Wildlife gardening

Bees - wildlife gardening
Bees are good!
Image source: Onelia Pena

Wildlife plays such an important role in our gardens, whether it’s bees pollinating our flowers or birds eating insect pests. Wildlife gardens are normally associated with leaving areas of the garden to neglect or growing wild flowers but this needn’t be the case! Many cultivated garden plants are just as valuable to wildlife for food and shelter. Read on for ideas on how to attract wildlife into your garden.

Why do we need garden wildlife?

We should all try and do our bit for biodiversity and the environment, and encouraging wildlife also benefits our own gardens. Bees and butterflies are important pollinators and play a key role in pollinating many of our fruits and vegetables.

Birds eat a variety of garden pests, including leatherjacket grubs, slugs, aphids and caterpillars. Hedgehogs, shrews, frogs and toads will also eat these insect pests and ladybirds and lacewings feed on aphids and blackfly – their young eat them in large quantities!

Top tips for a wildlife friendly garden

Ladybird Wildlife Garden
Let ladybirds eat your pests
Image source: Maxpixel

• Try not to use double-flowered plant varieties as bees and butterflies can’t access the flowers for pollen and nectar. Good plants for bees generally have simple flowers.

• Plant trees, shrubs and hedges as these are perfect for nesting and sheltering from predators.

• Try not to use pesticides as these will kill beneficial insects too. Give natural predators such as ladybirds, spiders, lacewings, frogs, birds and hedgehogs time to eat the pests before resorting to chemicals.

• Provide food sources all year round – bees are active between February and October and many birds remain in the UK throughout the winter. Put out bird feeders during the winter months to help birds out.

• Install a pond if you have the space. This will encourage frogs, toads, newts and dragonflies to visit your garden. Small mammals and birds will also benefit from the water supply.

• Leave piles of logs or branches in a shady corner of the garden for frogs and insects to shelter under.

Plants for wildlife

butterfly wildlife gardening
Help butterflies gather food
Image source: Pixabay

If you’re thinking about creating a wildlife garden try and include a range of plants which provide flowers from spring through until autumn. Bees and butterflies are active during these seasons and need to gather enough food in this time to help them through the winter and early spring. Plants which provide seeds, nuts and berries will be appreciated by birds, and evergreen shrubs and hedges provide good shelter in the winter months. We’ve put together a list of good plants for attracting wildlife into your garden.


Spring flowering Summer flowering Late summer/Autumn flowering
Apple tree Allium Buddleja
Bergenia Astrantia Catalpa (Indian Bean Tree)
Cherry tree Cornflower Dahlia
Crocus Echium Echinacea
Flowering currant Eremurus Eryngium
Heather Foxglove Hebe
Holly Geranium Hypericum calycinum (Aaron’s Beard)
Muscari Helenium Ivy
Pear tree Helianthemum Sedum
Plum tree Hollyhock Sunflower
Pulmonaria Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)
Snowdrop Lavender
Wallflower Monarda
Winter Aconite Poppy


Spring flowering Summer flowering Late summer/Autumn flowering
Alyssum Allium Dahlia
Aubrieta Echium Echinacea
Bergenia Hebe Hebe
Forget-me-not Marigold Ivy
Hawthorn Oregano Sedum
Holly Phlox Teasel
Honesty (Lunaria) Sweet William Verbena bonariensis
Wallflower Thyme
Verbena bonariensis


Spring flowering Summer flowering Late summer/Autumn flowering
Berberis Cornflower Echinacea
Flowering currant Rosa canina & Rosa rugosa Honeysuckle
Hawthorn Ivy
Holly Panicum
Mahonia aquifolium Sunflower
Pyracantha Teasel
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Van Meuwen

Author: Van Meuwen

Horticultural mail order specialists. Working hard to bring you the best quality well-established plants as well as exciting new varieties.

42 thoughts on “Wildlife gardening”

  1. Hi Folks ,
    Very good idea to help wild life. I have in my garden a Hedghog Hotel !!! it is a big plastic box turned upside down at the narrow end I have cut a hole 5ins by 5ins and put tape round the edge. I put logs round it so the foxs can’t get the food, I also put an old hay rack in front of the door so hedgehogs can get in but dog cats and foxs can’t . I feed them each night with hedghog food and a bowel of water . I put the dish with the food right at the far end of the box. When I let the dogs out at night I put the outside light on so the gedghogs can take cover. My slug population has gone down very much.
    So much nicer than slug pelets.

    1. Thanks, wonderful help, we have at least 3 hogs visiting us every night, sometimes 4. We feed them every night, usually a 4 legged creature whish says miaowww helps itself as well, even freddie the fox joins in, but the hedgehogs usually ignore them, we have a night sensor camera we put out every night so we can see what is happening in the dark it is great to hear others are doing the same thing. thanks for the tips

  2. A plant I find attracts bees is Heuchera. I notice you don’t mention this. The flowers on the ones in my garden are often buzzing with bees.

