Most gardeners these days are aware of the importance of planting flowers that attract beneficial insects. Not only are beneficial insects good for the health of your garden, but they are also good to have around when teaching children about nature.
If you have small children, consider planting only edible flowers in the vegetable garden, so they don't get confused about what's safe to eat. Other flowers can be planted in a border outside the vegetable garden. Be cautious and well-informed before eating any plant or flower. Some people are allergic to certain flowers.
It's usually best to stick with annual flowers inside the vegetable garden, since you'll be rotating your crops every year. It's nice to have a special section for perennial flowers, maybe as part of the herb garden. Some herbs are perennials or biennials, so they need a permanent spot where they won't be disturbed by digging or rototilling.
Here is a list of some of the best flowers for attracting beneficial insects. You can also plant flowers for hummingbirds and butterflies. These garden visitors are good pollinators. And hummingbirds eat aphids!
Annual Flowers for Beneficial Insects
Alyssum 'Carpet of Snow' (Lobularia maritima) -- Masses of tiny flowers that attract hoverflies and parasitic mini-wasps.
Basil -- A popular herb with flowers that attract beneficial insects and bees. The aromatic foliage may repel aphids and tomato hornworms.
Bronze Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) -- Edible leaves and seeds. One of the best flowers for attracting beneficial insects: bees, hoverflies, lacewings, ladybugs, syrphid flies, tachinid flies and parasitic wasps.
Common Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) -- The flowers attract hoverflies, bees and parasitic mini wasps. The leaves and flower buds are used in recipes.
Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) -- Used in herbal medicine as an immune stimulant. The flowers attract praying mantis, bees and parasitic wasps. The seedheads attract birds.
Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) -- A traditional herb used to treat migraine headaches. The white daisy-like flowers attract hoverflies.
Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum) -- The flowers attract beneficial insects and bees. The leaves have a nice, strong garlic flavor. Allium species make good companion plants for roses because they repel aphids.
Goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) -- One of the best flowers for attracting beneficial insects in late summer to fall. Attracts assassin bugs, big-eyed bugs, bees, ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, praying mantis and parasitic wasps.
Hesperis matronalis (Dame's Rocket) -- The young leaves are edible. The flowers attract bees and butterflies (pollinators).
Lavender 'Lady' (Lavandula angustifolia) -- The flowers attract hoverflies and bees. The fragrant foliage is used in potpourri.
Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) -- The lemon-flavored leaves make a good tea. The tiny flowers attract tachinid flies, hoverflies and parasitic mini-wasps.
Parsley 'Giant of Italy' -- The umbel flowers attract ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, tachinid flies and parasitic mini wasps.
Penstemon strictus (Rocky Mountain Penstemon) -- Spikes of vivid blue flowers that attract ladybugs, hoverfiles and bees.
Rudbeckia hirta (Black-Eyed Susan) -- Golden-yellow, daisy-like flowers for attracting lacewings and bees.
Salvia -- For bees, butterflies and hummingbirds (pollinators).
Thyme -- English thyme is a kitchen herb. Creeping thyme is a perennial groundcover. The tiny flowers attract hoverflies.
Viola tricolor -- I let violas self-sow wherever they like. They don't disturb the vegetables, and the edible flowers make nice cake decorations. Attracts a variety of small beneficial insects early in the year before most other flowers bloom.