Plant a Butterfly Garden

When planting for butterflies we need to consider their life-cycle, and of course they start life as caterpillars.

Published on: 31/3/19, 1:42 pm


Fascinating fact…Winston Churchill loved butterflies so much he had a garden designed specifically to attract them.

His family home was the beautiful Chartwell, but you really don’t need a grand estate to attract butterflies because they will happily flock to the tiniest plot if the planting is right.

Butterflies choose to lay their eggs where there is a good food supply for their hungry offspring. A patch of nettles in a sunny spot is all you need to attract the red admiral, the small tortoiseshell, the painted lady and the peacock.

If you want the common blue (though sadly these are not that common now) plant some birdsfoot trefoil, also known as lady’s fingers and properly named lotus corniculatus.

A packet of sweet rocket seeds (hesperis matronalis) is a good investment. One pack produces flowers in all shades of lilac. They have a sweet scent, which is more powerful in the evening, and as a bonus they attract the orange tip butterfly.

So, having satiated the caterpillars, we need to address the feeding requirements of the adult butterfly.

The most famous butterfly-attracting plant is probably Buddleia davidii, hence its other name, the butterfly bush. It grows well in most soils but needs to be pruned back hard every year so the flowers, and hence the butterflies, are kept at eye level. Don’t worry too much if you know very little about pruning, Buddleias are hard to kill!

Sedum spectabile must be one of the easiest plants ever to grow and even thrives in my poor soil. Its dusky pink flowers are always smothered in butterflies and bees when they open in late summer.

Caryopteris clandonensis, or to use its more romantic name, blue mist spirea is also a wonderful butterfly magnet and very easy to grow.

You can now buy packets of wild flower seeds and butterfly mixes. Try some among your borders and you’ll be rewarded with fluttering, jewel-like visitors all summer.


Butterfly Essentials

Sunshine - plant butterfly-attracting plants in the sunniest spots

Shelter - the site needs to be out of the wind

Roosting spots - Butterflies need somewhere to sleep. They prefer to be high so plant climbers like honeysuckles and clematis.

Nettles and wildflowers - if space is at a premium try growing them in pots. It works really well.


By Rachael Leverton


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