How to attract butterflies into your garden

PUBLISHED: 17:26 12 January 2015 | UPDATED: 10:36 13 January 2015

Butterflies in the Glasshouse

Butterflies in the Glasshouse


If you’ve been inspired by RHS Garden Wisley’s Butterflies in the Glasshouse display this winter, you might fancy turning your garden into the hottest property in Surrey for butterfly vacationers. Here are some tips from the RHS on how to create a butterfly haven at home

Originally published in March 2014


The key thing to consider when attempting to entice butterflies into your garden, is the right flowers.

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.

Butterfly season tends to last from March until the frosty weather arrives around October and November.

As well as featuring the right plants (list of RHS recommendations follows) in your garden, leaving fallen fruit under fruit trees helps encourage butterflies such as red admiral and painted lady in the late summer.

Also, where possible, attempt to avoid the use of pesticides, especially on or near plants that are in flower.


All butterfly shots included with this piece were taken at Butterflies in the Glasshouse. They are only intended to illustrate the allure of the butterfly, rather than specify what you are likely to find in your garden.



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RHS recommended plants for attracting butterflies into your garden:


Annual and biennials:

African marigold (Tagetes erecta); ageratum (Ageratum houstonianum); alyssum (Lobularia maritima); candytuft (Iberis amara); China aster (Callistephus chinensis); cornflower (Centaurea cyanus); French marigold (Tagetes patula); heliotrope/cherry pie (Heliotropium cultivars); honesty (Lunaria annua); marigold (Calendula officinalis); mignonette (Reseda odorata); stocks (Matthiola incana and hybrids); sweet William (Dianthus barbatus); verbena (Verbena rigida); wallflower (Erysimum cheiri); zinnia (Zinnia elegans).


Herbaceous perennials:

Alyssum (Aurinia saxatilis); Agastache foeniculum; arabis (Arabis alpina subsp. caucasica); Asperula hexaphylla; Astrantia major; aubrieta (Aubrieta deltoidea); blanket flower (Gaillardia cultivars); bugbane (Actaea simplex); catmint (Nepeta × faassenii); Centaurea spp. e.g. C. dealbata, C. montana, C. macrocephala; dahlias - single flowered types; elephant’s ears (Bergenia spp.); Eryngium spp.; garden mint (Mentha spicata); globe artichoke (Cynara cardunculus); globe thistles (Echinops spp.); golden rod (Solidago spp.); hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis); ice plant (Sedum spectabile - dark red cultivars are less attractive); Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium caeruleum); Liatris spicata; Michaelmas daisies (Aster novae-angliae, A. amellus); perennial candytuft (Iberis sempervirens); phlox (Phlox paniculata); red valerian (Centranthus ruber); scabious (Scabiosa spp.); soapwort (Saponaria spp., especially S. ocymoides); sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis); thrift (Armeria spp.); Verbena bonariensis.



Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus); butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii, also B. globosa, B. alternifolia); caryopteris (Caryopteris × clandonensis); cherry laurel* (Prunus laurocerasus); Escallonia hybrids; firethorn (Pyracantha cultivars); hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna); heather (Calluna vulgaris); heaths (Erica spp., Daboecia cantabrica); Hebe spp.; ivy (Hedera helix); lavender (Lavandula spp.); Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium); privet (Ligustrum spp.); sallows (Salix spp., especially male forms of Salix caprea); Spiraea japonica; thyme (Thymus spp.).


British wild plants and flowers:

Angelica (Angelica sylvestris); bugle (Ajuga reptans); buttercups (Ranunculus spp.); clovers (Trifolium spp.); dandelion (Taraxacum officinale); fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica); garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata); hawkweeds (Hieracium spp.); hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum); hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium); knapweeds (Centaurea spp.); lady’s smock (Cardamine pratensis); marjoram (Origanum vulgare); purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria); sallows (Salix spp., especially male forms of Salix caprea); scabious (Knautia arvensis and Succisa pratensis); stonecrop (Sedum acre); teasel (Dipsacus fullonum); thistles (Cirsium spp. and Carduus spp.); valerian (Valeriana officinalis); water mint (Mentha aquatica).


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