Can Green Roofs Encourage Butterflies and Moths?

Elephant Hawkmoth

THE WILDLIFE TRUST and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is urging everyone to help butterflies and moths for this year’s Wild About Gardens campaign.

The aim is to get a steady year-round supply of nectar-producing plants growing to help the UK’s falling numbers of butterflies and moths.

Green roofs potentially provide important habitat and food sources for wildlife in urban areas, creating a ‘green corridor’ for butterflies and moths.

Large White butterfly

The Wildlife Trust and RHS are asking plant growers to pledge a bit of outdoor space for butterflies and put it an interactive UK map launched today.

The map will show every new wild area, box or border that’s being grown for butterflies. Each entry contributes towards the network of green spaces that nature needs to survive.

Green Roof Habitats

Butterflies and moths are important pollinators and, along with caterpillars, are vital food for birds like robins and blue tits as well as bats. However, their habitats have faced catastrophic declines and once-common species like the small tortoiseshell have dropped by up to 80% in the last 30 years in some areas.

Elephant Hawkmoth larvae

An ideal butterfly garden has a wide variety of plants throughout the year to support their life cycles – for butterflies and moths emerging from hibernation, egg-laying females, caterpillars and then as adults.


Many plants that provide vital habitat and food sources for butterflies and moths are able to be grown on green roofs – and often will self-seed with a deliberate strategy of ‘healthy neglect’ of growing substrates.


Early-flowering species such as dandelions are good sources of nectar; while mid-summer flowers of buddleia and lavendar are hardy and drought tolerant and, finally, ivy flowers are a great late-season asset in the autumn.

Many wildflowers and long grasses are also excellent larval food-plants. Whether the green roof space is large or small, it could throw these declining insects a lifeline, especially in urban areas.

Download a booklet
The Wildlife Trusts and RHS offers advice and easy tips designed to make our outdoor spaces more attractive to butterflies, moths and their caterpillars.

Find the full range of wildlife gardening booklets, advice and inspiration  



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