How to create a flower garden that attracts butterflies


Loss of habitat, the building of roads and houses, changes in farming and various other factors have engendered a considerable decline in the butterfly population. Fortunately, you can still attract some into your flower garden by creating a suitable environment for them.  It doesn’t matter how big or small your garden is. You can also convert your Astroturf into butterfly-welcoming space.

Drawing Butterflies to your Garden – 10 Tips

Everything from choosing the right flowers to providing shelter can encourage butterflies to visit your garden and stay there too.

  1. Colour and Variety – A variety of colourful plants will help you attract multiple species of butterflies. Choose brightly coloured and pollinator-friendly plants. Butterflies in the U.K. tend to lean towards white, purple, yellow, blue or pink flowers.

Your garden should have flowers blooming all round from February till the end of butterfly season which is around November. Consider early flowering perennials and biennials followed by annuals that flower in summer in turn followed by half hardy autumn-flowering annuals. Spring flowers are essential for butterflies emerging from hibernation while autumn flowers assist butterflies to develop their reserves for winter.

  1. Research butterflies native to your area

When choosing flowers, aim to attract butterflies native to your area. There’s no point trying to invite butterflies whose known colonies and preferred habitats are miles away. So, find out about the butterflies native to your location and their preferred food for the duration of their life cycle.

  1. Harbour Warmth – Butterflies favour warmth so when planting nectar plants, prefer sunny and sheltered spots.
  2. Arrange Plants in Blocks – Along with ensuring variety, do plant same plants together in clumps or blocks so that the combined colour and scent will have a powerful effect on passing pollinators.
  3. Water them Promptly – A well-watered plant will produce more nectar than a dehydrated one. Adequate water along with mulching using organic compost and the deadheading of flowers will help to extend flowering. You need to pay special attention to the water levels during the dry season.
  4. Avoid pesticides and insecticides – These chemicals are lethal to not just butterflies but also to various other pollinating insects and spiders, ground beetles and ladybirds. If you absolutely must use them, keep them away from flowering plants.
  5. Keep some fruit lying around – In the late summer, some species of butterfly like to consume the sugar present in discarded fruit. So, when you’re harvesting fruit, do leave behind a few of those rotting apples, plums, pears or berries. Additionally, it helps to have autumn leaves lying under garden edges for butterflies looking for shelter and camouflage.
  6. Shelter for rainy days

Butterflies need somewhere to hide on rainy days. It would be good if you had adequate shrubs and trees around the garden to act as a butterfly shelter on those bad weather days. If yours is a small garden, consider organizing your plant containers close to a wall to keep wind away.

  1. Embrace some wildflowers

Your garden should be suitable for all stages of a butterfly’s growth. Keep larvae happy by making space for less popular wildflowers such as Holly, Ivy, nettles, mixed grasses and thistles. Holly and Ivy is food for the holly blue caterpillar.  Fresh young nettles provide larval food for the red admiral, comma, peacock, painted lady and small tortoiseshell butterflies. Giant, creeping and welted thistles are magnets for the painted lady butterfly. Mixed grasses in the form of a meadow favour speckled wood, meadow brown, skipper (small, large and Essex) and several other butterflies. Do minimum pruning and permit the grass in one area of your garden to grow tall in the summer months.

  1. Give them water

Create a butterfly bath to help butterflies soak up vital nutrients that will energize them for mating. Take two terracotta pots, making sure to invert the one at the bottom to create height. Place a terracotta saucer over it to begin creating the butterfly island using a combination of rocks, stones or pebbles, herbs, fresh sliced fruit and water.

Finally, here are some suggestions for butterfly larval food-plants in addition to those already mentioned in the article.

  • Garlic mustard – orange tip
  • Alder buckthorn – brimstone
  • Cabbages and nasturtiums – small and big cabbage whites

Complement them with season-wise butterfly-friendly plants such as  aubretia and wild primrose for spring, butterfly bush, lavender, rosemary, marjoram and chrysanthemum for summer, and the red valerian and Michaelmas daisy for autumn.