The main focus of our campaign has been talk of bees, however butterflies and caterpillars are important pollinators and an integral part of the UK ecosystem. By having plants rich in nectar we’re also encouraging butterflies to pay a visit.

According to  the Butterfly Conservation, The State of Britain’s Butterflies, three-quarters of UK butterflies have shown a 10-year decrease in either their distribution or population levels, plus a brand new report on The State of Larger Moths shows a 22% decline of moths in the north of England. 

Different butterflies and moths tend to all have different preferences, but here are some easy choices if you’re just getting started inviting them into your garden.

Don’t be scared of the caterpillars, most don’t cause much damage, and they’re vital food for a number of creatures. And many people don’t think of moths as pollinators, but they are important, and they are beautiful – there’s more variety than you would ever think. 

Butterflies generally like anything on the RHS Plants for Pollinators list, I refer to this a lot, but it’s an easy guide to follow that is pretty well researched.

But they especially like larval food plants and plants where it is very easy to access the nectar – so wide and open flowers. Not all of these larval food plants are normal garden ‘stunners’ but if you want butterflies, they make excellent choices. 


This list includes plants from both of these lists.  


Lonicera periclymenum
Flower: Summer / Autumn
Native? No
Sunlight: Partial Shade or Full Sun
Type: Deciduous climber
Butterflies: White Admiral



Echium vulgare
Flower: Summer
Native? Yes
Sunlight: Full Sun
Type: Biennial
Butterflies: Painted Lady

vipers bugloss

Buckthorn and Alder Buckthorn

Rhamnus cathartica and Frangula alnus
Flower: Spring
Native? Yes
Sunlight: Partial Shade or Full Sun
Type: Shrub or Small Tree
Butterflies: Brimstone, Green Hairstreak



Rubus fruticosus
Flower: Spring and Summer
Native? Yes
Sunlight: Full Sun
Type: Evergreen shrubs
Butterflies: Holly Blue, Green Hairstreak, Grizzled Skipper, Holly Blue



Butterfly Bush

Buddleja davidii
Flower: Summer and Autumn
Native? No
Sunlight: Full Sun or Partial Shade
Type: Shrub

butterfly bush

Purple top

Verbena bonariensis
Flower: Summer / Autumn
Sunlight: Full Sun / partial Shade
Type: Perrenial

purple top

Purple Coneflower

Echinacea purpurea
Flower: Summer and Autumn
Native? No
Sunlight: Full Sun or Partial Shade
Type: Herbaceous Perennial

purple coneflower

Hopefully, this list will give you a good start in considering butterflies next time you purchase a plant for your garden.

And if you’re looking for plants for Bees and Pollinators we also made a handy list of easy to grow flowers. 

It will be worth it when you start to see your garden becoming a mini wildlife haven!

For an extensive well-researched list of plants for pollinators, please see this from RHS and UK Butterflies website for a full list of Larval food plants

Photos from RHS


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