks to give them an energy boost.

Add a ¼ cup of sugar to 2 cups of water and heat it up in a saucepan until all the sugar has dissolved. Leave it to cool for at least 30 minutes. Soak a brightly-coloured kitchen sponge in the sugary water and put the soggy sponge on a plate near to some flowers.

Butterfly spotting

Now it's time to sit back and wait for the butterflies to flock! How many different types will you spot? Use our butterfly swatch book to keep track of who you've seen.

You can also keep an eye out for caterpillars and day-flying moths.

Which butterflies have you attracted to your garden?

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