Grow flowers for butterflies

Grow butterfly flowers & plants

Activity time:
More than 2 hours
Difficulty level:
Suitable for:
Balcony/roof, Small garden, Large garden, Medium garden
To help:
Bees, Creepy crawlies, Butterflies & moths

Butterflies herald the start of spring, but did you know they only regularly visit a few flowers?

So 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.


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


If you're looking for somewhere to start, take a look at the butterfly attractor seed kit from our shop.

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What you will need

  • Butterfly-friendly flowers
  • Butterfly-friendly shrubs
  • Trowel
  • Watering can
Red admiral feeding on flower head

Butterfly attractor seed pack

A high-nectar native wild flower seed mix to attract butterflies.

Buy today

Step-by-step guide

  1. Choose which flowers and shrubs to plant. Check out our recommendations of the very best to grow for butterflies, and decide which ones you would like in your garden.
  2. 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
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Plan where your plants will go. Butterflies like to feed in sheltered, warm locations in full sun, so that' is where to concentrate your butterfly-friendly plants. Also, by having lots of plants of the key species, a butterfly can happily flit from one to the next.
  6. Time to go shopping! Head for a good garden centre, go online to find them, or buy seeds for the thrill (and cost-saving) of starting from scratch. If budgets allow, get several of each type of plant. Then plant them out in position.
  7. 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.
  8. Caring for your plants and shrubs. Keep your plants well-watered in hot, dry weather as this will help them produce nectar. Weed around them so they don’t have to compete.

    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.

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