Small tortoiseshell by Pat Adams 2/11
Red Admiral by Paul Taylor 3/11
Peacock butterfly by Pat Adams 4/11
Orange tip by Elizabeth Dack 5/11
Comma by Elizabeth Dack 6/11
Comma by Pat Adams 7/11
Red Admiral by Pat Adams 9/11
Orange tip by Barry Madden 10/11
Small Tortoiseshells by Duncan McNab 11/11

How to attract butterflies to your garden

Provide food for caterpillars and choose nectar-rich plants for butterflies and you’ll have a colourful, fluttering display in your garden for many months.

While just about any flower with nectar can be a treat for butterflies (cottage garden plants in particular), it is a slightly different story for caterpillar food plants (known as host plants). In fact, most butterfly species have just a short list of host plants. This is possibly because eating leaves and stems is a trickier business, with plants evolving chemical and physical defences against this kind of munching. It may also be that caterpillars need particular chemicals from that plant to bring out their warning colouration as butterflies.
Growing host plants for caterpillars in the garden is not necessarily guaranteed to attract the relevant butterflies, but butterflies do breed in gardens, so it is worth experimenting with different host plants to see which species might find your garden suitable.
It is also worth remembering that some butterflies and caterpillars overwinter, so shelter in the garden, such as thick growths of ivy, is also important.

Plants for butterflies:


Host Plant

Comma Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), Hop (Humulus lupulus), currants (Ribes spp.)
Common Blue Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
Dingy Skipper Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (Lotus corniculatus),
Horseshoe Vetch (Hippocrepis cornosa)
Green-veined White Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Cuckooflower (Cardamine protensis), Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)
Holly Blue Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Ivy (Hedera helix)
Large Skipper Cock's foot (Dactylus glomerate), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum)
Large White Cultivated varieties of Brassica Oleracea such as Cabbage and Brussel sprouts, Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea)
Meadow Brown Grasses, fescues (festucca spp.), meadow-grasses (Poa spp.), bents (Agrostis spp.)
Orange Tip Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolate), Honesty (Lunaria annua)
Painted Lady Thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.), Stinging nettle (Urbica dioica)
Peacock Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Red Admiral Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), Hop (Humulus lupulus)
Ringlet Cock's foot (Dactylus glomerate), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Tufted hair-grass (Deschampsia cespitosa), Common Couch (Elytrigia repens)
Small Copper Common Sorrel (Rumex acetosa), Sheep's Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Small Skipper Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus)
Small Tortoiseshell Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), Small Nettle (Urtica Urens)
Small White Cultivated varieties of Brassica Oleracea such as Cabbage. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus), Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea), Hedge Mustard (Sisymbrium officinale), Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolate)
Wall Brown Cock's foot (Dactylus glomerate), False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum), Yorkshire-fog (Holcus lanatus), Wavy hair-grass (Deschampsia flexuosa)


Check out these leaflets for more information on attracting butterflies to your garden: