Grow butterfly flowers and plants

3-4 hours
Spring Summer Autumn

It is important to know what plants to grow, and how and where to grow them if butterflies are to thrive in your gardens and green spaces. All plants for butterflies shoul be placed in a sunny spot to maximise nectar - and butterflies love feeding in the sun!

Step-by-step guide


Choose your plants. Our recommendations will give you the best chance of being visited by these gorgeous creatures.


Spring flowers:

  • Bugle (Ajuga reptans) - a ground-cover woodland perennial plant, with low spikes of purple flower
  • Erysimum ‘Bowles mauve’ - a perennial wallflower with mauve flowers
  • Goat willow (Salix caprea) - a shrubby tree, which can grow to 15 m tall, so it needs space and shouldn't be planted near houses because of its vigorous root
  • Lady's-smock (Cardamine pratensis) - a delightful, slender plant with pink flowers for moist soils

Summer Plants:

  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) - a lovely perennial for the flower border, with large flowers with a central spiky cone surrounded by pink petals
  • English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) - the familiar Mediterranean herb, a short-lived subshrub that likes poor, dry soil
  • Hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum) - a British native perennial, sending up lots of metre tall leafy stems topped with fluffy pink flowerheads
  • Marjoram (Oreganum vulgare) - a British native of downs and grassland, about 30cm tall with lots of small pink flowers
  • Verbena bonariensis - a trendy plant that is so dainty its tall stems topped with purple flowers can be slotted in among your existing border plants.

Autumn flowers:

  • Bugbane (Actaea simplex ) - A tall, upright spike with white flowers along it
  • Devil's-bit scabious (Succisa pratensis) - a native wet meadow and downland flower with little lilac pompom flowers
  • Iceplant (Sedum spectabile) - fleshy leaves and pink flat heads of flowers
  • Ivy (Hedera helix) - the familiar climber, but allow it to get its head into the sun in order to flower
  • Michaelmas daisy (Aster novae-angliae) - a perennial for the flower border with familiar pink and purple daisy-flowers.

Plan where your plants will go. Think about the sunny, sheltered spots in your garden - your plants will produce most nectar there. Then, plant a nice cluster of key species so butterflies can flit from one to the next.


What to look for. Keep an eye out for butterflies nectaring on warm, sunny days. Don't worry if few butterflies visit in spring – it’s in late summer that more species are about, in greater numbers, and in greater need of nectar.


Be sure to keep your new plants mulched - this will keep the weeds down and help the plants stay moist. Well watered plants produce the most nectar. Those plants that are herbaceous perennials can be left to grow again year after year. Leave the seedheads standing overwinter as extra homes for wildlife, before clearing the spent stems in spring and composting them.

What you will need

  • Trowel
  • Watering can
  • Butterfly-friendly flowers: Birds Foot Trefoil, Red clover, Wild Margoram, Field Scabious, Hemp-Agrimony, Knapweed
  • Butterfly-friendly plants: Sedum 'Autumn Joy', Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', Hyssop, and Verbena Bonariensis