Planting wildflowers and natives will not only attract bees and butterflies, but also other pollinators and wildlife.
Native plants and wildflowers are especially adapted to the climate and conditions of a country, and suit the indigenous wildlife, without upsetting the balance of nature.
This is not to say that non-native flowers should be avoided - indeed, many non-native flowers and plants provide a wonderful amount of nectar and pollen for bees - some are especially helpful. The trick is to be responsible: don't introduce invasive plants, and be careful if you live close to an environmentally sensitive area. I have a lot of advice on this page (which actually covers the thorny issue of beekeeping in ecologically fragile areas, but the advice is generally relevant).
Wildflowers and native plants are, however, some of the best plants for bees, and ideally, every ‘bee garden’ should have at least a few of the wildflower plants in a border, of if you have space, a patch of lawn can be converted into a wildflower zone. It's possible to find suppliers selling a range of mixes for a variety of soil and light conditions, as well as wildflower ranges for bees and butterflies.
Many a native wildflower landscape has been lost due to farming practices and building development.
The national Wildlife Federation of the USA make this comment:
"Before European settlers arrived, unique wildflower species covered the American landscape, from sea level to the highest mountain meadows. But with the onset of agriculture, grazing and the construction of communities, habitat shrank and populations became fragmented and isolated. Today, nearly one-fourth of the 20,000 known native flowering plant species in the United States are considered threatened or of conservation concern."
The decline is evident across Europe too.
For example, in
the UK, only 3% of lowland wildflower meadows remain
(according to The Grasslands Trust).
We have become obsessed with tidying up, but allowing a few "weeds" and wildflowers to flourish, or creating a small wildflower habitat in your border could help address this imbalance – if only on a small scale.
You may feel that your efforts will not count, but ordinary people as well as councils, are becoming more aware of the need to make space for wildlife.
Your efforts could help enhance a nectar corridor, or provide a valuable ‘feeding station’, however small, for wildlife. And wildflowers are beautiful too!
So, here is a list of great wildflower plants that attract butterflies and bees - please check whether they are native to your area first:
There are many suppliers offering a wide range. If you are buying a mixture, select one that has been blended with bees and butterflies in mind, such as the kinds of wildflower seeds for for plants you'll see listed here (opens a new window). It's even possible to make buy wildflower seeds according to soil type and conditions, to increase your chances of success.
Please note, I DO NOT recommend you use weedkillers when you are planting a mini-meadow.
Instead, try Yellow Rattle (a plant loved by bees) which parasitizes grasses, and adapt the mixture to the soil if possible.
For example, many wildflowers prefer poor soils, but if the soil is rich, try a mix which contains poppies, cornflowers, corncockles and corn marigolds.
Also, Meadow Cranesbill, Selfheal, Ox-Eye Daisy, Bugle, Yarrow, Cuckoo Flowers, Goat's Beard, Agrimony, Meadow Buttercup, Betony, Perforate St Johns wort, and Birds-foot trefoil would be good to try, and would provide a nice range for pollinators.
Do check with your local environment agency whether species are appropriate for your country and region before planting to get the most appropriate mix of flowers. There are many online resources.
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