Butterfly Garden

All children love butterfly, in the article we will talk about how to make a Butterfly Garden, which plants will butterfly like and also food for caterpillars.


Butterflies are amongst our most attractive wild creatures and we are lucky to have over fifty different types in Britain. Attract them with nectar rich flowers like verbena, scabious and sedum. Go for simple flowers plants that easy for butterflies to get nectar. Avoid double-flowered varieties of plants which may have no nectar. Many cottage garden flowers are suitable. Many butterflies have become rarer due to the loss of wildflower meadows, hedgerows and woodlands in the countryside. Pesticide and herbicide sprays have also taken their toll. With a bit of thought and some careful planning, you can help reverse this decline by making a butterfly garden. Not all the diff erent types of butterfly will visit, as most have special requirements, but you should be able to attract the more common varieties. If you are lucky they may even decide to breed!

Creating a garden


Aim of the garden

• Attract butterflies by creating a new wildlife habitat
• See how different species are attracted to different plants
• Discover how different species are attracted to different plants

Resources needed

• Sheltered, sunny area in your school grounds
• Planters (if you do not have bare soil)
• Compost
• Plants (see below)
• Gardening tools (spade, trowel, gloves and watering can)
• Appropriate outdoor clothing

Creating a garden over the summer months

Careful planning could provide you with butterflies from late spring through to October. From the point of view of wildlife, native species are the most valuable. Initially you will need to plant flowers to attract butterflies and then retain them with plants that provide their food for their caterpillars. Purple, pink and mauve flowering plants are irresistible to butterflies in the late summer and autumn. Butterflies love buddleia although it is not native so you may wish to plant sedum or the Michaelmas daisy. Another good bushy plant is the many hybrids of hebe which have naturalised to our climate

Attracting butterflies to feed

Many butterflies are highly mobile. They will find their way into almost any garden or wildlife area, and will stay if there is something to keep them. What they need is sugar-rich nectar from flowers. To attract them, you need to plant a selection of suitable flowers to provide as much food for as many kinds of butterfly as possible. Butterflies are on the wing from March to October, so provide a good mixture of plants that will flower throughout the spring and summer. Just choose a selection from the list. Make sure you have enough of each type of flower to make a visible display and to give a strong enough scent to attract butterflies to your area. If you only have a small amount of space, concentrate on planting the most highly recommended butterfly plants. Also, remember butterflies love warmth and shelter, so make sure your display of flowers is situated in a suitable sun trap, out of the wind.

Butterfly Plantsspring-plant


Aubret a – Aubretia deltoides *
Honesty – Linaria annua
Primroses – Primula vulgaris *
Sweet rocket – Hesperis matronalis *
Sweet violet – Viola odorata
Wallflower – Cheiranthus cheirii
Yellow alyssum – Alyssum saxatile


Mignonette – Reseda odorata
Lavender – Lavandula spicata *
Buddleia – Buddleia davidii *
Hebe – Hebe x franciscana (Blue Gem)*
Valerian – Centranthus ruber *
Marjoram – Origanum off icinale *
Catmint – Nepeta mussinii *
Knapweed – Centaurea nigra *
Thyme – Thymus drucei *
Heliotrope – Heliotropium x hybridum
Annual chrysanthmum – Chrysanthemum carinatum
Thrift -Armeria mariti ma
Petunia – Petunia x hybrida
Cornflower- Centaurea cyanus
Teasel – Dispacus fullonum
Globe-thistle – Echinops sphaerocephalus *


Ice plant – Sedum spectabile *
Michaelmas daisy – Aster novi-belgii *
Hyssop – Hyssopus officinalis
Winter savory – Satureia montana
Helenium – Helenium autumnale
Sweet scabious – Scabiosa atropurpurea *
Goldenrod – Solidago virgaurea
Petunia – Petunia x hybrida

* Most highly recommended as these have very nectar-rich flowers



Planting up the Garden


Designing your butterfly garden

When you are planting up your butterfly garden make sure all the plants will have as much sunlight as possible. The best way to do this is to plant the tallest, shrubby plants at the back and the smallest at the front.

Plants and flowers in brief

Early flowers, such as aubreti, are especially useful for feeding newly woken butterflies in early spring. Honesty and sweet rocket will help to fill a flowering gap during April and May. Later flowering species such as red valerian, thyme and lavender will attract many butterflies during the midsummer months. Sedum, commonly called Ice plant, is very popular with butterflies in the late summer. In the autumn, Michaelmas daisy and goldenrod can give hibernating butterflies, such as the peacock, a last chance to stock up with nectar before hibernating. Buddleia, aptly named the ‘butterfly bush’, is superb for attracting butterflies. Its flowering can be prolonged by cutting the flower heads off after flowering.

Persuading butterflies to breed

Attracting butterflies to breed is more complicated than attracting them to feed. This is because the female butterfly is choosy about the types of plants on which she will lay her eggs – different caterpillars like to eat different types of plants. You can attract the most common butterflies to breed by planting their favourite food plants. Just Select food plants for the butterflies that you want from the list.

Nettle feeders

The easiest group to attract are the nettle feeders. Try to site the nettle patch in a sunny, sheltered position. Plant the nettles in an old tub buried in the ground to stop them from spreading and causing a nuisance. Small tortoiseshells prefer young nettle growth, so cut down part of your nettle patch in late June or early July (removing any caterpillars first) to allow the next generation of butterflies to use the regrowth.

Grass feeders

If you have a lawn you can leave some areas of grass unmown or establish a wildflower meadow

Changing your habits

Many of the pesticides which are designed to kill garden pests will also kill caterpillars and butterflies, so think twice before you use them. Dilute household detergent is effective against greenfly and blackfly, and is believed not to affect butterflies or caterpillars.

Food for Caterpillars

Here are some of the plants which caterpillars need to feed on. Planting these will help establish the garden by providing the food source to sustain caterpillars after the butterflies have bred, making this a permanent habitat for butterflies.

Butterfly Plant
Meadow Brown
Hedge Brown
Wall Brown
Marbled White
Large Skipper
Small Skipper
Grasses including meadow grass, false brome, cocksfoot and Yorkshire fog
Large and small white Wild and cultivated cabbages
Green-veined white Orange tip Lady’s smock, hedge garlic and hedge mustard
Brimstone Alder buckthorn and purging buckthorn
Common Blue Bird’s foot trefoil
Holly Blue Holly, Ivy
Small tortoiseshell
Red admiral
Stinging nettle
Painted lady Thistles

Extra Activities


• Learn about British insects and plants
• Generate data from butterfly and caterpillar numbers to use in science lessons
• Use the garden as a resource to create art about butterflies, caterpillars, plants and other wildlife
• Write stories about butterflies and plants
• Enjoy the garden by observing all the wildlife it attracts
• Create a wildlife pond in your school
• Encourage butterfly conservation at home
• Learn about composting