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Butterfly Conservation Warwickshire - Branch Logo featuring the White-letter Hairstreak butterfly.Butterfly Conservation.

Gardening for Butterflies

Gardens are an increasingly important refuge for many of our native butterflies and moths. Adult butterflies visit flowers to obtain nectar, a sweet, sugary substance which they suck from the flower using their proboscis. They feed on a wide range of flowers. Many species will also feed on other sweet substances such as rotting fruits.

The plants listed below will help to attract butterflies to your garden. For best results, flowers should be grown in sunny, sheltered places.

Many of the plants listed are unsuitable for the larvae of butterflies. To be sure of seeing butterflies regularly in your garden, it is worth leaving a small area of your garden free to grow the larval food plants. The larvae (caterpillars) eat leaves, usually of wild plants... some of which most people would class as 'weeds'.

Common Nettle...
A really important larval plant is the Common Stinging Nettle. The Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell all need Stinging Nettles to breed. Nettles need to be growing in a sunny location to encourage egg laying.

Thistles and Cabbages...
You could also encourage Thistles for the Painted Lady, grow Cabbages and Nasturtiums for Cabbage White and Small White butterflies. Garlic Mustard and Lady's Smock will encourage Orange-tip and Green-veined White and Alder Buckthorn for the Brimstone butterfly. The larvae of Holly Blues, not surprisingly feed on Holly in the spring but need Ivy for their caterpillars in late summer.

Red Admirals feeding on Buddleia.




Red Admirals feeding on Buddleia






Preferred food plants by species

The following list provides details of known adult butterfly food plants which each species has been reported to nectar from.

Brimstone / African Marigold, Asclepsis, Aubretia, Beans, Dandelion, Dianthus, Lavender, Nepeta, Phlox drummondii, Phlox paniculata, Primrose, Primula denticulata, Teasel, Thistle, Valerian.

Comma / Beetroot, Bramble, Buddleia, Helenium, Ivy, Plum, Privet, Pear, Scabious, Sedum, Thistle, Valerian.

Common Blue / Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bramble, Buddleia, Chrysanthemums, Clover, Cornflower, Echinops, Erigeron, Hyssop, Knapweed, Lavender, Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Nepeta, Phlox drumnondii, Rosebay willow herb, Sedum, Thistle, Verbena bonariensis.

Gatekeeper / Aster sinensis, Bramble, Buddleia, Candytuft, Chrysanthemums, Corn Marigold, Cornus variegata, Hebe, Helichrysum, Heliotrope, Marguerite, Marjoram, Mayweed, Mignonette, Mint, Nepeta, Thistle, Thyme, Valerian, Yarrow.

Green-veined White / Aubretia, Aquilegia alpina, Buddleia, Forget-me-not, Heliotrope, Honesty, Lavender, Michaelmas Daisy, Nepeta, Strawberry.

Holly Blue / Forget-me-not, Holly, Ivy, Prunus.

Large Skipper / Feverfew, Valerian.

Large White / African marigold, Aubretia, Buddleia, Calliopsis, Ceratostigma willmottiae, Dahlia, Daisy, Dianthus, Echium, Hebe, Heliotrope, Inula, Ivy, Lantana, Lavender, Lilac, Limonium, Lobelia, Marigold, Mignonette, Nepeta, Privet, Sweet Rocket, Teasel, Valerian, Verbena bonariensis.

Marbled White / Buddleia, Campanula lactiflora, Candytuft, Delphinium, Erigeron, Nepeta, Thistle.

Meadow Brown / African Marigold, Bramble, Buddleia, Campanula lactiflora, Chrysanthemum maximum "Esther Reed", Heliotrope, Inula, Lavender, Marjoram, Nepeta, Phlox spp., Privet, Thistle, Thyme, Valerian.

Orange-tip / Aubretia, Cheiranthus, Forget-me-not, Garlic Mustard, Honesty, Lady's Smock, Sweet Rocket.

Painted Lady / Buddleia, Sedum.

Peacock / African Marigold, Ageratum, Alyssum, Bramble, Buddleia, B. globosa, Ceratostigma willmottiae, Coltsfoot, Cornflower, Dahlia, Daisy, Dandelion, Dianthus, Echinops, Inula, Lantana, Liatris, Ligularia dentata, Limonium, Marigold, Marjoram, Privet, Scabious, Sedum, Teasel, Thistle, Valerian, Virginia creeper, Water mint.

Red Admiral / Buddleia, Dahlia, Fuschia, Hebe, Hydrangea, Ivy, Michaelmas Daisy, Plum, Apple, Pear, Sedum, Yarrow.

Ringlet / Bramble, Dianthus, Nepeta, Salvia.

