Flowers add colour to the landscape and attract butterflies, hummingbirds and other wildlife. There are also several flowers that draw what are called beneficial insects to your garden. Beneficial insects such as ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles,flower flies and mini-wasp are among a group of insects that feed on other insects that are bad for your plants.
Insects feed on nectar for carbohydrates and pollen for protein and this provides tehm with the energy they need to search for prey and to reproduce. A selection of flowers that draw beneficial insects have a much better sources of nectar and pollen that sustain beneficial insects. In addition to getting rid of the insects you don’t want, many beneficial insects will also pollinate your fruit and vegetable crops.
The following decorative flowers that draw beneficial insects to your garden are also very easy to grow in our hardiness zone 3 here in Calgary.
Bachelor’s Buttons or Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)
This beautiful blue wildflower has extrafloral nectaries, which means the plant’s leaves release nectar even when the flowers are not blooming. Bachelor button nectar has a very high sugar content which is very attractive to flower flies, ladybugs, lacewings, and beneficial wasps. Sow the bachelor’s buttons seeds directly in the garden in fall or early spring. These flowers that draw beneficial insects to your garden will usually reseed themselves.
Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
The unique feature of this 6 to 8 foot tall native perennial is that it’s leaves wrap all the way around the stems, forming a deep cup that collects dew and rainwater making them flowers that draw beneficial insects and small birds who can easily use the leaves as landing pads, then drink from the cups. Cup plant has large attractive leaves and clusters of yellow flowers in mid to late summer.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Long-lasting fennel flowers are extremely attractive to all nectar-feeding beneficial insects, and the feathery green or purple foliage looks wonderful in spring and early summer. These flowers that draw beneficial insects are also a host plant for the caterpillars of the anise swallowtail butterfly. The plants grow about 5 feet high.
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)
Ladybugs, lacewings, flower flies, tachinid flies and mini-wasps are all attracted to this long-blooming perennial with bright yellow 2 inch daisies. Golden marguerite are popular flowers that draw beneficial insects because they thrives in poor soils, growing 2 to 3 feet high and wide.
Pussy Willows (Salix species)
Willows are especially valuable because they produce pollen very early in the spring, when most beneficial insects are just emerging. They are very easy to grow and the cut flower are great additions to flower arrangements. You can use cuttings from a neighbours’ shrub to re-root in water and plant in your own garden as wild flowers that draw beneficial insects.