Whatever size your garden is, there are lots of flowers you can plant to encourage butterflies.
The recent ‘State of Nature’ report showed that common garden butterfly populations have declined by 24% in the last 10 years. In the last century, 4 butterflies and over 60 moths became extinct. Destruction of their natural habitats is partly to blame, as are changes in climate and weather and pollution.
Butterflies aren’t just there to be pretty either, they indicate whether the environment and ecosystems are healthy – areas that have high numbers of butterflies and moths are more likely to have high numbers of other invertebrates. They are also an important food source for birds, bats and other animals. Without butterflies,
The Butterfly Conservation website has a wealth of information on what we can do as individuals to help butterfly populations.
There are many plants that will attract butterflies, many of which are perfect for growing in containers. So even if you’ve only got a small garden or balcony, you can still do your bit. In a large container (preferably at least 60cm in diameter) plant up either a buddleja or lavender plant in the middle and then surround this with a mixture of marjoram, heather, aubretia, evening primrose or sedum. Aim for 3 or 4 varieties around the ‘main’ plant, depending on the size of your container. Keep the plants well watered, so that they keep producing nectar.
If you’ve got a large garden and the luxury of space, you could create a butterfly border with a mixture of nectar plants to provide a food source for butterflies from spring to autumn. Plant as many different varieties as you can, packing the plants into your border in groups to make it easier for butterflies to locate them.
You could even create a wildflower ‘meadow’, which provides nectar for food and somewhere for the butterflies to lay their eggs. It’s quite easy to do, especially if you’ve got an area in your garden that already has some long grass growing in it. Sow some wildflower seeds in pots or module trays and once they’re ready for planting out, plant them in your wildflower meadow. Cut the grass a few times in the first year, so that the flowers don’t get smothered by it, but in following years you can leave it to grow and just cut it back at the end of the season, once the flowers have set seed.
Here are some tips on how to encourage butterflies into your garden:
- Choose single flowers – they have far more nectar than double flowers and plant them in a sunny, sheltered spot.
- Deadhead them regularly to encourage more flowers and, if you’re growing them in containers, keep them well watered.
- Adding organic mulch will stop your plants drying out so quickly.
- Avoid using pesticides, insecticides or any other garden chemicals – they kill butterflies and other beneficial insects
- Use peat-free compost
- Plant buddleja to attract different species of butterflies – in fact, it’s a favourite of 18 species!
Other flowers to include in your butterfly garden are:
- Forget-me-nots (spring-flowering)
- Honesty (lunaria annua, spring-flowering)
- Sedum (autumn-flowering)
- Lavender (summer and autumn-flowering)
- Honeysuckle (summer-flowering)
See our ‘plants for wildlife‘ page for the full list of flowers to grow in your butterfly garden.
And lastly, take part in the Big Butterfly Count (20th July – 11th August 2013) to record butterflies in your area and submit your findings online.