The best plants for wildlife
Grow a variety of wild and cultivated plants in your garden and you’ll attract lots of invertebrates, birds and mammals.
Grow a variety of wild and cultivated plants and you’ll attract lots of invertebrates, birds and mammals to your garden.
- Jack By The Hedge
- Dog Rose
Umbels of all sorts attract a wide range of flying insects. Hogweed is particularly good and will flower for much of the year.
- Leafcutter bees
Adult patchwork leafcutter bees emerge in late spring and will soon be seen cutting neat holes in the leaves of garden and wild roses before transporting the foliage back to their nest tunnels.
In a well-managed wildlife garden, aphid numbers rarely get out of control. They provide a valuable food source for insects such as ladybirds, which are voracious predators in both their adult and larval stages.
- Froghopper larvae
Plants such as lavender and rosemary are ideal food sources for froghopper nymphs (spittle-bugs), which spend the spring and early summer in a frothy nest called cuckoo spit, and emerge as adults in midsummer.
- Red admirals
Hebes flower in late summer and autumn (some continue during a mild winter) and provide a nectar source for butterflies, such as red admirals.
These insects are omnivores and nibble petals, young leaves and pests, such as aphids. They are often seen on daisies or burrowed into the flowers of thistles, such as Jerusalem artichokes.
- Garden chafer beetle
Chafers and beetles nibble leaves, flowers and pollen. Garden chafers are particularly common on fruit trees and ornamental shrubs; others prefer herbaceous plants.
In summer, teasel flowers are fantastic for bees. Once the flowers have died in autumn, a wide range of finches (notably goldfinches) will feast on their seeds.
- Small tortoiseshells
Thistles, Sedum and lateflowering daisies, such as the Michaelmas daisy, provide a food source for late-flying butterflies, including small tortoiseshells and peacocks, as well as a wide range of flies.
- Assess the value of each plant in your garden: if it’s not being eaten by something or the flowers are not attracting a range of insects, consider replacing it with an alternative that makes a greater contribution to the diversity of your patch.
- Visit garden centres on sunny days to see which plants are being visited by bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Then select those that are inundated with a wide variety of insects.
- Avoid plants that are double-flowered (a flower within a flower) as they are merely showy and not good for wildlife. Try to avoid infertile flowers, too, though they are difficult to spot. Horse chestnut flowers should be white – the red ones are sterile and attract few insects.
- Buy wildflowers from a reputable dealer. Plugs are cheaper, but difficult to start off. It may be worth paying a little more for ones that are properly established, or growing plugs in pots until they’re stronger. Then plant them out.
- Select plants that complement each other: umbels (hogweeds) and Compositae (daisies, sunflowers) are good for beetles and hoverflies; bell-shaped flowers for bees; thistles, knapweeds, Sedum and Buddleia for butterflies.
- Grow winter and early-flowering plants, too, as they are particularly important for bees, which need food from the moment they emerge. Pulmonaria (lungwort) is ideal: it is rich in nectar, as are forget-me-nots and comfreys. Comfrey leaves are also great for enhancing your compost.