As these insects travel from flower to flower, they may also pollinate them, thus ensuring they set seed or bear fruit. There are also other benefits. For example, hoverfly larvae are voracious eaters of aphids. Birds and bats may also be attracted.

So a set up a nectar cafe and watch the procession of customers to your garden.

Top tips

  • Choose a sheltered sunny spot – even the best nectar plants can’t compete against cold and wind. If necessary, set up a windbreak – whether artificial or natural.
  • Place each plant in groups or drifts so that the colour and scent are easy to detect.
  • Prolong the flowering season – select plants so that you have a show of flowers from early spring to late autumn. This will help early-emerging insects and those preparing for hibernation.
  • Flowers with a simple (often flat) structure, like old cottage varieties, are easiest for insects to feed from. Some bees, in particular, are not able to access nectar in long tubular flowers.
  • Beware highly cultivated double-flowered forms of flowers, as these often have no nectar or pollen.
  • Remember to provide a night-time feast for moths. Plant some night-scented flowers. Moths will, in turn, provide food for bats.
  • Many herbs are highly attractive to insects, so add them into the mix, or design a dedicated herb garden.

Planting suggestions

Early-season nectar plants

  • Aubretia (Aubretia)
  • English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)
  • Flowering currant (Ribes sanguineum)
  • Grape hyacinth (Muscari botryoides)
  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria spp)
  • Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
  • Sweet violet (Viola odorata)
  • Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis)
  • Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa)
  • Yellow alyssum (Alyssum saxitile)

Mid-season nectar plants

  • Buddleia (Buddleja davidii)
  • Heather (Calluna vulgaris)
  • Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum)
  • Lavender (Lavendula spp)
  • Mallow (Lavatera spp)
  • Purple toadflax (Linaria purpurea)
  • Rock cress (Arabis caucasica)
  • Sea holly (Eryngium maritimum)
  • Verbena (Verbena bonariensis)
  • Wallflower (Erysimum cheiri)

Late-season nectar plants

  • Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • French marigold (Tagetes spp)
  • Golden rod (Solidago candensis)
  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp)
  • Ice plant (Sedum spectabile)
  • Ivy (Hedera helix)
  • Meadow saffron (Colchicum autumnale)
  • Michaelmas daisies (Aster novi-belgii)
  • Perennial sunflower (Helianthus spp)
  • Red valerian (Centranthus rubra)

Herbs

  • Angelica (Angelica spp)
  • Borage (Borago officinalis)
  • Catmint (Nepeta spp)
  • Chives (Allium shoenoprasam)
  • Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis)
  • Mint (Mentha spp)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarimus officinalis)
  • Thyme (Thymus spp)
  • Wild marjoram (Origanum vulgare)