Best garden plants for wildlife

Discover the best plants to attract more wildlife and colour to your garden with our expert guide.

Blue tit perched on the branch of a spring flowering crab apple tree

Provide your garden wildlife with an essential food source by planting with pollinators, garden birds and other creatures in mind and create a wildlife haven that is both beautiful and bursting with life.

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In our expert wildlife-gardening guide, Helen Bostock, senior horticultural advisor at the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), explains what you can plant to attract more wildlife and colour to your garden.

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

Primroses (Primula vulgaris)
The name primrose derives from the Latin prima rosa, meaning ‘first rose’ of the year. © Tim Grist Photography/Moment/Getty

Early flowers attract bees, butterflies and the distinctive bee fly; neutral to acid soil in part shade or full sun if moist soil; spring flowering native perennial; 20cm x 35cm


Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)

Common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis)
Common lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) © Arterra/Universal Images Group/Getty

A real bee magnet; moist, fertile soil in sun or shade; spring flowering perennial; 25cm x 45cm; slug resistant


Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)
Foxgloves are an excellent source of nectar. © Nigel Hicks/The Image Bank/Getty

Flower loved by bumblebees; humus-rich soil in part shade but will tolerate sun; early summer flowering native biennial; 1-2m x 60cm; slug resistant


Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Vegetable plot with flowering chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
Introduce chives to your vegetable plot. © Lucy Barden/Photolibrary/Getty Images Plus

Excellent bee plant; fertile, well-drained soil in full sun; summer flowering perennial (bulbous); 30-60cm x 5-15cm


Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel flowers (Foeniculum vulgare)
The umbrella-like clusters of fennel flowers attract many insects. © Jacky Parker Photography/Moment/Getty

Flat-topped flowers make them perfect for hoverflies, other flies and solitary wasps; well-drained soil in full sun; mid- to late summer flowering perennial; 1.8m x 45cm; slug resistant

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Cosmos produce daisy-like flowers that appeal to pollinators. © Blanchi Costela/Moment/Getty

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Single-flowered forms good for bees and butterflies; moist but well-drained soil in full sun; summer flowering annual; 1.5m x 45cm

Small skipper butterfly feeding on common knapweed (Centaurea nigra).

Lavender (Lavandula)

White-tailed bumblebee feeding on lavender. © Richard Baker/Getty
Lavender is one of the best herbs to grow to attract bees and butterflies. © Richard Baker/Getty

A favourite with honeybees and butterflies; moderately fertile soil in full sun; mid- and late summer flowering evergreen shrub; 60cm-1m x 60cm-1m


Asters (Symphyotrichum)

Peacock butterfly on aster.
Asters provide nectar for pollinators later in the year. © Harald Lange/ullstein bild/Getty Images

A useful late source of nectar for red admiral, peacock and painted lady butterflies; moist but well-drained soil in full sun or part shade; midsummer to autumn flowering perennial; 60cm-1.2m x 30-60cm; slug resistant

Dahlia (Dahlia)

Small tortoiseshells bumblebees on pink dahlias.
Small tortoiseshell butterflies and bumblebees on dahlias. © Lisaeleba/Getty

Single-flowered types are great for bees and butterflies; fertile, humus-rich soil in full sun; summer and autumn flowering tender perennial (tuberous); 60cm-1.5m x 45-60cm


Crabapple (Malus)

Blue tit perched on the branch of a spring flowering crab apple tree
Blue tit perched on the branch of a spring flowering crab apple tree © Jacky Parker Photography/Moment/Getty

Pollinator-friendly blossom in spring is followed by long-lasting fruit for birds and small mammals; moist but well-drained soil in full sun; spring flowering and autumn fruiting tree; 6-12m x 6-12m; slug resistant


Heathers (Calluna)

Wild bumblebee on heather (Calluna vulgaris)
Calluna vulgaris flowers in the summer and autumn. © Paul Carpenter/Getty

Loved by honeybees and other bees; humus-rich, acid soil in full sun; some spring/summer flowering, others autumn/winter flowering native shrub; 10-45cm x 25-75cm; slug resistant


Mahonia (Mahonia x media)

Mahonia x media flowers
Mahonia x media has nectar/pollen rich flowers and seeds for birds. © Tom Meaker/iStock/Getty Images Plus
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Great winter food source for bumblebees; moist but well-drained soil in part to full shade; late autumn to late winter-flowering evergreen shrub; 5m x 4m; slug resistant