DIY ProjectsGardening TipsGuides / AdvicesPlant Care Guides25/05/2024by mabramczTop Butterfly-Attracting Flowers for UK Gardens

Shop our selection of the best wildlife-friendly plants for attracting butterflies and giving them a safe home in your garden. With 58 species of butterfly calling the UK their home, there are plenty of different types of this beautiful insect you can hope to see. There is something quite magical and idyllic about having butterflies fluttering around the garden with their beautiful colours and fabulously erratic flight paths. From an ecological perspective, together with their caterpillars, they are a vital part of our ecosystem, contributing significantly to pollination.

Key Takeaways

  • Buddleja, also known as the Butterfly Bush, is a top choice for attracting butterflies due to its nectar-rich flowers.
  • Sedum plants are another excellent option, providing abundant nectar that butterflies love.
  • Hebe shrubs offer both nectar and shelter, making them a dual-purpose plant for butterfly gardens.
  • Verbena bonariensis is a tall, airy plant that butterflies find irresistible for its nectar-rich blooms.
  • Echinops, with its unique spiky flowers, not only attracts butterflies but also adds a striking visual element to your garden.


Buddleja flowers attracting butterflies in a UK garden

Buddleja, commonly known as the butterfly bush, is a compact upright shrub that is easily accommodated in borders without overcrowding its neighbours. Flamboyant plumes of brightly coloured flowers create a vibrant summer display that lasts right through to autumn. The grey-green foliage is slender and elegant, turning to buttery yellow in autumn. These handsome butterfly bushes are always popular with pollinating insects and make a useful addition to wildlife gardens and cottage garden borders.


Buddleja is a fantastic low maintenance shrub originally from China. It is suitable for growing in large patio containers, borders, or as part of a Garden Clearance. The plant flowers from mid-late summer in vibrant shades of pink, red, purple, and white. It’s a fast-growing plant, ideal for gardens with sun and well-drained soil.


  • Buddleja davidii ‘Pink’: Known for its vibrant pink flowers.
  • Buddleja davidii ‘Blue’: Features striking blue flowers.
  • Buddleja davidii ‘Black Knight’: A lovely butterfly shrub for a full sun location with deep purple flowers.
  • Buddleja ‘Blue Chip’: A dwarf variety ideal for small gardens and patios.


To maintain its shape and encourage blooming, it is advisable to cut Buddleja back hard (almost to the ground) in May. This will result in blooms a few weeks later, providing nectar for pollinators through the summer when other plants have finished. Spring pruning will also prevent the plant from getting too large and unmanageable.

Buddleja is not only a visual delight but also a crucial plant for supporting pollinators in your garden.


Sedum flowers attracting butterflies in a UK garden

Sedum is a magnet for butterflies in the garden and provides reliable, hardy colour. Sedums tend to form a clump, with drought-tolerant, fleshy foliage, and pink or yellow autumn blooms. These plants are most at home in hot, sunny borders, and require very little maintenance, so are ideal for beginners. Their autumn-flowering period is useful for extending the season of interest in the garden.


Sedums are known for their drought-tolerant nature and fleshy foliage. They typically bloom in pink or yellow during the autumn, providing a splash of colour when many other plants have finished flowering.


  • Sedum telephium ‘Purple Emperor’
  • Hylotelephium spectabile (old-fashioned pink form)


Sedums require minimal care, making them perfect for those new to gardening. They thrive in hot, sunny borders and are also suitable for rock and alpine gardens.

Sedum is particularly effective in extending the season of interest in the garden, blooming in late summer and autumn, attracting bumblebees, honeybees, hoverflies, and butterflies in abundance.


  • Artificial Grass: Sedums can be used alongside artificial grass to create a low-maintenance garden.
  • Patio & drive way laying: Ideal for borders around patios and driveways.
  • Turfing: Complements turfing projects by adding colour and texture.
  • Tree cutting: Plant sedums around areas where tree cutting has occurred to quickly rejuvenate the space.


