Creating your own Butterfly garden

Creating your own Butterfly garden

If supermodels were insects, they’d be butterflies – deceptively fragile-looking and impossibly gorgeous, turning heads whenever they appear. But there’s more to butterflies than just good looks. They do sterling work as pollinators, and a thriving butterfly population is a key indicator of a healthy ecosystem rich in biodiversity. Sadly, due to loss of habitat, pesticide use and changing weather patterns, many butterfly species are in decline, so making your garden butterfly-friendly has never been more important.


The life cycle of a butterfly

As everyone who’s read The Very Hungry Caterpillar knows, butterflies start life as caterpillars that hatch from eggs. They spend their caterpillar lives devouring plants, but most do no harm, and in fact, many eat weeds such as nettles, sorrel, dock and thistles. (There are exceptions, of course, as anyone who’s had their prize brassica crop decimated by hungry cabbage white caterpillars will testify). 

Once a caterpillar has eaten its fill and grown to full size, which can take several weeks, it turns into a pupa, forming a hard casing called a chrysalis around itself. Inside the chrysalis, in a quietly astonishing transformation surely just waiting to be turned into a Pixar movie, the lowly caterpillar completely changes form, finally emerging as a beautiful adult butterfly. The glamour fades fast, sadly – most butterflies only live for a few weeks, although some that hibernate over winter can last for several months.


How to encourage butterflies into the garden

Adult butterflies are totally focused on mating and laying their eggs, so they need a nectar-rich diet to give them energy, plus plants on which to lay eggs. This means there’s an easy way to get more butterflies into your garden – simply grow the plants they love.

A butterfly-friendly garden should have nectar-rich plants flowering from spring through to autumn, and it’s also important to provide food sources for caterpillars – nettles are particularly good. Plant different types of flowering plants in groups to encourage a range of butterfly species to visit your garden. Climbing plants and evergreen shrubs will give butterflies shelter from the rain, as well as somewhere to overwinter. Water plants well in hot dry weather, as this enables them to produce more nectar, and avoid using pesticides unless absolutely necessary. Finally, remember that butterflies love the sun, so if your garden doesn’t have a handy stone wall, place a few large stones in sunny beds to give butterflies somewhere to bask.


Ten nectar plants that butterflies love

Spring and summer-flowering plants

  1. Heather
  2. Primrose
  3. Rosemary
  4. Honesty
  5. Forget-me-not

Summer and autumn-flowering plants

  1. Hebe
  2. Rose
  3. Honeysuckle
  4. Buddleja
  5. Sedum

With so many plants in flower, now’s the perfect time to turn your garden into a haven for butterflies and other pollinators, so come in and visit your local garden centre where you’ll find everything you need as well as plenty of help and advice.

You might also be interested in:

15 gardening tips for July

When the days are long, and the sun is shining, July is the month for really enjoying your garden. To help you keep it looking tip-top, we’ve put together our top 15 garden tips for July.

Houseplant of the month: Celosia

If you’re looking for spectacular flowers and gorgeous, vivid colours, a celosia is just what you need. These exotic-looking annuals add colour to pots and bedding schemes, and the flowers look stunning in arrangements. Here’s how to grow and care for a celosia

How to grow your own pizza?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just pop into the garden and pick a pizza ready-made off the plant? Sadly, that’s not possible, but it’s easy to grow some or even all of the ingredients to make your own pizza sauce. Spread it on a base, top with some cheese and hey presto, you have yourself a home-grown pizza.

Top 5 barbecue tips

When the sun is out, and your garden is looking glorious, it will be time to roll out the BBQ and start grilling during the summer months. The smell of barbecue's waft far and wide, making the neighbours join in as well! After many months of the BBQ being stored in the shed, it is time to give it a good clean and enjoy some family cooking time in the garden. Here are our top 5 tips for having the best BBQ fun.