    1. You’re right Pamela. I have several in my garden much loved by bees. Think I’ll have to plant some on my allotment.

  3. To attract frogs and provide water for others,use an old washing up bowl,or similar. Bury the bowl up to the rim, then leave for the rain to fill it. The frogs will soon be attracted to the water and it will fill with frogspawn. To help the baby frogs get out, just lay a short length of wood at an angle into the bowl,and weight the submerged end.

  4. Hello,

    Nice tips and also read this blog on plants.
    I am most of the time read on plants and gardening, so i thought to share here. Read and get knowledge about Cactus.

  5. We had a family of foxes last year, the parents appear to have sent the youngsters on their way now as it’s just the two of them nightly. We feed them on dog biscuits which they love.
    We put excess Christmas nuts out for them two weeks ago and the resident family of squirrels have buried them all over the garden. I was tidying up the beds for ages!!!

    1. I have family of foxes come over years I feed them chicken pork give them different menu every night even eggs rtey love them

  6. Thanks for all the helpful information! Have you any advice on keeping squirrels away from bird seed holders suspended from steel hooks at the top a one inch diameter steel pole which they shimmy up. I have even bought the large holders with seed and nut containers inside metal frames. The squirrels are actually a delight to behold but their antics keep the birds away which is defeating the whole of feeding. I put peanuts out in the parking area but once the squirrels have eaten all those they come back to the garden.

    1. You can buy plastic domes that fit on the pole , its hilarious watching the squirrels try and get past it ( it really works )

      1. I hang the domes on branches with the bird feeders underneath. You need to keep the domes shiny and clean to keep the Squirrels off. WD40 also works on the domes or poles, but I don’t know
        if it hurts the birds or squirrels

        1. I put a handful of vaseline on the pole that’s even more hilarious watching the squirels
          sliding down the pole – they eventually give up angrily! It doesn’t hurt them

      2. I never found it worked even when I vaselined the dome.
        But a feeder with a wire cage over it works fine.
        There are several different ones on offer.

    2. I hang my bird feeders with fishing line, that normally stops the squirrels. Hopefully it works for you 👍

    3. Hello Agnes
      We had the same problem with Squirrels. I smeared Vaseline all the way up the metal pole. It is really funny watching them jump up and slide down, or running on the spot trying to get up!


    4. I buy Squirrel Buster bird feeders. Although an expensive outlay, they are so effective that they save a fortune on bird food and so save you money in the long run – and the small birds such as Siskin and goldfinches return to your feeders in great numbers.

    5. You can buy plastic squirrel baffles, at least 10 varieties on the internet, all expensive but 100% and well worth it

  7. Heuchera plants are great for bees, I have loads, they flower for ages every year, and are really pretty and pleasing to look at. Everyone’s happy, what more could you want ?

  8. I have found cotoneaster is loved by my bees. I have the shrubby type that flowers in spring, delicious honey scent. This plant is seldom mentioned as liked by bees.

    1. I agree, mine is literally alive with bees when it is in flower and the birds are attracted to the red berries later in the year.

  9. I am developing my wildlife garden. Not as easy as I thought. Creeping buttercup and moss. Snakehead fritillary are doing great. I live in an area with solid clay. South west facing garden. Bakes in summer. High water table in winter. I’m experimenting with different things. It’s patience that’s needed I am finding.

    1. Hello. Yes wildlife gardening really does take patience, but over time you will find that it is very rewarding. I hope that are enjoying the process. Its always wonderful to discover new creatures taking up residence in your garden.
      All the best

  10. Hi,

    I notice that Buddleja (Butterfly Plant) is not on your plants list for Butterfly’s,

    Cheers Pete

    1. Hello. That’s a bit of an oversight! Yes you are right – Buddleja is loved by Butterflies and also many other insects. Thanks for spotting this 🙂

  11. Last year I hardly saw any slugs or snails thanks to the frogs and toads from my wildlife pond. I never use slug pellets etc. and I have the enjoyment of the wild life.

  12. Hello, loved reading all the really helpful comments re bees and butterflies. I only have a small back garden (more like a yard) but plenty of pots. I bought a box of wildflower seeds this spring and have been surprised by the beautiful flowers that have appeared. So much so that I plan to transfer to the front garden for next year – hoping they will reappear? Problem is I have no idea what they are called!! Will make a list of the wildlife plants shown here for next year. Thank you all for your helpful comments.

  13. Having just moved, I’ve got a wild garden that needs some taming. The key group of insects you haven’t mentioned at all are moths. How about a section for plants to encourage them to visit?

    1. Yes! You are absolutely correct. Moths are an important group of pollinators which are so often forgotten. Many plants which are especially scented in the evenings are loved by moths.

  14. I found greasing the pole of the bird feeder with vaseline deters squirrels and provides comic entertainment as they do keep trying and gently sliding down

  15. Why do you want to deter squirrels? They’re classed as endangered! Crazy people. Feed birds AND squirrels. No brainer.

    1. Red squirrels are classed as endangered. Grey squirrels are nothing but a pest, they strip trees of bark and chase away Red squirrels. Grey squirrels are not native to the UK. Red squirrels are.

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