Our butterflies and moths are declining at an alarming rate – even some of our most common species, such as the Small Tortoiseshell, are declining in abundance. The more we can do for them in our gardens, the better.
Nectar gives them energy, so every nectar-rich plant we grow is a boost for pollinators. The more we can lure into our gardens the more we enjoy and learn about these incredible creatures. And that in turn fuels our and our children’s desire to help them. Growing plants for pollinators is a win-win situation for everyone.
Get your free guide to discover which 10 plants are perfect for pollinators and will grow well in pots from May onwards. Follow the step-by-step planting instructions to enjoy your blooms and butterflies by summer.
But you don’t need a huge garden to help pollinators. You don’t even need a garden – my first outside space was a tiny balcony on the sixth floor of a block of flats. I was visited by bees, butterflies and hoverflies, as well as other wildlife including aphids, ladybirds and birds. I had the beginnings of a food chain, with just a few pots of soil and plants to support them.
A typical butterfly and moth-friendly garden is made up from a variety of nectar-rich plants in flower from March to November. Add to that caterpillar food plants such as a mixed native hedge, wild grasses and a patch of nettles, and somewhere for caterpillars and adults to hibernate, and you have the perfect habitat. But all of that requires space, which many of us don’t have.
It’s easy to create a nectar-rich pot for pollinators. You just need a pot, peat-free compost and plants. You can pot up one plant or several together, it’s up to you – and there’s a huge range of plants to choose from. I like a mixed display of plants that flower at slightly different times. This gives me a longer season of flowers to look at and the pollinators a greater range of plants to feed from, over a longer period.
In a pot with a 40cm diameter you can fit around four or five plants. Aim for a variety of different heights, plus something to spill over the edge. Add a crock at the bottom to stop compost falling out of the drainage hole, and fill two thirds with compost, then arrange your plants – when you’re happy start to fill compost around them and firm them in gently. Move the pot to a sunny spot and water it thoroughly.
Water your plants every week. This not only keeps them alive but helps them produce more nectar, which is better for butterflies and moths. And don’t forget to keep an eye out to see what turns up – you never know what you might find.
Butterfly Conservation Ambassador and gardening writer
Follow Kate on Twitter @Kate_Bradbury