Butterflies have been decreasing more and more throughout the years due to a decline in their habitats. I remember that the Peacock butterfly used to be common in my garden, but I’ve only seen one this year. The butterflies in our garden are definitely declining and we shouldn’t accept this, we need to do something about it! In this post I am going to be sharing a few ways to attract butterflies to your garden.
Why do we need butterflies?
- Butterflies are pollinators which are essential for fruits, vegetables and flowers to produce new seeds. Therefore, we cannot survive without pollinators! It is often spoken about how bees are essential for humans to survive, but butterflies should be included in that sentence too.
- They are a natural pest control as they eat weeds and the Hoverfly larvae feed on aphids which attack plants (Omondi, 2010).
- Butterflies play a key role in ecosystems as they are prey for many birds, reptiles, mice and other insectivores. With butterflies declining, it reduces the amount of food available to insectivores, which causes the food web to be out of balance.
- They are a healthy environment indicator because they are around when plants and flowers are thriving. Butterflies are sensitive to habitat and climate change which means that the decline in them indicates the environment is becoming unhealthy.
How to attract butterflies to your garden
Plant their food plant
Butterflies lay their eggs on plants that the caterpillar larvae eat from. Therefore we need to plant lots of larval food plants to ensure all the caterpillars survive. Butterfly food plants are also needed so that they can lay eggs for the next brood of butterflies and to ensure they pollinate plants. You will attract the most butterflies by planting flowers that bloom at different times of the year to always ensure there is food available. Additionally, the shape of the petals should vary to attract different butterflies.
When reading the following list, you will probably have the best results with planting something that will attract a butterfly that has been seen in your region. For example, if you live in the north, there’s no point in planting the food plant for the Adonis Blue, because they are only in the south of England.
Larval food plants:
*This list doesn’t include every species of butterfly in the UK
- Adonis Blue, Chalk Hill Blue, Dingy Skipper – Horseshoe Vetch
- Brimstone – Alder Buckthorn
- Comma – Common Nettle, Currants, Elm, Hopps, Willows
- Common Blue – Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Common Restharrow Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Lesser Trefoil
- Duke of Burgandy – Cowslip, Fasle Oxlip (hybrid of Cowslip and primrose), Primrose
- Green-veined White – Garlic Mustard, Hedge Mustard, Watercress, Wild Cabbage, Wild Radish
- Large Blue – Wild Marjoram, Wild Thyme
- Large Skipper – Cock’s Foot, False Brome, Tor-grass
- Large White, Small White – Cabbage Family, Sea-kale
- Marbled White – Cock’s Foot, Red Fescue, Sheep’s-fescue, Tor-grass
- Marsh Fritillary – Devil’s-bit Scabious, Field Scabious, Small Scabious
- Orange-tip – Cuckooflower, Garlic Mustard, Hedge Mustard, Honesty, Winter-cress
- Painted Lady – Common Nettle, Thistles, Viper’s-bugloss
- Peacock, Red Admiral – Common Nettle, Hop, Small Nettle
- Small Copper – Broad-leaved Dock, Common Sorrel, Sheep’s Sorrel
- Speckled Wood – Cock’s Foot, Common Couch, False Brome, Yorkshire-fog
- Wood White – Bitter-vetch, Common Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Greater Bird’s Foot Trefoil, Meadow Vetchling
Nectar plants for attracting butterflies:
*Doesn’t include all plants, otherwise I’d be here forever!
- Field Scabious
- Lady’s Smock (Orange-tips love this plant)
- Red Clover
- Vetches (Horseshoe, Kidney)
Make butterfly food
There are ways that you can make your own nectar! This is useful if you are unable to plant flowers, maybe if you are renting or live somewhere without a garden. Here is a recipe I found:
- Mix 1 cup of granulated sugar with 4 cups of water in a bowl
- Boil the mixture until all the sugar has been dissolved
- Let the nectar cool down to room temperature
- Serve up in a dish which butterflies will be able to drink from
There are some DIY butterfly feeder ideas here. Some butterflies also like overripe fruit, though you might not want to do this because it could attract flies.
Stop using pesticides
If there are pests you want to get rid of, try planting something that will attract them to a different part of the garden. You could also plant something for the pest’s predators as a form of natural biological pest control. Pesticides are really bad chemicals that continue to kill thousands of bees and butterflies. As I mentioned earlier, pollinators are essential for the future of humans so you really aren’t helping anyone by using them! Sometimes garden centres use pesticides to keep the plants perfect before being bought so if you can, try and grow flowers from seed.
Leave part of your garden mow-free
Butterflies love to stop off in long grassy areas to avoid being seen by predators. This is also a good place for them to rest during the hibernation period in order to stay warm. With a lot of nectar-providing flowers blooming in April and onwards, the early butterflies really rely on Dandelions and Daisies. Try to leave a patch of these to ensure there is nectar for the butterflies that have broods early, such as the Brimstone butterfly.