Hebe flowers in a UK garden with butterflies

Hebes offer impact and structure in the garden for minimum effort. Often slow growing and compact in nature, they’re also very easy to grow and incredibly resilient! The summer flower spikes range in colour from deep blue or purple through to pure white and are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Hebes perform well in large pots or out in the garden, proving hardy to whatever the British winter throws at them.

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis flowers in a UK garden with butterflies

Verbena bonariensis produces tightly clustered florets of purple flower heads that float atop tall, upright, branching stems. The long-lasting blooms associate beautifully with grasses to create a tranquil planting scheme, or can be used to add architectural height to the back of herbaceous borders. This elegant perennial attracts clouds of bees and butterflies and is at its most effective when planted in large swathes.


Echinops flowers in a UK garden with butterflies


Echinops, commonly known as Globe Thistle, is a well-loved perennial with a strong architectural impact. The spiky globes of electric blue flowers perch upon silvery green stems, making them superb cut flowers, whether fresh or dried. The late summer blooms rise above clumps of spiny, deeply cut foliage, forming an attractive contrast with other perennials.

Growing Conditions

Echinops thrives in sunny cottage garden borders and hot gravel gardens. They prefer well-drained soil and can tolerate drought once established. Regular hedge trimming and weeding & pruning are essential to maintain their shape and health.


Pollinating insects, including butterflies, love Echinops. Planting a few in your wildlife areas can attract local butterflies, enhancing the biodiversity of your garden.

With its unique spiky spheres, Globe Thistle (Echinops spp.) looks great in a garden setting. They can also be cut for dried flower arrangements.


Echinacea flowers in a UK garden with butterflies

Echinacea is known for its stunning, large blooms and contrasting cones that stand proudly above strong stems. Once established, the bushy plants produce clusters of stems that attract bees and butterflies to your garden and add height to your borders. Each flower can reach 7-10cm in diameter and makes a dramatic addition to vases and dried arrangements.

Example: Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea purpurea, also known as Rudbeckia purpurea or Cone Flower, is a lovely perennial for the summer border. They flower from late summer onwards.

Importance in Wildlife Gardening

Echinacea is particularly valuable in gardening for wildlife: creating a habitat for birds, bees, and butterflies. Its nectar-rich flowers are a magnet for pollinators, making it an essential plant for those looking to attract a diverse range of wildlife to their gardens.


Aster flowers in a UK garden with butterflies

Aster is possibly one of the easiest plants to grow and is especially popular in cottage garden schemes. The perfect choice for late summer and autumn colour, these compact, hardy perennials burst forth in August with a smothering of beautiful violet/blue daisy-like flowers that continue to glow until the end of autumn. Once established in your beds or borders, these blooms provide a late source of nectar, year after year.


Asters are known for their vibrant colours and daisy-like appearance. They are hardy perennials that can thrive in various soil types, making them a versatile addition to any garden.

Growing Conditions

Asters prefer well-drained soil and a sunny location. They are relatively low-maintenance but benefit from regular watering and occasional fertilization.

Benefits for Butterflies

Asters provide a crucial nectar source for butterflies during the late summer and autumn months when other flowers may have faded. This makes them an essential plant for creating a butterfly-friendly garden.


lavender flowers with butterflies in a UK garden

Lavender is well known for producing masses of scented, purple flower spikes, but it also comes in pale pink and white. The fragrant stems are ideal for cutting or drying, and the nectar-rich flowers are particularly attractive to butterflies and bees. Lavender makes an excellent low hedge and when planted alongside a path, the aromatic perfume is released every time you brush against the evergreen foliage.


There are several different varieties of lavender, some of which are bigger and hardier than others. The robust Lavandula x intermedia hybrids grow larger and produce more nectar. Example: Lavender ‘Hidcote’.

Planting and Care

Lavender thrives in a sunny, sheltered position in well-drained soil. It should be planted in April or May and pruned back to encourage bushy growth. Relatively drought tolerant, lavender is ideal for low-maintenance gardening.

