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Last updated on January 21st, 2020
Everyone loves the company of butterflies, with their many colours and their stunning flying patterns. To that end, if you want to encourage the arrival of more flying friends, you need to grow nectar plants that help feed butterflies. Sadly butterflies are in decline and according to a report by the butterfly conservation, 75% of UK butterflies are shown a 10-year decrease so its never been so important to plant with butterflies in mind.
With butterflies such as the peacock and red admiral becoming rarer we have listed 8 top plants that are perfect for attracting butterflies into your garden and giving them the nectar they need. We start off our list with one plant that everybody will probably be familiar with, the Buddleia bush, commonly known as the butterfly bush.
Buddleia (Butterfly bush)
The butterfly bush gets its nickname because it is a beautiful, deciduous shrub whose masses of long, spiked blooms attract butterflies in their masses. These blooms last between early summer and often well into autumn. You can find multiple varieties but butterflies seem to prefer specifically the lavender-pink varieties over the dark purple or white varieties. These shrubs are relatively low maintenance and the only thing you have to do is prune them annually and deadhead them to encourage more flowers and maintain a compact shape if that is what you prefer.
A rapid growing perennial, you can enjoy dark green leaves from which rise slender stems which produce clusters of small, rose violet coloured flowers. Between mid-summer and autumn, you can enjoy a rather showy display of flowers and the Monarch butterflies in particular who are attracted to said flowers. Like the Centranthus ruber which is next on our list, it tolerates poor soil so long as you provide it with proper drainage but they do prefer more moist soil, especially if grown in pots where there soon start to wilt if not watered, they leave often don’t fully recover either so watering is something to keep a close eye on if you choose to frow them in pots. That being said if you grow them in the ground they virtually look after themselves.
Centranthus ruber (Red valerian)
This fragrant, butterfly-attracting plant is best grown in sandy or average soil that is well-drained and exposed to either full sun or partial shade. It prefers alkaline soil and full sun, both of which help to ensure a large display of pale to crimson red flowers in May. Even if you have infertile soil, it can be grown, it will just grow in smaller clumps as a result. It self-seeds freely if you give it the right conditions, so you can grow it as a prolific ground cover if necessary. You can remove spent flowers in spring to encourage additional flowers if necessary. A stunning perennial the butterflies just love. It grows to around 50-100cm in height and spread and prefers full sun and grows well in exposed sites too.
A wonderful Mediterranean plant that blooms between June and August, lavender thrives particularly well in English gardens and is often used in cooking recipes. It is particularly cold-hardy which means colder weather won’t harm it significantly. Not only is it effective at bringing things like bees to your garden but it would bring ample butterflies especially when the whorls of tiny flowers show up in summer. It truly is an effective staple for all types of herb garden especially gardens that want to bring more butterflies about. You can grow lavender in containers or in the ground and it will span between 30-60cm in height and also makes a good choice for small hedges.
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’
Known as the Wallflower, this is an award-winning flower that gives you months of delightful flowers from the middle of spring all the way through autumn and often even into winter. The flowers have four petals on them and are brilliant, all held together in a dense raceme that stands above the otherwise stunning grey-green foliage. You can trim your flowers lightly after the first year of flowering to prevent the plant from becoming otherwise quite leggy, something that people tend to see when they grow the same Wallflower time and time again. Rest assured that you can bring about butterflies and bees without running the risk of deer or rabbit eating away at your precious blooms. Although it’s a perennial it grows more like a shrub and holds its foliage and often flowers throughout winter.
This succulent perennial grows in an upright fashion and can reach up to 30cm or higher and the butterflys absolutely adore it. It is particularly well known for the coarsely toothed blue-green leaves that can reach up to 10 cm in size. Moreover, the blooms are small, star-like and come in pink colours. They bloom from the end of summer through the first frost on large flower heads. As the flower ages, the colour changes from pink to dark burgundy adding not only a beautiful spectacle to behold but the ability to bring butterflies in a part of the season when other flowers stop inviting them. It is quite a drought-tolerant and does well in sun or shade and prefers well-drained soil. Be advised that in shaded conditions will produce weaker growth.
Sure to bring not only butterflies but neighbouring visitors to your garden, this evergreen shrub takes on variegated foliage of cream and green. Said foliage changes to a bright pink come springtime eventually producing bright blue flowers is when the butterflies will make an appearance. You can enjoy these blooms from June through October so they are quite long-lasting. The plant is particularly tolerant of almost anything. Very hardy, it will tolerate sun or partial shade. It does well in containers or in the ground. It will take on acidic or alkaline soil with ease. Moreover, it won’t perform differently with heavy clay, chalky, or sandy soil and is overall really easy to grow with some basic care.
This aromatic herb is actually part of the mint family. The leaves are used in all manner of culinary and cosmetic purposes. It grows very effectively in partial sun to full sun as long as you have well-draining soil. It also needs very little in terms of space, you can grow it effectively in containers and it will maintain size in accordance with the container size or you can grow it directly in the ground and allow it to spread. Much like other herbs in the mint family, this one will grow long stretches of leaves with a delightful aroma, and tiny flowers that are sure to bring butterflies to your garden.
With any of these great additions, you are sure to enjoy the company of butterflies from all over.
Image credits – Shutterstock.com