Top 10 Plants to Attract Bees and Butterflies in the UK

Perennial Plants for Wild Gardens

Creating a garden that’s a haven for bees and butterflies is not only a joy for the senses but also vital for the planet’s biodiversity and health.

Bees and butterflies are crucial for pollination, helping plants, flowers, and crops grow and spread. However, the UK is experiencing a worrying decline in these pollinators’ populations. The good news is, as gardening enthusiasts, we can positively impact this right in our own backyards.

In this article we outline the top 10 plants for bees and butterflies in the UK.

Top Tip: Plant a variety of flowers that bloom from spring to autumn. And remember, bees and butterflies thrive best in pesticide-free gardens!

Top 10 Plants for Bees and Butterflies

1. Buddleja

buddleja - Plants for Bees and Butterflies

The ‘Butterfly Bush’, or Buddleja, is a favorite among butterflies thanks to its long, drooping flowers. These shrubs, which bloom from July to October, are not only a magnet for butterflies but also a crucial food source for bees.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Buddleja thrives in full sun.
  • Soil: Plant in well-draining soil.
  • Watering: Water regularly, but avoid overwatering.
  • Pruning: Prune in late winter or early spring to encourage new growth and more blooms.

With its vibrant flowers and wildlife-friendly nature, Buddleja is a wonderful addition to any garden looking to support pollinators and add a splash of colour.

2. Verbena Bonariensis

Plants for Bees and Butterflies

Verbena Bonariensis is a striking plant known for its tall, slender stature and clusters of small, purple flowers. Blooming from late summer into autumn, it offers a nectar-rich feast for bees and butterflies.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Prefers full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Grows best in well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Water moderately; Verbena Bonariensis is drought-tolerant once established.
  • Pruning: Deadhead to encourage more blooms and cut back in early spring.

Caution: Be aware that Verbena Bonariensis can easily self-seed. While this can be beneficial for continuous growth, it may also lead to spreading more than desired. Regular monitoring and management can help control its spread in your garden.

This plant is perfect for adding height and colour to your garden while supporting local pollinators.

3. Echinacea Purpurea 

echinacea - Plants for Bees and Butterflies

Echinacea Purpurea is a delightfully easy-to-grow perennial known for its large, daisy-like flowers. Blooming from July to September, it’s a favourite among various pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Thrives in full sun.
  • Soil: Prefers well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Water regularly, but allow the soil to dry out between waterings.
  • Maintenance: Deadhead to encourage more blooms and cut back in late autumn or allow the attractive seed heads to remain over winter.

Echinacea Purpurea not only adds vibrant colour to your garden but also plays a vital role in supporting the local ecosystem by attracting pollinators.

4. Lavender (lavendula)

lavender - Plants for Bees and Butterflies

Lavender, or Lavendula, is renowned for its enchanting aromatic scent. It flowers from June to August, drawing in bees and butterflies with its nectar-rich blossoms. Thriving in sunny spots, Lavender is both a beautiful and low-maintenance choice for your garden.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Prefers full sun.
  • Soil: Best in well-drained, slightly alkaline soil.
  • Watering: Water sparingly; Lavender is drought-resistant.
  • Pruning: See our guide on the best time to prune lavender. 

With its delightful fragrance and ability to attract pollinators, Lavender is a fantastic addition to any garden, offering both aesthetic and ecological benefits.

5. Salvias

Salvia - Plants for Bees and Butterflies

Salvias, belonging to the sage family, are known for their aromatic flowers that bloom in shades of blue, pink, and purple from June to September. These plants are particularly favoured by many pollinators, including bees and butterflies.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: They thrive in full sun.
  • Soil: Prefer well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Regular watering is needed, but be cautious of overwatering.
  • Maintenance: Deadheading encourages more blooms, and cutting back in late autumn helps maintain their shape.

Salvias not only add vibrant colours and fragrance to your garden but also play a crucial role in supporting local pollinators.

6. Cornflowers

cornflower - Plants for Bees and Butterflies

Cornflowers, with their vivid blue blossoms, are a fantastic source of nectar for bees and butterflies. Perfect for wild gardens, they bloom from June to September. However, they can self-seed prolifically if not carefully managed.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Best in full sun.
  • Soil: Prefer well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Moderate watering is sufficient.
  • Management: Keep an eye on self-seeding to control their spread.

Cornflowers add a stunning splash of blue to your garden and are especially beneficial for attracting and supporting pollinators.

7. Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia

Rudbeckia, known for its striking black cone and bright yellow petals, is a member of the daisy family and a magnet for pollinators from July to October. When paired with Echinacea, it creates an eye-catching display in any garden.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Prefers full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Thrives in well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Regular watering, especially during dry periods.
  • Companion Planting: Combining with Echinacea enhances visual appeal and attracts more pollinators.

Rudbeckia not only adds vibrant colour to your garden but also plays a vital role in supporting local wildlife, particularly bees and butterflies.

8. Asters

aster - bees and butterflies

Asters are colorful perennials that bloom late into the season, offering essential pollen and nectar for bees and butterflies. They are versatile and can seamlessly integrate into various garden styles, from cottage to prairie.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: They flourish in full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Prefer well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Regular watering is important, especially during dry spells.
  • Garden Styles: Asters are adaptable to different garden designs, enhancing both cottage and prairie-style landscapes.

With their late-season blooms, Asters not only provide a burst of colour but also play a crucial role in supporting pollinators when other flowers have faded.

9. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

yarrow - bees and butterflies

Yarrow, or Achillea millefolium, is a resilient perennial that spreads readily. It blooms from June to November, and its flowers are highly attractive to bees and butterflies. This makes Yarrow an ideal choice for wilder gardens or naturalistic planting schemes.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: Prefers full sun.
  • Soil: Thrives in well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Drought-tolerant once established, requiring minimal watering.
  • Garden Styles: Suits wild gardens and naturalistic designs well.

Yarrow’s long blooming period and appeal to pollinators make it a valuable addition to gardens focused on supporting local wildlife and creating natural beauty.

10. Snapdragons (Antirrhinum)

snapdragons (Antirrhinum)

Snapdragons are known for their extended flowering period, lasting from June to October. They are easy to grow and come in a diverse array of colors. These flowers are particularly attractive to various wildlife, including bees and butterflies.

Care Tips:

  • Sunlight: They flourish in full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil: Prefer well-drained soil.
  • Watering: Regular watering is needed, but be cautious of overwatering.
  • Wildlife Attraction: Their vibrant colors and nectar-rich blooms make them a favorite among bees and butterflies.

Snapdragons add both visual appeal and ecological value to your garden, making them a fantastic choice for gardeners looking to support local pollinators.

Another way to attract butterflies to your garden is to plant a wildflower patch or even wildflower container – see our related posts to find out more.

If you would like more information on the conservation of butterflies, please visit butterfly-conservation.org here.

Choosing Plants for a Year-round Pollinator-Friendly Garden

snowdrops and crocuses

Creating a year-round haven for bees and butterflies is all about planting a variety of flowers that bloom in different seasons. Here’s a breakdown of the best plants for each season:

Spring:

  • Primroses and Crocuses kick off spring with vibrant colours and are a favourite for bees.
  • Bluebells and Forget-me-nots bloom in late spring, adding a beautiful blue touch to your garden.

Summer:

  • Summer brings your garden to life. Lavender, Echinacea, and Salvia not only offer nectar but also a burst of colour.
  • Cornflowers and Snapdragons are also top picks for summer blooms, irresistible to bees and butterflies.

Autumn:

  • As summer wanes, Aster keeps your garden active, blooming into autumn and providing late-season nectar.
  • Ivy is crucial for late-season nectar and pollen, flowering when other plants have finished.

Winter:

  • Winter might seem quiet, but Winter-flowering Heather and Cyclamen can provide nectar and pollen during milder days.

By including plants that flower at various times, your garden will continuously offer food to these essential pollinators throughout the year.

FAQs – Plants For Bees And Butterflies

bee, lupine, flower-2338555.jpg

Q. What summer bedding plants are good for bees?

Several summer bedding plants are particularly attractive to bees, including Lavender, Marjoram, Borage, Cornflowers, and Salvias. These plants offer plentiful nectar and are easy to incorporate into most garden designs.

Q. How do I make my garden bee and butterfly friendly?

Making your garden bee and butterfly friendly involves planting a variety of nectar-rich flowers that bloom from early spring to late autumn. Avoid using pesticides as these can harm these beneficial pollinators. Also, providing shallow water sources and leaving some areas of your garden a bit wild can create ideal habitats for these creatures.

Q. What flowers are bees most attracted to?

Bees are particularly drawn to flowers that are blue, purple, and yellow. They love plants like Lavender, Echinacea, Salvia, Asters, and Buddleja. These plants not only provide rich nectar but also bloom for long periods, ensuring a steady food source.

Q. Do bees like clematis?

Yes, bees do like Clematis. They are attracted to the colourful, large blooms and the nectar these climbing plants provide. Especially, the Clematis viticella varieties are known for being highly attractive to bees.

You might also like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top