Bugs, such as bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, are essential for the health and survival of many plant species, as well as for the food production that sustains human life. However, bugs are facing increasing threats from habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, and other factors that are causing declines in their populations worldwide. This is why it’s more important than ever to support bug-friendly habitats, such as gardens and green spaces, by planting a diverse range of plants that can provide food, shelter, and nesting sites for bugs throughout the year. In this blog post, we’ll explore the Plants for Bugs project by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), which has identified a list of plants that are particularly attractive to bugs, including native plants from the UK, near-native plants from the northern hemisphere, and exotic plants from the southern hemisphere. We’ll also discuss why planting bug-friendly gardens is not only beneficial for bugs, but also for humans and the planet as a whole.
Native plants (UK):
Armeria maritima sea thrift
A low-growing evergreen plant that forms a dense mat of narrow leaves and produces pink or white flowers on tall stems. Thrives in coastal areas and well-drained soil.
Buxus sempervirens common box
A dense evergreen shrub with small glossy green leaves that can be pruned into a variety of shapes. Ideal for hedging and topiary.
Cytisus scoparius common broom
A deciduous shrub that produces bright yellow pea-like flowers in late spring and early summer. Grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.
Deschampsia cespitosa tufted hair grass
A clump-forming perennial grass that produces airy panicles of delicate flowers in summer. Thrives in moist, well-drained soil and partial shade.
Dianthus deltoides maiden pink
A low-growing perennial with grass-like leaves and fringed pink or white flowers. Grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.
Dryopteris filix-mas male fern
A hardy fern with bright green fronds that can grow up to three feet tall. Thrives in partial to full shade and moist soil.
Eupatorium cannabinum hemp agrimony
A tall perennial plant with pink or white flowers that attract butterflies and bees. Grows best in moist soil and full sun to partial shade.
Geranium sanguineum bloody cranesbill
A clump-forming perennial with deeply lobed leaves and magenta or pink flowers. Grows best in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.
A low-growing evergreen shrub with bright yellow flowers
A bulbous perennial with drooping clusters of blue flowers
A herbaceous perennial with pink-purple flowers
A herbaceous perennial with white daisy-like flowers
A twining climber with fragrant tubular pink and white flowers
A herbaceous perennial with tall spikes of magenta flowers
A herbaceous perennial with large pink or white flowers
A cool season grass with arching foliage that turns golden yellow in the fall.
A perennial plant with basal rosette of leaves and showy flowers in shades of pink, purple or yellow.
A deciduous shrub with sweetly scented pink flowers, followed by red-orange hips in the fall.
A compact plant with lavender-blue pincushion flowers that bloom from late spring to early autumn.
A perennial herb with spikes of pinkish-lavender flowers that bloom in the summer.
A flowering plant with small white or pink flowers that bloom in the summer.
A clump-forming perennial with spikes of blue or purple flowers that bloom in mid-summer.
A deciduous shrub with showy white flowers in the spring and clusters of red berries in the fall.
Near-native plants (northern hemisphere, excluding UK):
A low-growing evergreen perennial that produces dense mounds of narrow, needle-like foliage and pink globe-shaped flowers on thin stalks.
A small evergreen tree or large shrub with glossy dark green leaves and clusters of small yellow flowers in spring.
A clump-forming grass that produces fluffy, silvery-green flowers on tall stalks in late summer.
A low-growing perennial with grass-like foliage and fringed pink or white flowers with a spicy fragrance.
A large fern with striking, arching fronds that have a feathery appearance and a blue-green color.
Eupatorium maculatum 'Orchard Dene'
A tall perennial with clusters of pinkish-purple flowers that bloom in late summer and attract butterflies.
A deciduous shrub with slender, green stems and bright yellow flowers that bloom in spring.
A spreading perennial with fragrant foliage and clusters of pink or white flowers that bloom in summer.
A low-growing evergreen shrub with small, grey-green leaves and bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers that bloom in early summer.
A bulbous perennial with narrow leaves and clusters of bell-shaped, blue flowers that bloom in mid to late spring.
A clump-forming perennial with blue-purple, pincushion-like flowers that bloom in summer and attract butterflies.
A twining climber with green leaves and tubular, orange-red flowers that bloom in summer and attract hummingbirds.
