The well over 3000 butterfly species in Germany are mostly threatened. In order for the insects to have a chance of surviving, food sources popular with the caterpillars should be cultivated more frequently. These 19 plants are therefore indispensable in the garden.

trees and shrubs

Although butterflies seem to like to fly from flower to flower, native trees and shrubs are much more important as a food source for the caterpillars. Here the caterpillars like to eat the juicy, green leaves and spend the winter (often as a pupa) under the bark or in the root area.

Besenginster (Cytisus scoparius)

The native broom is an important food source for 57 butterflies and their caterpillars, including endangered species such as

  • Ginster-Grünspanner (Pseudoterpna pruinata)
  • Great Genetic Owl (Apopestes spectrum)
  • Alexis blue (Glaucopsyche alexis)
  • Greater Blue (Lampides boeticus)
  • Rust-brown ox-eye (Maniola tithonus)
  • also important for bumblebees

In addition to the original, yellow flowering broom form, there are brooms in various colors for the garden.

Besenheide (Calluna vulgaris)

The common heather, also known as summer heather, is an important food plant for the caterpillars of 73 different species of butterflies . A total of 84 species suck as adult moths on the nectar-rich flowers.

Hainbuche (Carpinus betulus)

Deciduous trees are also very suitable for large gardens, because they are important for the ecosystem for various reasons. 50 different butterfly species alone lay their eggs on the common hornbeam in Germany. The tree is also very popular as a hedge, as it is considered to be pruning-tolerant.

Tip: Planting the columnar hornbeam (Carpinus betulus ‘Frans Fontaine’) is recommended for small gardens.

silver birch (Betula pendula)

For the garden there are beautiful varieties of silver birch, also known as silver birch or weeping birch, for example the red-leaved variety ‘Purpurea’. A total of 38 different species of butterflies use these and other birch species both in the adult and in the caterpillar stage for feeding.

Rotbuche (Fagus sylvatica)

Deciduous and mixed forests are valuable habitats for flora and fauna for a variety of reasons. The common beech is the sole place where 68 native butterfly species and their offspring lay their eggs and are a source of food.

Tip: For the garden, the common beech is particularly suitable as a hedge plant, but also as a columnar beech (‘Dawyck’) or hanging beech (‘Pendula’). The red-leaved varieties are also interesting.

Sal-Weide (Salix caprea)

The various willow species – in addition to the common sal willow also the eared willow (Salix aurita) – are among the most important food sources for many caterpillars: more than 100 different butterfly species use these tree species, which are often planted in garden ponds.

Schlehe (Prunus spinosa)

The sloe, also known as blackthorn, forms dense bushes in nature, in the garden the species is very well suited for mixed wild hedges. The edible fruits are also very popular with birds. For butterflies – both as adults and as caterpillars – the sloe is one of the most important food sources of all. Well over 100 different butterfly species feed on the various parts of the native shrub, including species such as

  • Lesser peacock moth (Saturnia pavonia)
  • Segelfalter (Iphiclides podalirius)
  • Yellow Ribbon (Catocala fulminea)
  • Tree White (Aporia crataegi)
  • Kidney Hairstreak (Thecla betulae)
Note: Sloes are very adaptable in terms of location, but prefer calcareous soil.

Traubenkirsche (Prunus padus)

Bird cherry is also a large native shrub that is essential for the survival of many animals. The fruits, which are also edible for humans, are very popular with birds, and around 30 different types of butterflies also use the bird cherry as a caterpillar breeding site.

Tip: The wood is very suitable for damp soil and can dry it out.


When it comes to flowers, native wild species are particularly popular with butterflies. These species are particularly interesting for the natural garden.

Clematis vitalba (Clematis vitalba)

The clematis or clematis is often planted together with roses. The climbing plant is available in countless cultivated forms with beautiful, large and small flowers in different colors. It serves over 30 species of butterflies and their caterpillars as a place to lay their eggs and as food.

Horn clover (Lotus corniculatus)

The caterpillars of the pretty short-tailed blue (Cupido argiades) feed primarily on the common trefoil, but can also be found on other types of clover and on the gorse (Ulex europaeus).

Viper Bugloss (Echium vulgare)

The tree white (Aporia crataegi), but also other butterfly species lay their eggs on the viper’s bugloss. The pretty flower with the strange name is also known in Germany under the names “Blauer Heinrich” or “Stolzer Heinrich”. The bright blue flowers can be admired from May to October.

Wasserdost (Eupatorium cannabinum)

The magnificent Imperial Mantle (Argynnis paphia), one of the largest European butterflies with a wingspan of 65, is mainly found on the Wasserdost.

herbs and wild plants

Acker-Kratzdistel (Cirsium arvense)

Dusky Dusty, Brimstone, Pigeontail, Blue, Painted Lady and many other species depend on scratchy thistles for their survival. Not only the caterpillars feed on the prickly growths, the adult moths also use them as food sources.

Tip: Instead of the field thistles, you can also plant the prettier milk thistles (Silybum) in the garden.

Great nettle (Urtica dioica)

Even if you are probably reluctant to have stinging nettles in the garden: this plant is one of the most important butterfly plants of all. In particular, the highly endangered peacock butterfly, the pretty C butterfly, and the conspicuous admiral all use the stinging nettle as a caterpillar food plant.

Idea: A small garden corner for stinging nettles also makes sense for another reason: You can use the herb to make a strong decoction that keeps garden plants away from pests.

Wild carrot (Daucus carota subsp. carota)

The wild carrot, a native umbellifer, is one of the main food plants of the swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and should therefore not be missing in any garden. The striking butterfly with the beautiful markings reaches a wingspan of up to 75 centimetres.

fruit trees

The lesser peacock moth, the brimstone butterfly and many other butterflies and butterflies like to lay their eggs in fruit trees like these:

  • Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)
  • Haselnuss (Corylus avellana)
  • Blueberries (Vaccinium myrtillus)
  • Raspberries (Rubus idaeus)

Blackberries are particularly popular.

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