Gardening for Butterflies

A great test of your garden’s green credentials is how attractive your patch is to butterflies. To test your garden’s value to wildlife why not participate in Butterfly Conservation Ireland’s National Garden Butterfly Survey? The survey period runs from March to November during the flight period of our butterflies. At the end of November send your completed survey form (available to download here; click  National Garden Butterfly Survey) to Butterfly Conservation Ireland and you will receive a report on the season’s findings in which your garden’s butterflies will form an important part. If you need help to identify any butterfly please click on “Butterflies/Gallery” on this website where all Ireland’s butterfly species are pictured.

How can you improve your garden for Butterflies?

Think of your garden as a service station for passing butterflies. To get them to visit you must provide an abundance of nectar-rich flowers growing in sunny, sheltered situations. Valuable flowers include Buddleia Buddleia davidii, Ice-plant Sedum spectabile, Red Clover Trifolium pratense, Common Marjoram Origanum vulgare, Common Knapweed Centurea nigra and Devil’s-bit Scabious Succisa pratensis. To persuade your visitors to stay and breed you need to provide plants that their caterpillars feed on. The caterpillars eat leaves and some eat berries of specific plants. To the butterflies that are likely to visit your garden  valuable larval foodplants include wild grasses such as Cock’s-foot Grass Dactylis glomerata, Common Bird’s-foot-trefoil Lotus corniculatus, Stinging Nettle, Urtica dioica, Lady’s Smock, also known as Cuckooflower Cardamine pratensis and Garden Nasturtium Tropaeleum majus. Common Holly Ilex aquifolium and Common Ivy Hedera helix are also important plants. Caterpillar foodplants need to be located in sunny positions. If your garden offers food for the adult butterflies and their larvae as well as plenty of warmth and shelter you may even succeed in persuading these beautiful creatures to stay with you all year round.

For more details, click on our leaflet.

BCI Garden leaflet


If you enjoy the countryside and would like to become involved in learning about and conserving our declining butterflies and moths consider joining Butterfly Conservation Ireland. We have a programme of events free to all. See this website for details.