Small Copper / Daisy, Helichrysum, Inula, Knapweed, Lavender, Michaelmas Daisy, Phlox paniculata, Privet, Rosebay Willowherb, Sedum, Thistle.

Small Heath / Thyme

Small Skipper / Buddleia, Cheiranthus, Cornflower, Knapweed, Lavender, Lobelia, Marguerite, Salvia, Scabious, Toadflax, Tufted Vetch, Valerian.

Small Tortoiseshell / African Marigold, Alyssum, Asclepsis, Aster amellus, A. sinensis, Bramble, Buddleia, B. globosa, Candytuft, Ceratostigma willmottiae, Cheiranthus, Cineraria maritima, Coltsfoot, Cornflower, Corn Marigold, Dahlia, Dandelion, Dianthus, Echinacea purpurea, Echium, Escallonia, Chrysanthemum maximum "Ester Reed", French Marigold, Gazania, Hebe, Inula, Lantana, Ligularia dentata, Limonium, Marigold, Michaelmas Daisy, Nepeta, Phlox drummondii, Privet, Sallow, Sedum, Thyme, Thistle, Serphyllum coccineus, Valerian, Virginia creeper, Wallflower (perennial), Water Mint.

Small White / Alyssum, Aubretia, Bramble, Buddleia, Calliopsis, Campanula lactiflora, Ceratostigma willmottiae, Chrysanthemum, Echium, Godetia, Hebe, Heliotrope, Ivy, Lantana, Lavender, Limonium, Lobelia, Marigold, Mignonette, Nepeta, Poppy, Radish, Sweet Rocket, Thistle, Valerian, Verbena bonariensis, Virginian stock.

Speckled Wood / Bramble, Marigold.

Wall Brown / Forget-me-not, French Marigold, Inula, Heliotrope, Lavender, Marigold, Nepeta, Privet, Rosebay Willow herb, Sedum, Valerian.

Warwickshire Garden Butterflies

The list of butterflies recorded in gardens in Warwickshire is shown below. Alongside each species, the most common larval food plant is given.

Most Widespread Species / Larval Foodplants
01. Peacock / Nettles
02. Red Admiral / Nettles
03. Large White / Cabbages
04. Small White / Cabbages
05. Small Tortoiseshell / Nettles

Less Widespread Species / Larval Foodplants
06. Brimstone / Buckthorn
07. Holly Blue / Holly, Ivy
08. Speckled Wood / Coarse Grasses
09. Gatekeeper / Coarse Grasses
10. Comma / Nettles, Hops
11. Green-veined White / Garlic Mustard
12. Painted Lady / Nettles, Thistles
13.Orange-tip / Lady's Smock, Garlic Mustard
14. Meadow Brown / Coarse Grasses
15. Common Blue / Birds-foot Trefoil

Least Widespread Species / Larval Foodplants
16. Small Copper / Sorrel
17. Ringlet / Coarse Grasses
18. Large Skipper / Coarse Grasses
19. Small Skipper / Coarse Grasses

Popular Garden Nectar Plants for Butterflies

African Marigold (Tagetes erecta)
Alyssum (Alyssum sp.)
Aster (Aster sp.)
Aubretia (Aubretia deltoides)
Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
Buddleia (Buddleia sp.)
Candytuft (Iberis amara)
Catmint (Nepeta sp.)
Clover (Trifolium repens)
Common Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis tinctoria)
Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
Cranesbill (Geranium sp.)
Dahlia (Dahlia sp.)
Daisy (Bellis perennis)
Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
Forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.)
French Marigold (Tagetes patula)
Globe Thistle (Echinops sp.)
Golden Rod (Solidago sp.)
Heather (Erica sp.)
Hebe (Hebe sp.)
Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum)
Ice Plant (Sedum spectabile)
Knapweed (Centaurea sp.)
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lobelia (Lobelia sp.)
Lychnis (Lychnis coronaria)
Marjoram (Origanum vulgaris)
Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novi-belgii)
Mint (Mentha sp.)
Pansy (Viola sp.)
Phlox (Phlox sp.)
Privet (Ligustrum sp.)
Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)
Ragwort (Senecio sp.)
Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber)
Rock Rose (Helianthemum sp.)
Shrubby Cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa)
Sneezewort (Achillea sp.)
Sweet William (Dianthus barbatus)
Thyme (Thymus sp.)
Verbena (Verbena sp.)

Web Links

BBC Gardening -
BBC Garden Wildlife -

Local Wild Flower Supplies
All the wild flowers from 'The Wildflower Patch' are native to the Coventry and Warwickshire area from ethically and sustainable source seeds. All plants are grown in non peat compost from Coventry's green waste, watered with rainwater and with only minimal natural pest control.

Contact Tracey Drew
The Wildflower Patch
t: 07712 224192