Plant for butterflies

butterfly on flower

Attracting butterflies

Plant the right shrubs and flowers and you’ll notice a lot more visitors. There are lots of great plants for butterflies and moths - native wildflowers are particularly good.

Remember, it's good to have a variety of different plants that flower at different times of the year, ensuring a ready supply of nectar for your visitors.

In Spring good nectar providing plants are Cuckoo Flower (Ladies Smock), Forget-me-not, Wallflower, Sweet Rocket, Primrose and Daisies.

In Summer and Autumn, Budleia, French Marigold, Lavender, Ice Plant, Red Valerian, Michaelmas Daisy, Scabious, Knapweed and Ivy are all good.

Different plants for different butterflies

Butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, but a lot of species will only lay their eggs on one or two very specific plants. If you have these in your garden you can help ensure their future survival.

  • Common Nettle - Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock, Painted Lady, Comma
  • Cock's Foot - Wall Brown, Speckled Wood, Small Skipper, Ringlet, Essex Skipper, Large Skipper
  • Common Rock Rose - Brown Argus, Green Hairstreak, Northern Brown Argus, Silver Studded Blue
  • Common Birdsfoot Treoil - Wood White, Silver Studded Blue, Real's Wood White, Green Hairstreak, Dingy Skipper, Common Blue
  • Common Dog Violet - Dark Green Fritillary, High Brown Fritillary, Pearl Boarded Fritillary, Silver Washed Fritillary, Small Pearl Boarded Fritillary
  • Other grasses (Fescues, Bents, Meadow grass, Tor-grass) - Meadow Brown, Marbled White, Lulworth Skipper, Greyling, Gatekeeper, Silver Spotted Skipper, Small Heath, Wall Brown

Be aware that some of these species can only be found in certain areas of the UK. If you'd like to find out what butterflies you could find in your area have a look at the National Biodiversity Network.

Common species guide


Meadow Brown
A brown and orange butterfly with black eye spots on the forewings. It is very common and widespread throughout the UK and can be found in a variety of habitats including parks and gardens.

The caterpillars feed on a wide range of grasses such as fescues and bents and the butterflies can be seen from June to August.

Large White
A large bright white butterfly with black tips on its forewings common throughout the whole of the UK. It also has two black spots on the underside of its wings.

The caterpillars feed on the Cruciferae family such as cabbage and brussels-sprout, so they are not always a welcome garden visitor. The adult butterflies can be seen from May to September. They can be found in a wide range of habitats but especially in gardens, allotments and fields where they breed.

Holly Blue
A small bright blue butterfly with black spots on the underside of its wings. It is widespread in England and Wales and its range is expanding northwards into Scotland and NI.

The caterpillars feed on holly in spring and ivy in summer and the two generations of adult butterflies can be seen April-May and August-September. It can be found in lots of habitats such as hedgerows, gardens and churchyards, or anywhere where holly and ivy are present.

Red Admiral
A large black winged butterfly with striking red bands and white spots on its wings. They are common and widespread throughout the UK. They are a migratory species, going north, with females laying eggs along the way.

The caterpillars feed on common nettle and the butterflies can be seen from July until as late as October or November. They are found in a wide range of habitats including gardens.

A fairly large butterfly with red and black wings. It has easily recognisable eye spots on both sets of wings. It can be found throughout the UK and its range is still expanding.

The caterpillars eat common nettle although they have also been found on small nettle and hop. The adult butterflies can be seen from July to September and they are common garden visitors.

Related downloads

Download PdfDownload the "Make a Butterfly Feeder" How To Poster - 984KB

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