Magpie (Robert Thompson)

Nectar plants

Breadcrumbs

Most moths need to refuel with nectar to give them the energy they need for flying. Some flowers have more available nectar than others, so by choosing the best plants you can make your garden a better feeding station. The same flowers will also attract more butterflies.

Jersey Tiger (Mark Parsons)As different species of moth are around at different times of the year, you should aim to have plenty of nectar-bearing flowers out in as many months as possible, including early spring and late summer and autumn. Generally the more old-fashioned varieties tend to have more nectar than more modern forms and hybrids. In particular double flowers have little or no nectar, so it is better to choose varieties with single flowers. For example some Pinks and Sweet Williams are good sources of nectar, but only if you look for the old-fashioned single-flowered varieties, not the modern double-flowered forms which are now common in garden centres.

Six-spot Burnet (Mark Parsons)Good plants for supplying nectar in spring include Aubretia, Bluebell, Clover, Cuckooflower, Daisy, Dandelion, Forget-me-not, Honesty, Pansy, Primrose, Sweet Rocket and Wallflower. For late summer and autumn nectar, plant Buddleia, French Marigold, Ice Plant, Knapweed, Lavender, Marjoram, Michaelmas Daisy, Mint, Red Valerian, Scabious and Thyme. Ivy is especially good for autumn flying moths, as it flowers in October and November.

Night-scented plants are particularly good for moths, and actually evolved their night-time perfume to attract moths to pollinate their flowers. They include summer flowering Jasmine, Honeysuckle, Evening Primrose, Sweet Rocket and Night-scented Stock. Tobacco plants, commonly sold as summer bedding plants, can also be good but you need to look for the original species Nicotiana alata, as modern varieties have lost much of their scent. The fashionable Nicotiana sylvestris is very attractive to moths at night, although its tubular flowers are too long for resident British moths to actually reach the nectar!

An adult moth may take nectar from many types of flowers, which do not need to be native species. However, if you plant native species (or close relatives) these may also supply suitable food for some moths' caterpillars, which are generally much more restricted in the type of leaves they can eat. Use the links on the left to find out more about moth-friendly gardening and caterpillar food- plants.