20 Plants to Encourage Beneficial Insects in your Garden

This post was most recently updated on April 7th, 2020

Part of permaculture is the art of growing plants to benefit everyone, and to attract beneficial insects to help control pests and disease without sprays. There are some specific plants that encourage beneficial insects to move in to and stay in your garden.

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What are beneficial insects?

Beneficial insects sit into two main categories:

  1. Those that affect pollination where that is required in the fertilisation of flowers to produce seeds; this may be for food crops.
  2. Those that prey on other insects that can be pests to the gardener or grower. In other words they carry out natural pest control.

This last activity is what the whole principle of biological control is based upon.

The idea is that you introduce one bug which eats another bug. By encouraging beneficial insects in your garden you can achieve this naturally by encouraging a balanced environment where there are predators and prey for them to feed upon. 

These beneficial or ‘good’ insects eat or otherwise prey on garden pests. Sweet alyssum attracts hoverflies, and their larvae eat aphids.

When you mix a bunch of these beneficial plants, your attract a range of beneficial insects.

RELATED: 40 plants to attract bees

How do you attract beneficial insects in to your garden?

Here are some simple steps the gardener can take to encourage beneficial bugs in to your garden:

1. Avoid chemical insecticides

This is especially those broad-spectrum pest killers that kill any insect. These will kill off beneficial insects as well as those they prey upon which are probably the pests you want to ill.

Also, if you keep using them eventually a bug may develop a resistance and re-establishes itself.

 If you do need to use a pesticide at all, try and use a natural organic one that is non-residual in the environment. Use only in early morning or late evening. Be sure to use it selectively, as a contact pesticide sprayed directly on to the pest you are trying to kill.

2. Plant a wide variety of nectar and pollen plants in your garden.

These will provide food throughout the year for bees, pollinators and other beneficial insects. 

See below for a selection of plants that work really well for this. Plant in larger groups as makes the flowers easier for the insects to find.

3. Use all the layers and space with your plantings

Include a variety of trees, shrubs and climbers in your garden. This is because, the more habitats you provide, the greater the variety of insects that are likely to move in. 

RELATED: How to grow the BEST strawberries

4. Include native plants in your garden.

These are more likely to be the food plants and breeding ground for native beneficial insects. 

Often native woody plants can be incorporated into hedgerows. Why not just let the clover and other small leaved flowering plants to invade your lawn. 

5. Don’t be too tidy but avoid bare ground.

Nature hates bare ground. Bare soil leaves ground dwelling bugs exposed and they are less likely to move around looking for food. But in the same vein, keeping things too tidy removes the hiding places for beneficial insects.

6. Provide an insect house for beneficial insects

This is easily constructed from canes, twigs, cones, bricks and timber. Or you can get one like this:

If you want to make your own, old pallets make a great base and this can be an attractive feature. 

7. Make sure there is a water supply

Insects, including bees, need water as much as they need food. They will drink from shallow puddles; you could provide saucers filled with stones and clean water.

What plants to sow to attract beneficial insects by season

The aim is to provide the food – nectar and pollen that the beneficial insects need right through the growing seasons. Try to choose plants that flower at different times to keep the food source up.

Spring

Coriander

Mustard

Mizuna

Radish

Rocket

Phacelia

Early Summer

Alyssum

Asian brassicas – pak choy and bok choy

Borage

Comfrey

Coriander

Dill

Fennel

Monarda

Phacelia

Mid Summer

Alyssum

Asian brassicas – pak choy and bok choy

Borage

Buckwheat

Catmint

Comfrey

Coriander

Dill

Fennel

Monarda

Phacelia

Late Summer / Early Fall

Alyssum

Borage

Buckwheat

Catmint

Goldenrod

Oregano

Phacelia

What plants to grow to attract different beneficial insects

Different species of beneficial insects prefer different types of plants.

Plants to attract Hoverflies

Achillea

Alyssum

Anthemis tinctoria

Buckwheat

Coriander

Dill

Feverfew

Golden rod

Mustard

Phacelia

Parsley

Plants to attract Lacewings

Achillea

Angelica

Anthemis tinctoria

Buckwheat

Canola

Caraway

Coreopsis

Coriander

Dill

Feverfew

Goldenrod

Mustard

Pak choi

Sunflower

Plants to attract Ladybirds

Achillea

Alyssum

Angelica

Buckwheat

Calendula

Caraway

Chives

Coreopsis

Coriander

Cosmos

Dill

Fennel

Feverfew

Goldenrod

Plants to attract parasitic wasps

Buckwheat

Canola

Coreopsis

Dill

Fennel

Queen Anne’s Lace

Mustard

Pak choi

Zinnia

 
If you would like help getting the most out of your garden, I would love to help you, find out more here

RELATED: Free Gardening Resources

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For further reading, I also recommend all of these books. I own every one of them and they are amazing resources!

 

 

 

 

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