How To Attract Butterflies To Your Garden

As the weather warms up in Springtime, the sun comes out, flowers start to bloom and trees begin to bud, you may see a friendly addition to your garden - butterflies! Butterflies, as well as being pretty, are hugely beneficial to your garden, acting as pollinators to your plants. Butterflies have been around for at least 50 million years, and scientists believe they probably evolved around 150 million years ago. Read on to find out why butterflies are so good for your garden and how you can attract butterflies to your garden.

What butterflies will you see in the UK?

Butterflies you may see in UK gardens include Painted Lady

There are over 50 butterfly species that are native to Britain, plus up to 30 other species that come here as occasional or regular migrants from warmer climates elsewhere in Europe.

There are some species you are unlikely to see as they live in very specific habitats,however some species you're likely to see fluttering around your garden include Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Painted Lady, Comma, Green-veined White and Small Tortoiseshell. Although less common, you may also see some Orange-tip, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Small Copper and Holly and Common Blues in your garden.

Why are butterflies beneficial?

Butterflies are incredibly important to the environment in the UK, acting as indicators of a healthy ecosystem in the surrounding area. Most importantly for you however, they are fabulous pollinators. 

More than 90 percent of all plants need a pollinator to distribute pollen to set fruit and seeds - butterflies go between flower drinking nector, during which time they collect pollen on their bodies which they spread to other plants. They often fly significant distances between flowers, meaning they actually help to cross polinate species, creating more biodiversity in our gardens and allotments.  

 

What varieties should I plant to attract butterflies?

Plant marigolds to attract butterflies to your garden

 You don't need a huge garden with hundreds of varieties of plant to attract butterflies - butterflies will visit any garden, however small if there is suitable nectar - that's why you see them on pots and window boxes! Entice butterflies with carefully selected garden and wildflowers - grow these blooms from March until the colder weather in October - November ends the butterfly season. 

Some plants you could grow include:

  • Marigolds
  • Snapdragons
  • Honeysuckle
  • Borage
  • Sunflowers
  • Lavender
  • Jasmine

Growing a mini wildflower meadow in your garden can also attract butterflies to your garden - our Seedball for Butterflies is a really easy way to plant beneficial flowers - simply scatter the Seedballs over soil and the seeds will start to sprout when sufficient rain has fallen. These seedballs will help you to grow Forget-me-not, Musk Mallow, Purple Loosestrife, Red Campion and Yarrow as well as annual Chamomile, Cornflower, Corn Marigold, and Night-Flowering Catchfly flowers - all loved by butterflies!

For a more comprehensive list of plants for pollinators, check out the RHS guides to garden plants and wildflowers

How else can I attract butterflies to my garden?

Further attract butterflies to your garden by installing a feeder and habitat. Our best selling Butterfly Habitat provides a summer and winter house for butterflies, and looks beautiful in your garden. 

In summer use the habitat as a butterfly feeder - the nectar feeding tray folds down to allow butterfly food or sweet ripe fruit to be served to your butterflies - providing food for visiting butterflies is especially effective in early Spring and late Summer when natural nectar is scarce. 

Other ways you can help butterflies in your garden or allotment are to avoid using pesticides, especially near flowering plants that butterflies will be feeding on. ThHese may also destroy other benefical insect like ladybirds and lacewings. Also, leave fallen fruit underfruite trees a while  - species, such as red admiral and painted lady, will feed on the fruit juices of fallen over-ripe pears, plums and apples.

 

How to look after butterflies in the Autumn or Winter

As the weather cools down in Autumn and we move into the colder Winter months, the number of butterflies will start to reduce - some fly thousands of miles to warmer climates, some overwinter as eggs, caterpillars or chrysalises. A lot of British butterflies, such as Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Peacock butterflies actually hibernate. There are a few steps you can take to helping hibernating butterflies through the winter. 

Remove them to a shed or greenhouse if you find them in your house - the central heating of your house isn't good for them. Seeking warmth when cold snaps appear, some butterflies may find their way to your house. Central heating isn't good for butterflies at all - it can actually kill them.

If you're using our Butterfly Habitat and Feeder, close it up to turn it into a shelter for butterflies to hibernate in. They'll stay dormant and dry until the weather warms up again.

Types of British butterflies that hibernate in the winter

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o see butterflies in your garden, you need to entice them with the right flowers. Adult butterflies feed on nectar that they will take from a wide variety of wild and garden flowers, particularly those growing in warm sheltered places. Butterflies can be encouraged to visit gardens by growing a range of suitable flowers from March until frosty weather ends the butterfly season in October-November.

Butterflies will visit any garden, however small if they can feed on suitable nectar plants and a well thought out garden can attract many species of butterfly. If you manage your patch to create breeding habitat you may see even more.

Nectar provides butterflies and moths with energy to fly and find a mate. In spring, it helps butterflies refuel after winter hibernation or a gruelling journey to Britain from southern Europe or Africa.

 

  • Butterflies like warmth so choose sunny, sheltered spots when planting nectar plants.
  • Choose different plants to attract a wider variety of species. Place the same types of plant together in blocks.
  • Try to provide flowers right through the butterfly season. Spring flowers are vital for butterflies coming out of hibernation and autumn flowers help butterflies build up their reserves for winter.
  • Prolong flowering by deadheading flowers, mulching with organic compost, and watering well to keep the plants healthy. 
  • Don't use insecticides and pesticides - they kill butterflies and many pollinating insects as well as ladybirds, ground beetles and spiders.
  • Don't buy peat compost. Peat bogs are home to many special animals and plants, including the Large Heath butterfly, which is declining across Europe. There are now good alternatives to peat available from garden centres.

 

 

Sources: RHS - Butterflies: encouraging into your garden

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