Imagine stepping into your garden and being greeted by the delicate flutter of vibrant butterflies, each one a tiny masterpiece of nature. The UK is home to a stunning variety of these enchanting insects, from the striking Red Admiral to the graceful Peacock. However, many butterfly species face challenges due to habitat loss and climate change. By creating butterfly-friendly gardens, we can play a crucial role in supporting and preserving these beautiful creatures. This blog post will guide you on how to attract and support butterflies, turning your garden into a haven for these important pollinators.

The Beauty of British Butterflies

Britain is home to around 59 species of butterflies, each with its own unique beauty and characteristics. These delightful insects can often be seen fluttering around gardens, bringing a splash of colour and life. Here are ten butterflies you can attract to your gardens:

Peacock Butterfly (Aglais io)

With its striking eyespots and vibrant colours, the Peacock butterfly is one of the most easily recognisable species. The eyespots are believed to ward off predators, mimicking the eyes of larger animals. They are commonly found from late March to September.

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

The Small Tortoiseshell is a common sight in UK gardens, featuring orange and black patterned wings with a row of blue spots around the edges. This species is active from early spring to late autumn and is known for its hibernation habits during the winter months.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta)

A migratory species, the Red Admiral has a distinctive black, white, and red pattern. These butterflies are often seen basking in the sun or feeding on nectar from flowers such as buddleia and ivy. They are typically seen from May to October.

Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui)

The Painted Lady is another migratory butterfly, known for its long journeys from North Africa to the UK. It has a mottled orange, black, and white appearance. These butterflies can be seen in large numbers during migration periods, primarily from late spring to early autumn.

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

The Comma butterfly is easily identified by its unique wing shape, which gives it a ragged appearance. Its orange and brown wings with dark spots are striking. This butterfly gets its name from the small white 'C' shape on the underside of its wings. They are active from March to November.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Often considered a harbinger of spring, the Brimstone butterfly has a distinctive leaf-shaped wing and bright yellow colouring, particularly in males. Females are paler, with greenish-white wings. They are one of the longest-lived UK butterflies, often seen from February to November.

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

The Common Blue is the most widespread blue butterfly in the UK. Males have vivid blue wings, while females are brown with a hint of blue and orange spots. These butterflies are often found in grassy areas from May to October.

Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus)

The Holly Blue is typically seen in gardens, parks, and woodland edges. Its wings are a pale, silvery blue with distinctive black spots. The undersides are a lighter blue with black spots. This species has two broods, flying from April to June and again from July to September.

Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina)

The Meadow Brown is one of the most common butterflies in the UK. Its understated brown wings with orange patches and single black eyespots make it less flashy but still charming. They thrive in grassy habitats and are active from June to September.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)

Preferring shady, wooded areas, the Speckled Wood butterfly has brown wings with creamy-yellow spots and a series of small eyespots. They are territorial butterflies, often seen basking in dappled sunlight. They can be observed from April to October.

Plant These Flowers to Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Transform your garden into a haven for butterflies by planting the best summer nectar plants. Not only will these plants bring vibrant colours and delightful fragrances, but they will also support your local butterfly populations.

Buddleia (The Butterfly Bush)

Why Plant It? Incredibly easy to grow in almost any soil.

Benefits: Bursts into beautiful pink, red, purple, and white blooms from July to August, attracting a variety of butterflies.

Care Tips: Prune well in spring to manage its rapid growth, as it can reach 5 to 8 feet in a single season.

Verbena Bonariensis

Why Plant It? Adds height and interest to your garden with stems up to a meter tall.

Benefits: Lilac-purple flowers from August to October are a magnet for butterflies.

Care Tips: Easily grown from seed; plant in well-drained soil from March to April. Though only half-hardy, it can be a short-lived perennial.

Perennial Wallflower (Bowles Mauve)

Why Plant It? Excellent as bedding plants and thrives in full sun or light shade.

Benefits: Sweet-scented purple flowers bloom from April through summer, offering continuous nectar for butterflies.

Care Tips: Plant in well-drained soil for best results.

Marjoram (Oregano)

Why Plant It? A versatile perennial herb that also makes a great edging plant.

Benefits: White, pink, or purple flowers bloom from June to September, attracting butterflies while providing ground cover.

Care Tips: Requires little maintenance and is perfect for rock and alpine gardens.

By planting these butterfly-friendly flowers, you'll not only enhance your garden's beauty but also support vital pollinators. Enjoy the colourful display and the fluttering visitors they bring!

Install a butterfly barn

Installing a butterfly barn in your garden can significantly contribute to supporting butterflies and their life cycle. A butterfly barn, also known as a butterfly house or shelter, provides a safe and suitable habitat for butterflies to rest, roost, and even hibernate during colder months. Here's how installing a butterfly barn can help butterflies in your garden:

Shelter from Harsh Weather: Butterflies are delicate creatures and can be vulnerable to harsh weather conditions such as strong winds and heavy rain. A butterfly barn offers a protected space where butterflies can seek refuge during adverse weather, preventing them from getting battered or injured.

Safe Roosting Spot: Many butterfly species gather in groups to roost at night. A butterfly barn provides an ideal roosting spot where butterflies can cluster together, conserving energy and staying warm. This communal roosting behaviour helps butterflies conserve energy for activities like mating and foraging during the day.

Overwintering Habitat: Some butterfly species overwinter as adults, finding sheltered locations to survive the cold winter months. By installing a butterfly barn with appropriate insulation, you can provide a cosy overwintering habitat for butterflies, increasing their chances of survival until spring.

Nesting Site for Butterflies: Certain butterfly species, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, hibernate as adults and may seek out suitable locations to lay their eggs come spring. A butterfly barn can serve as a potential nesting site, providing a safe and sheltered environment for butterflies to lay their eggs and complete their life cycle.

Provide a butterfly-friendly water source

Butterflies, like all living organisms, need water, but they drink it differently than birds. While butterflies primarily obtain moisture from the nectar of flowers, they also require water for other purposes, such as regulating their hydration, digestion, reproduction and body temperature.

One way to provide them with water is to create a butterfly puddling station by filling a shallow dish or container with sand, soil, or gravel. Add water to moisten the substrate, creating a muddy patch where butterflies can gather to drink and extract minerals. You can enhance the attractiveness of the puddling station by adding a few flat stones or pebbles for butterflies to perch on while drinking.