Uses in Garden Design

Lavender can be used in a plethora of designs. Low-growing hedges of lavender look stunning alongside paths or filling border edges. Rows of terracotta pots filled with lavender can create a Mediterranean feel.

Waste Clearance: Lavender’s robust nature and low-maintenance requirements make it an excellent choice for gardeners looking to minimize waste clearance in their garden maintenance routine.


cornflowers in a UK garden with butterflies

Cornflowers produce densely ruffled flower heads ranging from white through to a beautiful deep blue. Once a common sight in cornfields, annual cornflowers still create a big impact in summer borders and meadows. Available in tall or dwarf varieties, these intensely coloured blooms make excellent cut flowers and provide a rich source of nectar for pollinators.

Raised beds

Cornflowers thrive in raised beds, where the well-drained soil and elevated position help them flourish. Raised beds also make it easier to manage soil quality and moisture levels, ensuring optimal growth conditions.

Ponds & fountains

While cornflowers do not require a water feature to thrive, planting them near ponds and fountains can create a visually appealing garden landscape. The reflective water surface can enhance the vibrant blue hues of the cornflowers, making them stand out even more.

Lawn Care & Mowing

When integrating cornflowers into your lawn, it is essential to consider your mowing schedule. Avoid mowing areas where cornflowers are planted until they have finished blooming to ensure they have ample time to attract butterflies and other pollinators.


Cornflowers are best planted in a bright, sunny spot that is sheltered from the wind. They can be sown directly into the ground or started indoors and transplanted later. Regular deadheading will encourage continuous blooming throughout the summer months.


Helenium flowers in a UK garden with butterflies

Don’t get caught out with a drab garden in late-summer – Helenium is an excellent way to extend the season well into October. This hardy perennial is loved by bees and butterflies, and many varieties hold an RHS Award of Garden Merit as proof of their reliability. Tall and bright, this pollinator-friendly bloom is a great way to fill gaps in your borders as other plants fade. Grow with grasses or as part of a cottage garden scheme.

Example: Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’


Creating a butterfly-friendly garden in the UK is not only a delightful way to enhance the beauty of your outdoor space but also a crucial step in supporting local biodiversity. By carefully selecting nectar-rich and native plants, preparing the soil, and employing proper watering and pest control techniques, you can cultivate an environment that attracts and sustains a variety of butterfly species. Remember, the key to a thriving butterfly garden lies in understanding the unique needs of these insects throughout the seasons and providing them with the necessary resources to flourish. As you embark on this rewarding journey, you contribute to the conservation of these enchanting creatures and the overall health of the ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best flowers to attract butterflies in the UK?

Some of the best flowers to attract butterflies in the UK include Buddleja, Sedum, Hebe, Verbena bonariensis, Echinops, Echinacea, Aster, Lavender, Cornflowers, and Helenium.

Why is Buddleja popular among butterflies?

Buddleja, also known as the Butterfly Bush, is popular among butterflies because it produces large clusters of nectar-rich flowers that are highly attractive to them.

Are native plants important for attracting butterflies?

Yes, native plants such as Foxgloves, Red Campion, and Cowslips are important for attracting butterflies as they are adapted to local conditions and support local butterfly populations.

How can I create a butterfly-friendly garden?

To create a butterfly-friendly garden, plant a variety of nectar-rich flowers, provide host plants for caterpillars, and ensure there are sheltered, sunny spots for butterflies to rest.

What role do butterflies play in the ecosystem?

Butterflies play a vital role in the ecosystem as pollinators. They help in the pollination of various plants, contributing to biodiversity and the health of the environment.

Can I attract butterflies with potted plants?

Yes, you can attract butterflies with potted plants. Plant nectar-rich flowers in window boxes or large pots and place them in sunny, sheltered spots.

What time of year should I plant butterfly-attracting flowers?

You should plant butterfly-attracting flowers that bloom from early spring to late autumn to provide a continuous source of nectar for butterflies throughout the year.

What are some common butterfly species in the UK?

Some common butterfly species in the UK include the Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Red Admiral, and Painted Lady.

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