Planting herbaceous plants for Butterflies and Bees

20150727_104604210_iOS.jpgOne of the joys of my job has to be when clients let me loose with the pencil, colouring pencils and Shoots excellent plant directory to redesign gardens, borders or indeed just add plants and colour to the garden. I love to choose plants that not only look good but also help to encourage more pollinators including bees and butterflies into the garden. But why try to encourage them to the garden in the first place? well apart from the pollinating aspect there’s also a beauty aspect of seeing these beautiful creatures flying around the garden adding colour, movement and sound to enhancing what you have already. These little creatures are already under pressure and us gardeners adding plants they love, will also help them survive, indeed a good garden will at times hold a wider range of insects than most other spaces. One thing to bare in mind when looking to add plants for pollinators into the garden is to provide a wide range of different plants with different size and shape of flowers, each different speices of insect have tongues of different lengths which then require plants with the nectar at different lengths. Also some plants can be more attractive to certain speices of butterflies, I have seen this happen with a couple of plants now, first one was with silver washed fritillaries, to see a couple in a day is a delight but on a group of Lysimachia clethroides, I counted 15! It’s happened every year since, not see them on any other plant within the garden. Saw a similar thing with Red Admirals and Eryngium agavifolium, they seem to prefer this to other plants in the area.

Some plants that I find attract a wide range of bees and butterflies and make a big impact to the borders include

IMG_1328Knautia macedonica, This lovely plant tends to flower from May-September with a little break in between. The dark red flowers are loved by bees and butterflies in their droves, a beautiful plant for the border, that may require a little staking at times. In a dry summer, may suffer with a little bit of mildew, treatment is easy, cut it hard and the new growth will be fine


Nepeta ‘Amelia’ a rather lovely pink version that gets up to 40cm in height and flowers all summer long, with its flowers attracting all types of pollinating insects.

Nepeta x fassinii, a lovely hybrid catmint between N.racemosa and N.mussinii. It is a smaller plant measuring up to 30cm in height, a lovely blue colour that is at home on poor soils including shallow chalk soil.

20150901_121017319_iOSVerbena bonariensis. A great plant that can grow up to 1.5m in height with its purple flowers that almost gives a purple haze effect in the garden. It is a native of South America but will survive in temputures down to -10c. A cold winter may kill off the main plant but loads of seedling can appear in the spring. This plant is a favourite of the hummingbird hawk moth when it appears in the uk in late summer, prefect timing as the verbena is at its best

SDC10044Helenium ‘MoreheimBeauty‘ another late summer flowering plant that can be seen buzzing with bees, butterflies and hoverflies.  This North American plant will grow in most conditions but are more at in a damping bed. May need a little bit of support during the summer .

323Digitalis purpurea this biannual is a native of the British Isles where it can make a plant up to 2m in height, tends to flower early summer and is a great favourite of bees.

echinacea hot summer (4)

Echinacea purpurea another North American prairie plant that comes into its own in mid to late summer, flowering in a range of colours forming good strong plants, it’s nice open nature means it’s a magnet to a wide range of speices
echninops rito

Echinops ritro, a native of Southern Europe, this blue globe thistle, it tends to favour a dry site and doesn’t like a damp spot, it flowers July -October. It is loved by all pollinators

eupatorium purpureum 'purple bush'Eupatorium maculatum this tall North American plant prefers to grow in a damp site, where it grows to 2m in height, again its open flowers again attract so many insects.

pulmonaria beths blue

Pulmonaria the lungworts are a real boast for any early season insects, these beautiful plants not only have lovely flowers but the leaves are also very beautiful, they do prefer a damp shady spot. They come in a wide range of pastel colours and tend to flower from February to April.


Erysimum ‘Bowles Mauve’ this shrubby wall flower does flower for almost the whole year with its lovely mauve coloured flowers but it’s the spring time it makes a difference to the early pollinators. Does well in most soils, doesn’t like it too wet and prefers a dry site. It is only short lived but easily propagated by taking cuttings in the summer


Origanum laevigatum ‘Herrenhausen’. This native of turkey loves poor soil and in full sun. it grows to about 50cn in hieght and flowers from April-October


Sedum spectable This native of korea and china is famed for the love insects have for it, tends to get to about 70cm in hieght although you can reduce it by half by giving it a chelsea chop, flowers from mid summer and it one of those plants with something of interest for 12 months of the year

These are just a tiny selection of plants that you can add to your borders to add both colour, interest and help our under pressure pollinators.  Garden centres are now helping out by adding little pictures of bees to the labels. There are a few great groups to join if you want to learn more about bees and butterflies. They are the bumblebee conservation trust and butterfly conservation www., These are great trusts to join to learn more about the bees and butterflies.


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7 Comments Add yours

  1. seedymum says:

    Some great plant selections – you’ve inspired me to get planting!

    1. thomashort says:

      Thank you 🙂 and I am so pleased to of inspired you, all together we can help our essential partners in their time of need

  2. I have empty pots waiting for warmer weather… looking forward to getting planting! #dreamteam

    1. thomashort says:

      Let’s hope it’s nice and soon, even I am getting fed up with this blinking rain

  3. Heather Keet says:

    What gorgeous plants! I’m allergic to bees but they are critical to our environment so I welcome all the plants that help them do their job. They are so much fun to watch as they work. #DreamTeam

  4. A great blog Thomas, some I already have and some I’ve made a note of. Have you heard of who only sells plants for bees? She is a great source of plants like these. I’m off to a Hardy Plant Society plant fair today! Hooray!

    1. thomashort says:

      Thank you Julie, I have indeed she has a great site doesn’t she, I hope you have had a great day today and didn’t spent too much!

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