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How do I get more butterflies into my garden?

Updated: Mar 31, 2023

Spring is coming and green fingers are starting to twitch - why not plant something tasty for our butterflies?

A Common Blue butterfly on a bright orange marigold flower
A Common Blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) on a marigold - courtesy of The Butterfly Conservation Trust

Gardens can act as an energy pit-stop for butterflies. They'll visit any garden, however small, if they can feed on nectar plants there. With a bit of planning you can attract many different types and you'll attract even more if you give them food plants for their caterpillars. That's a great thing anyway but more caterpillars mean more birds too - nesting birds need caterpillars to their own young in spring.

Nectar gives butterflies and moths energy to fly and to find a mate. In spring, it helps butterflies refuel after winter hibernation.

If you have some outside space, here are 3 simple things you can do to help:

1. Provide nectar plants through spring, summer and autumn in sunny, sheltered spots - butterflies like it warm

2. Nettles are an important food plant - grow them in a pot (in a sunny corner) if you don't fancy them spreading

3. Go a bit Green - avoid using insecticides, avoid buying compost made from peat (because it comes from peat bogs which are an important habitat in their own right) and leave an area where native wildflowers can grow


This spring, try getting a few pots of Grape Hyacinth. These happy blue flowers are useful for butterflies out of hibernation. Keep them in pots (where the bulbs will come up next year) or plant them out. For the summer, try some Verbena bonariensis, marjoram or scabious. Marjoram is happy in a pot too, if space is limited. Marjoram is also a herb we eat so you'll have an added bonus - you can add the leaves to spaghetti or sprinkle it on pizza. Autumn is a good time for sedums which attract butterflies and other pollinators. Don't forget ivy. It's a really important nectar source for all kinds of pollinators. Its so important I've written a whole blog about it! Read more here.

If you'd like a few more ideas, check out this link from The Butterfly Conservation Trust which provides a great downloadable list of plants. It gives plants for each season so it's a really good starting point for ideas about what to plant for spring, summer and autumn nectar.

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