Award-winning gardener, Jane Moore, thinks the garden in summer isn’t complete without butterflies. But how can you attract butterflies to your garden? Jane shares her top tips on planting to attract a wide range of butterflies below…
How to attract butterflies to your garden
There are few things better than watching butterflies’ flit from flower to flower on a summer day, especially if you’re sat back with a cool drink. It’s one of those classic joys of summer, isn’t it? But you don’t need to live in the countryside or have a huge garden to attract these little beauties, even the smallest city or suburban garden can pull in the butterflies. With masses of flowering plants, my small-town garden is a frequent feeding pitstop for several butterfly species, and you can easily enhance your own plot with some clever and alluring planting right now.
The summer might be well underway but it’s not too late in the season to plant for butterflies now, especially as many of the most dramatic and colourful butterflies are those that fly in late summer. Red Admirals, with their striking dark wings, flashed with scarlet, and Peacock butterflies, with beautiful ‘eyed’ wings reminiscent of peacock feathers, are both butterflies that you are more likely to see as the season starts to fade in August and September. That means there is plenty of time for a little strategic planting, particularly as these butterflies are big feeders and will happily sup nectar from a wide range of flowers.
Add to your annuals
Fill in any gaps in your borders or planters with late flowering bedding plants such as Cosmos, Verbena and Dahlias. These garden plants have become favourite bedding plants precisely because they are so floriferous and, with regular deadheading, they’ll keep on going into autumn. Planting even a few of these late bloomers gives your garden a longer season as well as providing a vital nectar pitstop for butterflies.
Go for single flowers
Any plant with single flowers is infinitely more attractive to both butterflies and bees as the pollen and nectar is plain to see. I’ve given up planting double forms of some of my favourite plants such as Dahlias and Asters because the single forms get so much more attention from insects. In a smaller garden, you want every plant to be working for both you and the wildlife, as you just don’t have space to spare.
Plant a shrub or tree
Late flowering shrubs such as Buddleia, commonly called the Butterfly Bush, are invaluable for feeding butterflies. There are several dwarf varieties available, such as the Buzz series, that are great for pots but the common form Buddleia davidii is a big plant that needs room to grow. The same can be said of fruit trees such as apples, although there are now patio varieties specially bred for pots and containers in tiny gardens. Fruit trees with their spring blossom and late summer fruit are fantastic for attracting bees and butterflies, and the showy late summer butterflies love to feed on overripe windfalls so leave the blemished fruit for them.
A handful of herbs
Don’t you just love having a few herbs at hand for your cooking? Most herbs are brilliant bee and butterfly plants as well as being useful in the kitchen. They don’t take up much room in the garden either which makes them perfect for smaller spaces, especially for growing in containers in courtyard gardens, on balconies or even in window boxes. My favourite is Marjoram, an absolute magnet for all sorts of insects including butterflies, closely followed by Chives.
Finally, plant a pot
Combine all the above ideas in a simple summery pot. Use a large container and plant the tree or shrub in the centre, filling in around it with bedding plants and small pots of perennials and herbs. It will soon be buzzing with life.
For more ideas take a look at my new book ‘Planting for Butterflies’
Do you have any tips on what plants to grow to attract butterflies? Let us know in the comments!
Jane Moore is a multi-award winning head gardener, speaker, writer and TV presenter. Besides her day job as Head Gardener at the prestigious Bath Priory Hotel, her career highlights to date include guest presenting on BBC Gardeners’ World, as well as winning a Garden Journalist of the Year award and an RHS Chelsea Flower Show Medal.