Updated Dec 2, 2022
Did you know that certain insects can benefit your lawn and garden? These bugs keep your plants healthy by pollinating them and consuming other bugs that cause your greenery detrimental harm. Filling your garden with plants that attract beneficial insects as a means of pest control is a form of permaculture, which refers to sustainable, eco-friendly agricultural practices.
If you’re looking to fortify your garden against pest damage without using gallon after gallon of harsh insecticides, we’re here to help. Read on to understand which insects are most beneficial and which flowers to plant to attract them to your garden.
Before we jump into a list of plants, we need to explain why you want to attract specific insects to your garden. Many homeowners view all bugs as creepy crawlers to squash or spray with pesticides, but this idea couldn’t be further from the truth.
Numerous insect species are crucial to plant survival and major ecological processes. Many of your beloved garden plants would suffer greatly without the help of beneficial bugs.
Beneficial insects generally fit into three categories: pollinators, predators, and parasitoids. The table below explains which critters fall into each category and why they’re important.
|Pollinators||Pollinator insects are crucial to ecological survival. Eighty percent of plant-based products require insect pollination to flourish. Without these beneficial insects, humans would lack the food resources to support the population.||Honey bees|
|Predators||Predator insects are those that feed on other bugs. Predators are beneficial because they kill the bugs that can damage your plants, providing a natural, cost-free pest control for your lawn and garden.||Praying mantids|
Minute pirate bugs
Rough stink bugs
|Parasitoids||Parasitoid insects parasitize or suck the life out of other bugs to live. Like predator insects, parasitoids eliminate pests that damage home gardens and lawns. These bugs differ from predators because they develop on or within their hosts, eventually rendering them too weak to live.||Tachinid flies|
Now that you understand the roles of different beneficial bugs, it’s time to learn how you can lure them to your garden. The following sections list out 15 plants that attract these favorable bugs to your outdoor space.
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is an annual flower with small clusters of white blossoms. These flowers are native to the coastal Mediterranean regions, making them an excellent choice for rocky, sunny areas. They have shallow root systems and a mound-like appearance that serves as a seasonal ground cover for home gardens.
Sweet alyssum gets its name from its delightful honey-like smell. This sweet fragrance isn’t just attractive to garden visitors but also beneficial to insects like butterflies, flower flies, bees, and wasps. Each tiny flower head produces rich nectar that will summon pollinators aplenty.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a perennial flowering plant that’s as beneficial as it is beautiful. The plant produces lovely clumps of flowers in white, red, pink, and yellow hues. Yarrow grows best in full sunlight conditions and well-drained soil.
Yarrow is instrumental in home gardens because it attracts predators, pollinators, and parasitoids while repelling harmful insects like mosquitoes. The plant welcomes wasps that pollinate the plant and feed on nearby pests. It also attracts ladybugs that munch on pesky aphids, thrips, and mites.
Coneflowers (Echinacea) are herbaceous perennial plants that bloom in the summer and fall. They produce bold, cone-shaped florets in a wide range of colors. Coneflowers are relatively low-maintenance and will thrive in various soil and sunlight conditions.
Coneflowers are popular in pollinator gardens because they provide ample nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Along with feeding important pollinators, coneflowers provide a home for pollinator larvae like the silvery checkerspot butterfly and wavy-lined emerald moth.
They’re also attractive to feathery friends — birds will visit your garden to feast on their delicious seeds when the flowers dry out at the end of their growing season.
Marigolds (Tagetes spp.) are easy-to-grow flowering plants that will fill your garden beds with orange and yellow colors. They’ll bloom prolifically with full sun and well-drained soil until the first frost of the season.
Marigolds have a strong odor that deters furry pests like rabbits and deer from feasting their way through your garden. These flowers are especially beneficial in vegetable gardens because they repel insects like plant-parasitic nematodes, aphids, and beetles that damage crops. While repelling harmful bugs, they also attract good ones like hoverflies, parasitic wasps, and ladybugs.
Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) is a biennial wildflower known for its clustery white flowers and fern-like leaves. This plant is often called wild carrot because of its carrotty odor and edible roots. Queen Anne’s Lace is tolerant of many growing conditions, making it a solid choice for beginner gardeners.
The plant is so adaptable to various conditions that it’s registered as a noxious weed in over 35 states. Whether you deem it a weed or a flower, Queen Anne’s Lace attracts insects that are helpful to your garden plants. It’s attractive to many beneficial pollinators such as bees, wasps, and butterflies and hosts swallowtail butterfly larvae, helping them hatch and grow into beneficial pollinators.
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) is a perennial legume widely used for livestock feed and culinary recipes. The plant grows best in sunny areas with moderate heat and low humidity. With the right conditions and plenty of pollination, alfalfa will bloom abundantly, producing numerous legumes.
Alfalfa is prone to damage from many pests, including alfalfa weevils, aphids, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and Lygus bugs. However, the plants also attract beneficial insects like predatory ground beetles, lady beetles, big-eyed bugs, and numerous parasitoids that protect alfalfa and the plants around it.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is an aromatic perennial and member of the carrot family. This plant’s taste and fragrance have made it popular for culinary use in seasonings, salads, and soups. Fennel leaves have a distinct feathery appearance and bright green color that distinguishes them from other ornamental and vegetable plants.
