How to Attract Butterflies into Your Garden

To my mind, butterflies are one of the jewels of the garden. In addition to this, however, many species of butterfly are under threat in the wild, with numbers dipping preciously in recent years. To this end I try to do whatever I can to attract butterflies into my garden, knowing that they not only look fantastic, but that I’m also doing my bit for nature.

If you want to attract more butterflies into your garden then there are four different areas you can work on. The more of these you introduce, the more butterflies you’re likely to see…

Sunshine

As cold-blooded creatures, most butterflies seek out the sunniest and warmest areas. It’s not unusual to find butterflies “sun bathing” early on in the day, resting on warm brick walls and so on. On the other hand, cloudy days typically see far fewer butterflies in flight.

As a result, the first thing you can do to attract butterflies into your garden is to ensure that it is open and receives as much sun as possible. Consider pruning back any large trees or bushes, especially if they’re on the south side of your garden – in order to create the sunniest spots you possibly can. These areas can then be planted up with a range of nectar-rich flowers…

Nectar Plants

The most obvious draw for butterflies is a rich source of food. Not all flowers produce the same volumes of nectar, however, so focusing some effort on the richer food sources will often play dividends. The following flowering plants are well-known for their seemingly-magical abilities to attract butterflies into the garden…

Buddleia – Alternatively known as the “butterfly bush”, it should be little surprise what a winner this is. With their long mauve and purple “bottle brush” blooms they also look great in borders.

Verbena – There’s no denying that these¬†elegant flowers, which come in a range of purples and pinks, ¬†attract butterflies in droves. This plant tends to work particularly well when planted almost like a miniature hedge, along the front of garden walls and sheds.

Aster – The Aster genus encompasses a huge range of different cultivated flowers, many daisy-like in appearance, and coming in a wide range of pinks, mauves and purples.

Lavender – On a hot summer’s day many lavender plants almost buzz with insect life. As well as their attractive appearance, of course, lavender is also richly scented, which adds a further level of interest in the garden.

Perhaps most excitingly, all these top plants are perennials, meaning they will come back year after year. In light of this, when it comes to attracting more butterflies to your yard, you really only need to do the main work once. After you have purchased and planted the right blooms the first time, your garden will quickly become a butterfly oasis with minimal ongoing effort.

A range of herbs can also be added to the mix, with borage, oregano and fennel being particular butterfly favourites. This means that starting a herb garden can also provide a rich source of food to local insects.

Egg Laying

Once your local butterflies have had their fill of nectar, the next thing on their minds will be producing the next season of caterpillars. Here they’ll make use of all manner of plants, on which they lay their eggs. Many will subsequently become the source of food for their caterpillars.

It can be difficult to list exactly which plants work best as egg laying sites, simply because each species has their own preferences and many will take to cultivated plants in the garden. As a general rule, however, brassicas, nettles and a range of grasses tend to be popular fodder.

The best bet, really, is to set aside a small patch of your garden to “go native”. Let the weeds grow here naturally, or even plant one of the many wildflower meadow seed mixes available.

For the more scrupulous gardener this may be a bitter pill to swallow, but the seemingly untidy appearance of such an area can pay dividends when it comes to butterfly sightings.

Hibernation Sites

Butterflies have a number of ways to deal with cold winter days. Many die off at the end of the season, succeeded by their eggs or caterpillars who hibernate through the winter. Still other migrate south, to warmer climes. At least a few, however, hibernate as adults.

Providing places for adult butterflies to see out the winter months can greatly increase your chances of seeing butterflies early next spring. You may even catch a glimpse of them during the winter months, sitting motionless in the frost.

Classically, butterflies will hibernate in caves or in the crevices of old trees. These days, however, a range of man-made structures may also be used. It’s not uncommon to find a sleep butterfly in mid-winter sitting in a corner of your garage or shed.

For best results, however, consider investing in one of the very attractive wooden butterfly hibernation boxes, which not only look good but provide homes for plenty of over-wintering butterflies.

How to attract butterflies to your garden. Make your yard more wildlife friendly by following these simple steps that will help to draw in insects from far and wide.