Flowers rich in nectar attract butterflies to the garden. They love sun and a sheltered spot and tubular flowers to get their long feeding tongues into. Here are six butterfly friendly flowers I have growing in my garden.
- Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis) is a tall, hairy, grassland perennial with a flower like head of blue-violet flowers with pink anthers which you will see growing all around the coast here in Cornwall. I grow the garden varieties including ‘Butterfly Blue’ and ‘Beaujolais Bonnets’ and a pure white one.
- Verbena bonariensis – in my case ‘Lollipop’ which is a dwarf cultivar with a height and spread of 60cm. Hidden from view by the Musk Mallow, now that I have cleared that out this plant is enjoying the freedom. I have yet to see a butterfly on it yet though.
- Echinops bannaticus ‘Blue Globe’. This is a member of the sunflower family with dense prickly foliage and stunning flowers. It produces a mass of bright blue thistle like globes carried on tall grey stems. The leaves on mine appear to have been badly attacked by a caterpillar of some kind, at least that is what all the ‘black poo’ indicates, but I have yet to see any caterpillar or even the dreaded sawfly. The flowers at least appear untouched.
- Eryginium “Alpinum Blue Star”. A dramatic hardy perennial also known as the Sea Holly. Large prickly cone-like centres surrounded by silvery blue spiny bracts on deep blue stems. It supposedly attracts butterflies, but mine seems to be covered in Green bottle flies and Common Red Soldier beetles which makes me wonder about the smell of this plant.
Edit: I looked up this on Google and noticed that a lot of people have complained about the smell from ‘smelly feet’ to ‘cat poo’ or ‘faeces’. I decided to have a cautious sniff and yuk! It smells awful! It is away from the house, but even so I think this plant has to go. A shame because it is a stunning electric blue, but I have yet to see a butterfly on it.
- A type of ornamental onion, also known as round-headed leek, drumstick allium (Allium sphaerocephalon) is appreciated for the egg-shaped blooms that appear in early summer. These unique flowers open green, then start to turn a purple/crimson colour from the top, creating unusual two-tone drumstick flower heads. Bees love it. The jury is out on butterflies.
- Hemp Agrimony ( Eupatorium cannabinum). Also known as ‘Raspberries and Cream’, Hemp-agrimony displays ‘frothy’ clusters of tiny, pink flowers on top of long, reddish stems in July and August. This is quite an invasive species and grows quite tall so last year I dug up quite a lot of it and I give the plant a Chelsea chop in May to reduce the height. Small Tortoiseshell and Red Admiral butterflies are particularly attracted to it.
My Nectar Bar is open, but with the exception of one or two Red Admirals, a Ringlet or two, one Comma and several Large Whites, my customers seem to have deserted me this year. Maybe they’ve found somewhere more interesting.
Other flowers for your nectar bar include: Sweet rocket, Asters, Buddleia, Lavender, Centranthus ruber, Japanese Meadowsweet/Spiraea japonica and Filipendula
As always, if you want a peek over other people’s garden walls then please pop over to our host, the lovely Jon, AKA ‘The Propagator’ where you find links to many more wonderful garden enthusiasts from all over the world.
See here for the participant’s guide.
An interesting read, Jude. Had to look up ringlet butterflies – I wonder if we have them here without realising what they were. I don’t have success with eryngium so I would put up with the smell!
There are some eryngiums that don’t pong, but not sure about the blue ones, it’s the pollen apparently. I’m not awfully keen on attracting flies into the garden, otherwise it wouldn’t bother me. Miss Willmott’s Ghost which is silver is supposedly smell free! I might look for that one.
How intriguing that it’s the pollen – to attract different pollinators ones assumes, but why might that be?
I had a sniff today of a different kind, more silver than blue and much more prickly sea holly leaves – no smell. I then sniffed mine once I got home and found that the ones that have finished ‘flowering’ in that the blue pollen has finished also have no smell. The ones still blue still pong!
That’s really interesting Jude; I wonder what other plants this is true of, as I am sure there will be others…
A lovely selection of pollinators Jude. I love eryngiums and I have never noticed the smell, I’m off outside to sniff them,
Let me know what you discover!
Happy bees, butterflies and happy humans with these delights
Well I do my best, the garden is not known as “Jude’s café” for nothing 😂
So many folk are having bumper butterfly visitation this year, I thought my lack was because of something that’d happened in the garden before I moved in. But you’ve not had much business at your cafe, either. Hmm . . . wonder why? Love all your flowers, such vivid colours but the hemp agrimony really caught my eye. If I were a butterfly, I’d be a repeat customer there.
The hemp agrimony is usually covered with Red Admirals and Tortoiseshells. Not this year. 🤨
I have a soft spot for Knautias. Mine finished flowering weeks ago. I never knew Eryngiums smelt!
I love the idea of a “Nectar Bar” for the butterflies 🙂
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