Fennel plants are alluring to many good bugs such as lacewings, syrphid flies, and parasitic wasps that keep your garden free of pests. At the same time, this nifty bloomer naturally repels critters like snails, aphids, spider mites, and slugs that can chew holes through your plants.
Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.) is a member of the Asteraceae family of flowering plants. Tickseed is increasingly popular in plant nurseries for its bright yellow petals, dark center, and overall daisy-like appearance. This plant grows well in sunny climates with moderate rainfall and well-drained soil.
Like many other vibrant flowering plants, tickseed attracts important pollinators like bees and butterflies. The plant has a shallow flower head that provides easy access for short-tongued pollinators like honey bees. Tickseed’s wide floret of sturdy petals creates the perfect landing zone for other beneficial bugs like hoverflies and parasitic wasps that feed on pests.
Goldenrods (Solidago spp.) are late-summer bloomers with bright golden blossoms and spindly sage-colored stems. Many gardeners call this stunning flower “Sun Medicine” because of its diuretic and healing properties. The bold yellow pigment is also used to dye textile materials, making goldenrods not just beautiful but functional flowers.
Besides their usefulness in medical and artistic settings, goldenrods also usher beneficial insects into home gardens. The plant lures pollinators with its bright yellow flowers and attracts predators like goldenrod crab spiders, wasps, and pirate bugs.
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an herbal plant with seeds and sprouts used in recipes worldwide. The leafy part of the plant is called cilantro, which you can enjoy to spice up soups, salads, and countless other dishes. Regardless of which part of the plant you’re dealing with, it will have a strong fragrance ranging from nutty and spicy to tangy and citrusy.
Coriander’s aroma makes it incredible for pest management in the home garden. The plant has a fragrant nectar that attracts predators like syrphid flies and parasitic wasps. These insects eradicate mites, whiteflies, and aphids from your plants. During peak growing season, coriander produces delicate white flowers that are equally as attractive to pollinators.
Aromatic asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) are fall bloomers with stunning lavender, violet, and purple flower heads. They’re best suited to grow in sandy and rocky soils, making them well-adapted to many natural settings. These lovely perennials also work well in home gardens with well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight.
Consider planting asters in your garden if you want pollinators swarming your flower beds. Asters are of special value to native bee populations, gaining them recognition for attracting unprecedented numbers of beneficial bugs. Their pollen is vital for pollinators seeking nectar late in the season.
Zinnias (Zinnia elegans) are diverse flowers that grace the summer season with shades of purple, yellow, pink, and red. These plants are popular with home gardeners thanks to their easy maintenance, fast growth, and vibrant visual appeal.
Beneficial insects love zinnias, too; butterflies and bees will set your yard abuzz in a frenzy to feast on each zinnia’s sweet nectar. The plants are also alluring to predatory beetles, ladybugs, and parasitic wasps that will eliminate harmful pests. Vulcan Termite and Pest Control suggests planting zinnias near your vegetable garden to attract aphid-eating ladybugs.
Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.) are well-known ornamentals that grace farms and meadows throughout summer. These delightful flowers get their name from their large, brightly-colored flower heads that bloom in golden and bright yellow shades. They’re also coveted for their delicious seeds that can be dried and eaten as a nutritious snack.
Instead of eating seeds, beneficial insects flock to sunflowers to feast on pests and nectar. If you have a field of crops or even just a residential vegetable garden, consider planting a few rows of sunflowers nearby. These plants will add visual appeal to your space while also luring beneficial bugs like honey bees, lacewings, big-eyed bugs, and numerous parasitoids.
Tansy (Tanacetum spp.) is a perennial plant with a mounded, shrublike appearance. The plant can grow up to six feet tall, sprouting yellow button-like flowers in the late summer and early fall. Tansy is a fast-growing wildflower that you may see blooming along roadsides, in ditches, and within gravel walkways.
Although tansy is often considered a pesky weed, it has positive qualities no gardener should ignore. Tansy contains a toxic essential oil that deters harmful insects. It repels countless garden pests, including ants, mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and flies, while attracting beneficial insects like honey bees, minute pirate bugs, and parasitic wasps that love its aromatic scent and nectar.
Lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) is an annual wildflower with bell-shaped lavender blossoms. This ornamental sprouts long spiky stamens from each blossom, earning it the nickname “scorpion-weed.” Phacelia grows well in dry conditions with sandy soil and full sun. Be careful with this flower if you have sensitive skin; it’s known to cause itchiness and irritation.
When grown in a garden setting, lacy phacelia is excellent for attracting good bugs. The plant offers significant value for native bee species, honey bees, and bumblebees, making it an important food source for critical pollinators.
Whether you have an existing pest problem or just want to give your garden a little extra protection, the plants on this list can help. As lovely as they are functional, these plants offer both beauty and pest control to your outdoor area. Once you’ve planted a garden that beneficial bugs will love, you can sit back and enjoy the wonders of your natural space without having to breathe in insecticides.
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