Plants for Wildlife

Plants for wildlife

There are so many benefits to attracting wildlife into your garden. Apart from saving the decline of our native species, garden wildlife also acts as a natural pest control, preventing the need to spray harmful chemicals all over your garden. If you grow fruit and vegetables, you’ll need the help of bees to pollinate many of your crops. Contrary to popular belief wildlife gardens needn’t be messy! Well-maintained hedges and shrubs are perfect for nesting birds and insects, and a flowing herbaceous border will attract all sorts of beneficial insects to your garden. You could even create a container garden for wildlife with some of the plants listed below! Planting a wildlife garden couldn’t be easier; read on for more ideas on how to make a wildlife garden.

Plants for Wildlife

Single-flowered varieties are best for bees

Plants for bees

The number of bees in the UK is declining at an alarming rate, yet there are few explanations. It’s suggested that the decline in native and wild flower rich grassland could be a cause. Bees play a key role in pollinating many crops and some 35 per cent of our diet depends on pollination of crops by bees! Bees are active between February and October and it is crucial they have enough food during this time to help them through the winter and early spring. You can help by creating a wildlife garden and choosing a selection of the plants for bees listed below. For more information on how you can help bees take a look at our ‘Save the Bees’ article.

Plants for Wildlife

Plants such as buddleja are ideal for attracing butterflies

Plants for butterflies

There are 58 species of butterfly native to the UK and many of these are under threat of extinction. Recent reports have shown, however, that recent conservation efforts have given some of our most threatened species a boost. You can do your bit to help the butterflies by planting nectar-rich flowers in your garden. Take a look at the list below for inspiration. For more information on helping butterflies take a look at our ‘Helping to conserve the UK’s butterflies’ page.

Plants for Wildlife

Teasel is a valuable source of nectar for bees and butterflies, as well as attracting many seed-eating birds.

Plants for birds

Birds are welcome visitors to the garden and will eat aphids, caterpillars and slugs for you! You can attract birds into your garden by installing a bird bath and by putting out extra food throughout the harsh winter months. You can also grow a wide range of plants for birds, which produce berries, seeds or nuts at the end of the season. Plants can also be used to provide shelter or nesting sites for birds, protecting them from cats and other predators.

For more simple ideas on how you can attract wildlife to your garden take a look at our article about wildlife gardening.

Top tips when planting for wildlife:

  • Choose single-flowered varieties of plants. Bees and butterflies can’t access double flowers for pollen and nectar.
  • Leave some of your culinary herbs to flower – they are a rich food source for bees and butterflies and will leave your garden buzzing on warm days!
  • Leave your autumn clear up until the spring. The dead remains of plants provide valuable shelter for over-wintering insects.
  • Try not to spray your plants with insecticides as these will kill beneficial insects too. Be patient and the pests will often be eaten naturally by ladybirds, lacewings, spiders, small mammals and birds.

Click here for a full list of plants to grow in your garden to create a haven for wildlife.

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  1. dawn says:

    Well, I decided to start clearing our very muddy pond that had a lot of honey suckle to one side. I found a birds nest with tiny little beaks pointing up to the sky, so had to abandone the muddy work. Want to plant some bee attacting plants around the pond. Any ideas?

    • Rebecca Tute Rebecca Tute says:

      Hi Dawn, I’ve just spoken to one of our experts and she recommends the following: “For planting into moist or boggy ground around the pond (marginal pond plants) I would recommend ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), water avens (Geum rivale), yellow loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria), watermint (Mentha aquatica) and water forget-me-not (Myostois scorpioides). These are all valuable sources of nectar and pollen for bees :-)

      For areas away from the dampness of the pond take a look at our wildlife plants article:

      I hope this helps.

  2. Emma Squire says:

    I am passionate about encouraging and supporting our local wildlife and in the last year have started beekeeping, rescued a bumblebee nest that was going to be destroyed, provided nesting sites for solitary bees, small birds and owls. I have started planting my garden, allotment and even my workplace with plants that they will enjoy as much as me and I hope I can share my passion with whoever will listen.

    I support Friends of the Earth, the British Beekeeping Association and The Bumblebee Conservation Trust and volunteer my time to monitor my local bee population.

    It doesn’t cost much time or money to help our wildlife, and every little helps, but the rewards are tenfold. If you do even something small, these creatures will grace us with their presence – you get up close and personal with our precious wildlife and they pollinate our crops in return. What could be better?

  3. Jean says:

    Have been leading a team of volunteers restoring a Devon primary school’s large wildlife area for last 10 years

    Check out our website/blog at for more info plus pictures

    We’ve planted lots of native UK trees plus wildflower plants and seeds resulting in a rich diversity of insects,birds,small mammals etc

    • Rebecca Tute Rebecca Tute says:

      You’ve been doing some great work – your blog is lovely too. If you ever fancy writing a guest post for our blog on setting up school gardens and gardening with children, we’d love to hear from you.

  4. Samantha Atherton says:

    I’m always looking for ways to attract more wildlife to my small garden. My little girl loves learning about all animal and it makes it more hands on if we can go outside and see them.

    • Rebecca Tute Rebecca Tute says:

      We couldn’t agree more – it’s lovely to be able to garden with children and teach them about what goes on in the great outdoors!

  5. Rebecca Connor says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how many different species can be attracted to one small patch of ‘ungardened’ land. Last year we found beautiful wasp spiders living in our long grass. This year I’m really hoping to develop our wild area.

    • Rebecca Tute Rebecca Tute says:

      You’re quite right – how lovely to have found the wasp spiders too. Hope you have fun creating a wildlife area this year!

  6. Sharon says:

    Very good post. Hope it inspires people to make room in their gardens for the wildlife.

  7. Sharon says:

    I have put a compost bag into an area that I am developing as a wildlife patch. The compost is providing me with lovely rich earth. The birds are already coming to feed off the insects as soon as I open the top of the bag and let them out. They are a delight to watch and listen to. I have also made a “bee hotel” and they have already booked in. The wildlife patch will be a place of beauty and tranquility. I’m looking forward to planting more and more in it.

  8. Sarah Jones says:


    I found this a useful article and some useful links as well. I am very worried about the plight of the bees and have many plants in my medium sized garden that attract them.

    The long hard winter and the slow arrival of Spring means that the populations of various bee species will be affected.

    Some UK towns are now Bee Guardian towns. Perhaps readers can check if their nearest town is a Bee Guardian town.

    I particularly like bumble bees.

    If every garden had a least one pot of nectar rich flowers eg marjoram, lavender then surely that would help?

  9. Marion says:

    In the process of creating a wildlife area in the garden with a little help from 3 chickens who stripped it bare! The prize would hit the spot.

  10. Anne Mette K says:

    I totally agree. I do not know if I am allowed to participate in this competition (I am from Denmark) but regardless, I must commend you for focusing on the importance of maintaining the birds and insects in the garden.

  11. pete says:

    any plants that help wildlife thrive can only be a good thing

  12. June Gaynor says:

    I love to encourage wildlife to my garden. Thank you for the tip about planting single flowered varieties rather than double, I was not aware of that, but will certainly bear it in mind in future. Spring has finally sprung and I’ve seen my first bees and butterflies in the garden today, I hope they didn’t suffer too much because of the long winter.

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