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Attracting Beneficial Insects


Flowers for Beneficial Insects
by Diane Linsley

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.

Calendula officinalis -- Edible flower petals. Attracts bees and hoverflies.

Centaurea cyanus (Cornflower) -- Good flowers for attracting beneficial insects, including bees, lacewings, ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic mini-wasps.

Cosmos -- Showy flowers that attract lacewings, hoverflies, parasitic mini-wasps, and predatory beetles.

Dill -- This herb can be used as a trap crop for aphids. The umbel flowers attract ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic mini-wasps.

Fennel -- A tasty vegetable with umbel flowers that attract ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, parasitic mini-wasps, and predatory beetles.

French Marigold (Tagetes patula) -- An easy annual. The flowers attract beneficial insects, and the roots repel nematodes.

Morning Glory (Ipomoea) -- Showy flowers that attract syrphid flies and ladybugs. Grow this vigorous vine on a trellis.

Nigella (Love-in-a-Mist) -- A quick-blooming, self-sowing annual. The flowers attract bees. The seeds of Nigella damascena and Nigella sativa are edible.

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum) -- One of the best flowers for bumblebees.

Tithonia 'Torch' -- Large, bushy annual with orange-red, daisy-like flowers that attract hoverflies and minute pirate bugs.

Zinnia -- Brightly colored flowers that attract beneficial insects, including bees, ladybugs, hoverflies, and parasitic mini-wasps. 


Perennial Flowers for Beneficial Insects

Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) -- Perennial herb with licorice-flavored leaves for tea. Spikes of blue flowers that attract beneficial insects and bees. Blooms the first year from seed.

Alyssum saxatile 'Basket of Gold' -- The bright yellow flowers bloom in May, providing an early food source for ladybugs and hoverflies.   

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.

Hesperis matronalis (Dame's Rocket) -- The young leaves are edible. The flowers attract bees and butterflies (pollinators).

Hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) -- A perennial herb with dark violet-blue flowers that attract butterflies, bees and bumblebees.

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) -- A good tea herb with lemon-scented leaves. The flowers attract hoverflies, tachinid flies, and parasitic mini-wasps.

Parsley -- 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 -- Attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds (pollinators). 

Solidago nemoralis (Goldenrod) -- 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 mini-wasps.

Thyme -- English thyme is a kitchen herb. Creeping thyme is a perennial groundcover. The tiny flowers attract hoverflies.

Viola cornuta --  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.


Related Articles
Flowers for Butterflies -- Attracting butterflies with nectar and host plants.
Flowers for Hummingbirds -- The best flowers for attracting hummingbirds.
Self-Sowing Annuals -- Flowers that come back from seed every year.


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