Which UK Wildflowers Are Best for Attracting Night Pollinators?

The vast and varied world of pollinators is not limited to the industrious bees that dominate our gardens during the day. When dusk falls, a whole new array of nocturnal pollinators, including moths and certain species of beetles, take over. But what flowers can you plant in your garden to attract these night-friendly insects? In this article, we delve into the topic, providing you with an insight into which UK wildflowers are most alluring to these fascinating nocturnal pollinators.

The Importance of Night Pollinators

We often imagine pollination as a daytime activity, picturing bees buzzing around our plants, collecting and spreading pollen. However, pollination is a 24-hour job, and when the bees clock off for the day, the night shift begins with moths, beetles, and other nocturnal insects taking the reins.

Moths, for one, play a vital role in the pollination process, often overlooked due to their nocturnal nature. Yet, they contribute significantly to the pollination of a wide range of plants, including some crops and garden favourites. Therefore, it's essential to make our gardens more hospitable to these night workers.

Nectar-Rich Flowers for Night Pollinators

If you're looking to make your garden a haven for night pollinators, consider planting nectar-rich flowers. These include plants that bloom at night or have strong scents that appeal to nocturnal insects.

Nectar is a sweet liquid produced by some plants, especially within their flowers. It's a primary food source for many insects, including bees, butterflies, and moths. For these nocturnal foragers, nectar is like a beacon in the dark, guiding them to the flowers.

Let's delve into some specific wildflowers native to the UK that are particularly attractive to night pollinators due to their nectar properties.

Evening Primrose

The Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) is a biennial plant native to North America but naturalised across the UK. Its bright yellow flowers bloom in the evening and stay open until the next morning, making them a perfect food source for nocturnal pollinators. The flowers also emit a strong, sweet scent that lures in nectar-loving insects.


Honeysuckle (Lonicera) is a climbing plant that produces tubular flowers, typically in shades of pink or white. These flowers are known for their intense, sweet fragrance, which becomes even stronger after sunset. This scent, along with the high nectar content, makes honeysuckle an irresistible treat for moths and other night-time pollinators.

Planting for Pollinators: Colour and Scent

Colour and scent are two key factors that insects use to locate their nectar meals. For night pollinators, the rules are a little different to what works for their daylight counterparts. While bees and butterflies are drawn to bright colours like yellow and red, nocturnal pollinators are more attracted to white or pale-coloured flowers. The lighter colours reflect moonlight better, making these flowers more visible in the dark.

Similarly, while some insects are guided by sight, many nocturnal insects rely more on their sense of smell to find flowers. Therefore, plants that release a strong aroma after dark will be particularly attractive to these creatures.

Tobacco Plant

The Tobacco Plant (Nicotiana) is a night-blooming plant with a potent scent that's irresistible to pollinators. It produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers that are typically white, pink or red. However, it's the white or pale pink varieties that are most attractive to moths.

Nottingham Catchfly

The Nottingham Catchfly (Silene nutans) is a UK native wildflower with pale white flowers. The flowers open late in the afternoon and close by mid-morning. The plant emits a strong, sweet aroma during the night, making it a beacon for nocturnal pollinators.

Planting for Pollinators: Shape and Structure

The shape and structure of a flower can also affect its attractiveness to pollinators. Some nocturnal insects, like moths, have long tongues, allowing them to access nectar from deep within tubular flowers. These insects are drawn to complex flowers with multiple small florets or long, tubular structures.


Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a herb with small, tubular flowers. The plant's structure allows for deep penetration by insects with long tongues, like moths. Although it's not a night-blooming plant, its strong scent continues to attract pollinators after sunset.

Bladder Campion

Bladder Campion (Silene vulgaris) is a native UK wildflower with white, balloon-like flowers. The complex structure of the flowers provides a fascinating exploration for pollinators, and the plant's strong evening scent attracts nocturnal insects.

In conclusion, by planting a selection of these UK wildflowers, you can help support the vital work of nocturnal pollinators. So, as you plan your garden for the spring and summer seasons, factor in these nocturnal visitors and select flowers that will provide a feast for them after dark. After all, a garden that is buzzing with activity during the day and night is a sign of a healthy, balanced ecosystem.

UK Wildflowers and Night Pollinators: An Ecological Dance

In the realm of night pollinators, UK wildflowers play a critical role. These natural interactions are an ecological dance, where each participant plays a vital part. The getty images of yellow flowers swarmed by bees and butterflies during the day create a romantic view of nature. However, the reality is that when twilight descends, the pollination process continues, with nocturnal creatures such as moths and beetles stepping in.

These night-shift workers are lured by nectar-rich flowers that provide their primary food source. The solitary bees, common carder and long-tongued bees, for example, are known for their preference for such flowers. The nectar and pollen of these plants act as a resource for these insects to feed their offspring. And it's not just the quantity, but the quality of nectar and pollen that matters, which is why some plants are more alluring to these insects than others.

Planting bee-friendly plants that bloom in early spring can help sustain the queen bumblebees emerging from hibernation. In addition, nocturnal insects such as hoverflies and moths are attracted to plants that release their scent after sunset. By understanding the needs and habits of these nocturnal pollinators, we can create gardens that support their survival and, in turn, our own.

Concluding Thoughts: Creating Balance in Our Gardens

In conclusion, attracting nocturnal pollinators is an integral part of maintaining a balanced ecosystem. As Sarah Raven, a well-known gardener and writer, put it: "The garden, without pollinators, would be a poorer place". Therefore, by choosing to plant nectar rich, bee-friendly plants that appeal to both daytime and night time pollinators, we are actively participating in ecological conservation.

Whether it's the bright yellow evening primrose or the fragrant honeysuckle, these wildflowers are more than just a beautiful sight. They provide an essential food source for bees, butterflies and moths, contributing to the biodiversity of our gardens and the planet as a whole.

To continue reading about how you can support pollinators in your garden, delve into expert resources and follow our advertisement continue for more insights. Selection of the right wildflowers, with an understanding of the needs of these nocturnal creatures, can lead to a garden that's buzzing with life around the clock.

So, as you plan your garden for the upcoming seasons, remember to provide for the nocturnal visitors, as well. These night-shift workers, though often overlooked, play a vital role in our ecosystems. By creating a well-drained, nectar-rich habitat, we can promote a healthier, more balanced environment. After all, every flower that blooms and every insect that visits, each plays their part in the intricate dance of nature.