Adult butterflies feed on nectar that they will take from a wide variety of wild and garden flowers, particularly those growing in warm sheltered places. Butterflies can be encouraged to visit gardens by growing flowers they particularly love from March until the end of October.
There are 59 butterfly species resident in Britain, plus up to 30 others that come pop by occasionally.
The species most likely to be seen in gardens are Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Painted Lady, Comma, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Cabbage White and Large Cabbage White.
Only the last two are potential garden pests as they have caterpillars that feed on cabbages, other brassicas and nasturtiums.
Here is a list of nectar plants that butterflies are particularly partial to
- Purple Loosetrife
And here is a list of larval food plants to get your flutterbys off to the right start! :)
- Alder buckthorn and purging buckthorn: Brimstone
- Birdsfoot trefoil: Common Blue
- Cabbage, other brassicas, nasturtium: Small and Large Cabbage Whites
- Currants, elm, hop and willows: Comma
- Docks and sorrels: Small Copper
- Garlic/hedge mustard and lady's smock: Orange-tip and Green-veined White
- Holly and ivy: Holly Blue caterpillars eat holly flowers in late spring and ivy flowers in autumn
- Mixed grasses grown as a meadow:
- Stinging nettle: Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell. Needs to be grown in a sunny position to attract egg-laying females, preferably in large clumps. Prevent seeding by cutting down in mid-summer after the first brood of the small tortoiseshell has developed
- Thistles (welted, creeping and giant thistles (Onopordum spp.)): Painted Lady