Buddleja, heather and Pulmonaria identified as among top plants supporting pollinators

The Wildlife Gardening Forum has identified the best plants for different groups of pollinators by asking volunteers around the country to score a wide range of garden plants in a pilot study.

By combining and averaging over 6,500 scores from 29 experienced participants, the Forum was able to create lists of top plants showing which plants are consistently excellent.

Taking pole position for butterflies was Buddleja davidii while greater knapweed top ranked for bumblebees. However, it was heather that came out in first place for the Honeybee, pulmonaria for solitary bees and fennel for hoverflies.

Adrian Thomas, organiser of the survey, said: "Gardeners can be confident that, if they grow the plants which came high on the lists, they have a great chance of being visited by the relevant groups of pollinators. However, the results also confirm that what is good for bumblebees, for example, is quite different from the preferred flowers for butterflies.

"The top lists are crammed with flowers that you would want to grow in your garden, showing that  a wildlife-friendly garden can look wonderful, too. Hopefully, the results will inspire more gardeners to seek out and try some of these winners.

There are some plants that are often recommended as being good for pollinators, such as primrose and pot marigold, that did not score highly in the survey.

Conversely, some more unusual plants not normally recommended for wildlife were identified as being excellent, and might enter the charts in future if more observations are made to confirm this.

To take part in the survey in 2017, email the Wildlife Gardening Forum at survey@wlgf.org.

Top 5 Lists, with average scores


  1. Butterfly Bush           Buddleja davidii                      2.71
  2. Yellow Butterfly Bush Buddleja x weyeriana              2.63
  3. Verbena                    Verbena bonariensis               2.58
  4. Michaelmas Daisy      Aster nova-angliae                  2.57
  5. Iceplant                    Sedum spectabile                    2.33


  1. Greater Knapweed   Centaurea scabiosa                   3.00
  2. Round-headed Leek Allium sphaerocephalon             2.89
  3. Scorpionweed           Phacelia tanacetifolia                2.86

4=  Viper's Bugloss      Echium vulgare                        2.83

4=  Field Scabious       Knautia arvensis                       2.83


  1. Heather                     Calluna vulgaris                     2.80
  2. Borage                      Borago officinalis                    2.75
  3. Round-headed Leek    Allium sphaerocephalon          2.71
  4. Lavandin                   Lavandula x intermedia           2.70
  5. Apple                        Malus domestica                     2.67

Solitary bees

  1. Lungwort                    Pulmonaria spp.                    2.73
  2. Lamb's-ear                  Stachys byzantina                 2.67
  3. Comfrey sp.                 Symphytum spp.                   2.67
  4. Dandelion                     Taraxacum officinale             2.63
  5. Hedge Veronica            Hebe spp.                             2.57


  1. Fennel                         Foeniculum vulgare                2.85
  2. Ivy                             Hedera helix                           2.77
  3. Goldenrod                   Solidago spp. & cvs                 2.71
  4. Common Hogweed      Heracleum sphondylium           2.67
  5. Tansy                        Tanacetum vulgare                   2.50       

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