Attracting butterflies to your garden

The last few years have seen a big decline in butterfly populations, but you can make a difference, no matter how small your outdoor space…

British butterflies in decline

Summer is the peak time for butterflies and it’s always a treat to watch them flitting gracefully around the garden, feeding on nectar and pollen. It seems impossible to imagine an English country garden devoid of their beauty. Sadly, British butterflies are in decline due to destruction of their native habitats and changing climate and weather patterns.

A poor year for butterflies

Because of their rapid response to very subtle climactic and environmental changes, butterflies make up part of a suite of Governmental biodiversity indicators. On the 21st of June this year, DEFRA (the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) published its official statistics of the UK and England butterfly indicators. They show that 2017 was a relatively poor year for butterflies (although an improvement on 2016) due to poor weather in Spring, Summer and the preceding Winter. The UK countryside is in a poor state for wildlife and urgent action is needed, so what can gardeners do to help?

Create a wildlife-friendly garden

The obvious answer is to create a wildlife-friendly garden. Research the most common butterflies for your area so you can grow their favourite nectar-rich foods. This is where adult butterflies get their energy from. According to the RHS, there are 59 butterfly species currently resident in the UK. The most common are: Red Admiral, Peacock, Brimstone, Painted Lady, Comma, Green-veined White, Small Tortoiseshell, Small Cabbage White and Large Cabbage White. Only Cabbage Whites are potential pests, feeding on cabbages, other brassicas and nasturtiums – the others are useful pollinators. See the links below for local branches of butterfly conservation organisations.

Best plants for Summer nectar for butterflies

The best plants for Summer nectar for butterflies are Buddleia, Verbena bonariensis, lavender, perennial wallflower (Bowles Mauve) and Marjoram (Oregano). Adult butterflies also enjoy bluebells, marigolds, buttercups, hyacinths, clover, garden mint, knapweed, thistles, blackberry bushes, heather and willowherbs, among others (Natural History Museum).

No plot too small!

Even if your garden is small, with the right plants it can attract up to 20 types of butterfly. Butterfly Conservation recommend creating a 1 square metre patch of either bedding or pots on a patio. Every little helps!

The Millbrook Butterfly Experience

Come and be amazed by our tropical indoor garden and experience beautiful butterflies free-flying all around this Summer! The Millbrook Butterfly Experience is at Gravesend and Staplehurst from Monday 2nd July to Friday 31st August (11am to 4pm). Tickets can be purchased in store only and cost £2 for adults and £1 for children.

More information on the Gravesend Millbrook Butterfly Experience
More information on the Staplehurst Millbrook Butterfly Experience

Useful links:

Latest trends in butterfly indicators revealed

Butterfly Conservation Kent & SE London branch

Butterfly Conservation: Gardening for butterflies

Sussex Butterflies

RHS advice on attracting butterflies to your garden

Natural History Museum advice on attracting butterflies to your garden