Plants for Butterflies

One of my plans this year was to attract more Butterflies to our garden. We are very lucky and already have a very wildlife friendly garden with wild creatures spilling in from neighbouring hedgerows, fields and woodlands. For the past 13 years we have planted hedges, gardened organically (zero chemicals) and provided food, fresh water and shelter for insects, birds and mammals. Despite all our efforts we have noticed that the number of visiting Butterflies has been falling each year. Declining numbers of Butterflies seems to be a UK wide problem for a variety of reasons ranging from adverse weather conditions to loss of habitat and food plants for adults and caterpillars.

We can’t do much about the weather I know but we can provide food and shelter. So this year we are growing some plants specifically to provide vegetation for egg laying and food for caterpillars such as Honesty (Lunaria annua), Sweet Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) and Nasturtium (Tropaeolum). We already have lots of hedges with shrubs such as Blackthorn and Holly with Ivy and Honeysuckle scrambling through them. These are suitable food plants and good egg laying places for certain butterfly species. In addition we are leaving strips of grass to grow long and flower in strategic places such as around the pond and along a sunny hedge. Apparently long grass is essential for many species of moths, crickets and butterflies. I’ve persuaded my lovely husband to be a bit more restrained with his mower and strimmer this year. To the despair of my Dad (who is a very tidy gardener!) we are also leaving patches of fresh young nettles in sunny places too. Juicy young nettle leaves are delicious caterpillar food… apparently!

The number one plant for adult Butterflies is Buddleja. We have several Buddleja bushes and it doesn’t seem to matter which variety or colour you choose. Butterflies love them all. Each conical bloom is made up of hundreds of tiny tubular flowers filled with nectar that the butterflies love. Buddleja shrubs are widely available, inexpensive and easy to grow. What’s more it’s easy to take Buddleja Cuttings and grow more plants if you want to.

Buddleja is an amazing shrub… but we haven’t stopped there. Many smaller, easy to grow garden plants and wildflowers also provide food for adult Butterflies. We’re growing them in the borders and in large containers too.


Here are some of my favourites in flower this month.

Plants for Butterflies in June


Top row: Achillea millefolium, Lychnis coronaria, Lathyrus latifolius, Silene dioica
Bottom row: Lonicera periclymenum, Cosmos bipinnatus, Geranium pratense, Knautia arvensis

In our garden Verbena bonariensis (below) will be in flower by the end of June and go on flowering until September/October. Like Buddleja, Verbena flowers have many tiny tubular blooms filled with nectar that butterflies find irresistible. What’s not to love about these plants? They are beautiful, good for cut flowers and great for wildlife!

All of these nectar rich wildlife friendly flowers will attract more butterflies into our garden this year. I’ve already spotted quite a few flitting about on warm, still days. It’s the Big Butterfly Count next month. It runs from 14th July until 6th August… so I’ll soon see if these plants are having the effect we hoped for. Are you joining in with the butterfly count in your garden this year?

Which is your favourite plant for Butterflies? I’d love to know. Please leave a comment.

Thanks for visiting and Happy Gardening. Gillian 🙂





17 thoughts on “Plants for Butterflies

  1. Wow what great photos as usual! We can grow the Butterfly Bush here as well, and it is very popular with the butterflies! As I understand it from the ‘Big Butterfly Count” page you only count once for a fifteen minute period? What if the day you choose to count is a down day for the butterflies? Or do you count for 15 minutes each day during that specific time period the project coordinators have chosen? Interesting idea, have you been counting every year?

    1. Thanks Cady! I know… it does seem a bit hit and miss sometimes. In our garden a sunny still day is best for lots of butterflies so I usually count then. I suppose the different counters such as school children and families, parks and gardens will all count whenever they can over the three week period so there will be plenty of off days to balance out people like me picking a good day!

  2. Gillian the photos of the plants and the butterflies are beautiful. This year I could not plant anything in my garden because I am still in Madrid because they have operated on my Father. Nevertheless in the garden of the cottage there are Lonicera japonica and normal, Ivy, Lavender and many Nettles in the sun. This year I wanted to have planted two Buddleja, Capuchin, Sweet Rocket, Sweet Peas, Chamomile and a long etc. Of flowers but I could not. Next year I do it without fail. Thank you very much for all the information about butterflies. Greetings from Margarita.

  3. Fabulous post full of gorgeous photos! I love Verbena; I planted some from seed last year and it’s come back and self seeded all over the place which is brilliant. I have one buddleja which I didn’t know I could take cutting from. When would the best time to do this Gillian? I love butterflies but have only seen a few in the old house garden so far which is worrying. Thank you for the post. 😍🌸

    1. Thanks very much for your comment. I’m glad your Verbena self seeds… I love that natural look self-sown plants create. As for Buddleja cuttings you can take them all year round really. Take softwood cuttings from new growth early in the season/spring (these need careful attention to prevent them drying out or rotting off) and hardwood cuttings (REALLY EASY) when the stems harden up in autumn/early winter. Honestly… zero effort required for hardwood cuttings and you can use this method with most shrubs including roses. Just stick them in the ground where they won’t be disturbed or pop several in a tall pot.

  4. What a lovely post, Gillian, it’s so easy for us to pop a few extra nectar rich/larvae friendly plants into our gardens. Looks like it might be a better year for butterflies?

    1. Thanks Kate! We are certainly seeing more now the weather is so warm. Lets hope it’s a good year for all the butterflies and bees too.

  5. It’s all looking good, Gillian. I don’t have a particular preference but we have a good mix of plants in ours and I’ve not long since come indoors from taking butterfly and damp rose photos. 🙂 🙂

  6. great photos! i would love to attract more butterflies to my yard- we have a few that visit, but not often enough. I do, however, have tons of birds that call my yard home. I have a butterfly bush and lots of other plants but just not enough butterflies. I will have to try adding some of the flowers you mentioned. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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