Related post: 10 ways to attract garden wildlife
Create a sunny spot
A fact you may not know about butterflies is that they love sunbathing! Laying in the sun gives them time to recharge their energy before flying onto the next place, so it is essential they can find somewhere to do this. Creating a sunny spot in your garden will attract more butterflies to your garden because they will use it as a rest spot.
Which method will you be using to attract butterflies to your garden?
Best wishes, Cx
This is a very informative post. I’d love to have my own garden someday. Of course, butterflies are welcome to visit. Thanks for the tips!
Thank you 🙂
Molly | Transatlantic Notes says
This is great; I hope lots of people who have gardens can do their bit to encourage butterflies in this way. I love walking in a park in my local area that has a lot of them flying around; it’s beautiful to see them thriving!
Me too! x
Jenny in Neverland says
These are such fab tips! I absolutely love butterflies, they’re so beautiful so I’d love to see more of them in my garden!
I’m glad 🙂 x
We have a beehive in our backyard, so we try to grow some pollinators for them, and it also attracts the butterfly and humming birds. Wonderful post with lots of great idea.
Aww, I love that Wendy! x
These are some really helpful tips to attract butterflies to your garden. They are so pretty!
Thank you Lauren x
What a lovely post, Caroline! We’re fortunate to have a number of butterflies in our garden due to all our flowers and other plants. Can’t say I’m a fan of the Cabbage White thanks to their hungry caterpillars, but we love to see Orange Tips, Peacocks, Red Admirals, Tortoisehells, and a few others whose names I don’t recall. Thank you for sharing this! x
Aw, that’s great! Haha, I think most gardeners agree with you there – my parents definitely do
I loved this post Caroline, so interesting to learn more about butterflies and how to attract more to the garden x
Lucy | http://www.lucymary.co.uk
Thank you Lucy x
Love, Willow says
Awww I absolutely love butterflies during this time of year. I’ve been thinking of some fun things I can do with my son outdoors this summer and I think planting a few of these plants in the garden and watching as the butterflies come is the perfect idea!
Me too! That sounds brilliant 🙂 x
Simply Alex Jean says
I had no idea that Butterflies were on the decline like bees! I love having them in my garden, and I love how you’ve included a list of plants to help – I’ve made notes so I can make plans for those next year in my garden! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Yes, it is such a shame! Thank you Alex x
This is such a interesting and educational post, thank you so much for sharing with us lovely. We have the most beautiful array of butterflies come and visit our garden, they are just so lovely to watch and always makes me feel as though a loved ones near. I’ll defiantly be sharing these tips with family and friends! Xo
Elle – ellegracedeveson.com
Thank you Elle! It’s so lovely to hear that you have lots of butterflies in your garden 🙂
claire chircop says
This is such a fab post! Some lovely tips. We’ve had a few butterflies in our garden this year, but I definitely think we can be attracting more. Thanks for sharing!
Thank you x
Her Digital Coffee says
Wonderful post Caroline! This is so informative and I learned a lot. I’ve spotted many butterflies in my garden and now I know it’s thanks to some of our nectar plants and grassy areas! Thank you for sharing!
Aw that’s great! x
Kayleigh Brookes says
Excellent post! I love butterflies and they are so important.
I definitely agree x
Mind Beauty Simplicity says
loved this post, caroline! i didn’t realize there were specific ways to attract butterflies to your garden. how neat!
thank you B xx
I didn’t know they were pollinators! I have been wanting to plant a pollinator garden for awhile now. I will make sure to add some of these plants as well. Thank you!
That’s great 🙂
Mummy Conquering Anxiety says
Such a lovely post. As it happens, my hubby and little one are visiting a butterfly centre tomorrow. How bizarre I see this post.
Such a useful post, packed full of information I would have known before.
Aw that sounds fun!
Some helpful hints. My lavender bushes used to be covered in bees and butterflies all through summer but last year I got a few and so far this year none. The bees kept dying and I sent one away to the bee society to see why and it was due to persticide use. I don’t use any so I am gutted.
Oh no! That’s so sad
Oooh this is so interesting, I’d love to do some of these, I’ve also been wanting to attract more bees too by creating a little bee friendly garden!
That sounds great 🙂
Cristina Rosano says
These are amazing tips and so glad you shared them! I didn’t know they were a sort of natural pest control. I really love watching them hopping around, so will have to plant some of these to attract more x
Thank you x
Rocking Specter says
These are great suggestions, and this is an informative post. Thank you for sharing!
Great post, that is filled with useful information. Thank you for sharing.
This is such an important post! I didn’t know butterflies were pollinators, I definitely agree that should be mentioned more. We’ve been planting a lot of new things in the garden recently to attract butterflies and I’d love to try making butterfly food as well too. Thank you so much for sharing x
Thank you! That sounds lovely 🙂 x
Great tips thank you! We are always trying to get more bees and butterflies in to our garden. Borage for the bees has been amazing!
Thank you, yes borage is brilliant for attracting bees!
Fascinating! I don’t know much about butterflies, so this is an interesting read, especially the part about making butterfly food.