Lythrum virgatum 'Dropmore Purple'
A tall perennial with spikes of deep pink-purple flowers that bloom in mid to late summer and attract bees and butterflies.
A tall perennial plant with showy mauve flowers and heart-shaped leaves, commonly found in the Mediterranean region. Its common name, greater musk mallow, refers to the musky fragrance of its leaves.
Primula japonica 'Miller's Crimson'
A striking Japanese primrose with deep crimson-pink flowers that bloom in early summer. It prefers moist soil and partial shade, and can be grown in bog gardens, beside ponds, or in woodland gardens.
A low-growing, evergreen perennial with attractive silvery foliage and daisy-like flowers that bloom in shades of pink and white from late spring to early summer. Native to Morocco and Portugal, it prefers full sun and well-drained soil.
A deciduous shrub with arching canes and striking, bluish-green foliage that contrasts well with its deep pink, fragrant flowers. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and can be grown in mixed borders or as a specimen plant. Its common name is red-leaved rose.
Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis
A compact, evergreen shrub with glossy, dark green leaves and fragrant, white flowers that bloom in winter. It prefers shade and well-drained soil, and is commonly grown as a ground cover or in mixed borders. Its common name is Christmas box or sweet box.
A clump-forming perennial with striking, lavender-blue flowers that bloom in early to mid-summer. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and can be grown in mixed borders, cottage gardens, or as a cut flower. Its common name is Caucasian scabious.
A low-growing perennial with soft, woolly, silver-grey leaves and spikes of pink or purple flowers that bloom in summer. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and can be grown in rock gardens, as a ground cover, or in mixed borders. Its common name is lamb's ear.
A graceful, clump-forming grass with fine, green leaves and airy panicles of pale yellow flowers that bloom in summer. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and can be grown in mixed borders, as a ground cover, or in prairie-style gardens. Its common name is Mexican feather grass.
Valeriana phu 'Aurea'
A clump-forming perennial with striking, golden-yellow foliage and small, fragrant, white or pink flowers that bloom in summer. It prefers partial shade and moist soil, and can be grown in woodland gardens, along streams or ponds, or in mixed borders. Its common name is golden valerian.
Veronica austriaca subsp. teucrium
A low-growing, clump-forming perennial with aromatic, evergreen leaves and spikes of blue-purple flowers that bloom in early summer. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, and can be grown in rock gardens, as a ground cover, or in mixed borders. Its common name is saw-leaved speedwell.
Exotic plants (southern hemisphere):
A low-growing, creeping plant with small, prickly leaves and small burr-like fruits. Native to New Zealand.
A flowering plant with brightly colored, parrot-shaped flowers in shades of orange and yellow. Native to South America.
A hardy, evergreen fern with leathery fronds and a sturdy, upright growth habit. Native to Chile.
A small shrub with silver-green leaves and yellow daisy-like flowers. Native to New Zealand.
A tall shrub with spiky, bottlebrush-like flowers in shades of red or purple. Native to Australia.
A grass-like plant with bright orange leaves that turn bronze in the fall. Native to New Zealand.
A small, spreading plant with pink or purple flowers. 'Hopleys' is a popular cultivar. Native to South Africa.
A vigorous climber with orange-yellow flowers. Native to Chile.
A striking plant with spiky, blue-gray leaves and blue-purple flowers. Native to Mexico.
A shrub with bright yellow daisy-like flowers. Native to South Africa.
A deciduous shrub with small, pink-purple flowers and red berries. Native to South America.
A compact, bushy shrub with narrow, dark green leaves and small white or pink flowers. Native to New Zealand.
Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black'
A mat-forming perennial groundcover with tiny, almost black leaves. Suitable for rock gardens and as a border plant.
A tall, striking perennial with spikes of red flowers. Native to South America.
A summer-flowering annual with brightly colored, trumpet-shaped flowers.
A showy bulbous perennial with pink or red lily-like flowers. Native to South Africa.
A hardy, drought-tolerant annual or perennial with daisy-like flowers. Native to South Africa.
A low-growing perennial with clover-like leaves and yellow flowers.
A small tree or shrub with glossy green leaves and fragrant flowers. Native to New Zealand.
A clump-forming perennial with yellow-eyed, purple flowers. Native to North America.
A low-growing, clump-forming sedge with red-brown leaves.
A tall, slender-stemmed annual or perennial with clusters of purple flowers.