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17 Plants That Attract Beneficial Insects

Looking to update your garden and add more plants that attract beneficial insects? This post outlines 17 plants and flowers I have in my yard to help attract bees, butterflies, ladybugs, and more beneficial bugs to help keep my garden happy!

17 flowers & plants I’ve added that attract beneficial insects in my garden!

Hey everyone! I was walking through my garden the other day and, after realizing that I had taken about 30 pictures of my flowers, realized I should probably do something with them. Since most of the flowers in my garden are plants that attract beneficial insects, I decided to write a post about that!

Who am I kidding, though…it’s really an excuse to show off my flowers this season 😉 But if you’re looking for something to help feed nature’s good bugs (and attract them to battle the bad bugs!), this is the post for you. I am sharing 17 plants and flowers I’ve added to my garden to attract beneficial bugs.

monarch butterfly on a red zinnia
backyard with zinnias, daisies, and moonflower vine

1. Zinnias (Zinnia Elegans)

Let’s start off with zinnias—perhaps one of the most beloved annuals around. The scientific name for zinnia flowers is Zinnia elegans. Zinnia is the genus name. There are tons of different types of zinnias, and they are super easy to grow. (Learn about growing beautiful zinnias.)

You can start them inside or just sprinkle seeds in the ground. They come in lots of different colors, and they make fantastic cut flowers. And they enjoy full sun. They make a no-brainer to your garden, whether it’s in the ground or in pots. I’ve done both.

And they aren’t just showy. As far as attracting beneficial insects, zinnias are known for attracting bees, butterflies, ladybugs, lacewings, parasitic wasps, and more. And it’s super easy to harvest zinnia seeds to save for next year, too.

giant purple zinnia
yellow zinnia
polar bear zinnia

2. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia Maritima)

Another plant I like adding to the garden is sweet alyssum. It is scientifically known as lobularia maritima, and it’s a low-growing perennial herb native to the Mediterranean. However, where I live it’s an annual, meaning I have to plant it every year.

You can usually buy plugs of these in cheap market packs. This year, I got white, purple, and magenta. They spread nicely, so they look great planted around taller flowers (like zinnias). Sweet alyssum has a lovely fragrance and can tolerate a variety of lighting conditions from full sun to partial shade.

This lovely low grower also produces a lot of nectar, meaning it attracts beneficial insects all spring and summer. These insects include bees, hover flies, lacewings, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and more.

white sweet alyssum
white sweet alyssum

3. Yarrow (Achillea Millefolium)

Yarrow, also known as achillea millefolium, is a perennial herbaceous plant that belongs to the Asteraceae (aka daisy) family. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America and is known for feathery foliage and clusters of tiny gorgeous flowers that can be white, yellow, pink, or purple.

Yarrow is a hardy and adaptable plant that can tolerate a range of growing conditions like poor soil, drought, and full sun. It’s a perennial where I live, meaning it will come back on its own every spring. I have a gorgeous magenta type, and I want to add yellow this year as well.

Yarrow’s nectar-rich flowers provide a valuable food source for beneficial bugs and help with pollination and natural pest control. Bees, butterflies, hover flies, lacewings, ladybugs, parasitic wasps, and more will move into yards with yarrow.

pink yarrow plant
umbel of pink yarrow flowers
pink yarrow

4. Lavender (Lavandula)

Lavender is a flowering plant in the genus lavandula, which is actually part of the mint family. You’ll encounter tons of different species and cultivars at your local garden center. Different types of lavender can be annuals and perennials, even in the same grow zone.

I grow many types of lavender because I absolutely love the smell of lavender. Lavender flowers can range in color from pale lavender and purple to blue, pink, or white.

Many gardeners add lavender to their gardens because of its fragrance and flowers—but it also generally has pretty good drought tolerance and attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies. Oh—and you can dry it and save it for other projects!

large bushy lavender plant in bloom
lavender bloom

5. Dill (Anethum Graveolens)

You probably think of pickles when you think of dill (aka anethum graveolens, which I just learned while writing this post!). And I definitely use the dill in my garden to make spicy fridge pickles! But it’s good for so many other things, too.

Dill belongs to the apiaceae (carrot) family and is native to the Mediterranean area and Western Asia. It is relatively easy to grow in full sun and well-draining soil. I have mine in my raised beds, my GreenStalk vertical garden, and in the ground throughout my yard.

This common herb produces clusters of small, yellow flowers that eventually turn into seeds. These clusters of flowers attract beneficial insects like butterflies, bees, and predatory wasps, making it a no brainer. Save the seeds for next year, too!

greenstalk vertical garden
dill in bloom to attract pollinators

6. Cilantro (Coriandrum Sativum)

Cilantro, aka coriandrum sativum, is also an herb in the carrot family. Coriander and cilantro are the same thing—coriander is just the plant’s dried seeds, not the highly aromatic leaves (love them or hate them).

Generally if you want to harvest leaves on your cilantro, you shouldn’t let it flower and “go to seed.” However, if you want the beneficial insects, let that bad boy flower! The little white clusters are pretty and remind me of baby’s breath–and they are a food source for bugs.

cilantro in bloom to attract pollinators
cilantro in bloom to attract pollinators

7. Geraniums (Pelargonium)

My parents are gardeners, so I have always grown up around plants. And geraniums, perhaps more than any other plant, have a smell that can throw me right back into my childhood backyard. Deadheading them is one of my favorite gardening tasks for that reason.

Geraniums can come in many different colors. I have yellow and orange planted in the garden right now. You can pick up a market pack of geraniums for pretty cheap, making them an easy addition to the garden.

I have mine planted around the raised garden beds since they are generally good at repelling some garden pests. (But not bunnies. Bunnies definitely hop right past them and into my lettuce beds.)

And in addition to repelling garden pests, they also attract a variety of beneficial insects. They aren’t known as the best plant to use to attract beneficial insects, though. Despite this, given how easy they are to grow and some other pest deterrent properties they have, I still recommend working them into your garden!

orange geranium
yellow geranium

8. Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus)

Bachelor’s button, aka or centaurea cyanus is native to Europe. It’s a perennial where I live, and it spreads pretty prolifically! I actually got my plant by digging up one from my mom’s garden. It’s one of my newer perennials this year.

Its flowers are small, interesting, and bright blue. It is a flower I associate with English gardens—whether or not that’s the case, I don’t know 🙂 But the flowers do a wonderful job of attracting bees, butterflies, hover flies, beetles, moths, and more.

Bachelor's button

9. Milkweed (Asclepias)

Milkweed refers to a group of plants that belong to the genus asclepias. There are over 100 different types of milkweed, and they are native to North America. Milkweed is generally known for its importance as a host plant for monarch butterflies—but it offers so much more!

Milkweed plants vary in size and bloom color depending on the type. The flowers are small and clustered in umbels. They are fragrant and come in white, pink, orange, and purple.

If you’re a houseplant fan and have hoyas, you’ll immediately see the similarities. Milkweed plants and hoyas (genus hoya) are both members of the Apocynaceae family—aka the dogbane family. They are related and share some botanical characteristics.

In addition to being the only host for monarch butterfly eggs and caterpillars, milkweed flowers produce abundant nectar, making them a solid choice for attracting other types of butterflies, bees, beetles, hover flies, lacewings, and more.

milkweed plant
white milkweed bloom

10. Sunflowers (Helianthus Annuus)

How could I not include sunflowers? Sunflowers, the scientific name for which is helianthus annuus, are a classic garden flower. And they are very easy to grow, growing quite quickly and prolifically.

I recently learned that sunflowers exhibit something called heliotropism, too. This means they track the movement of the sun throughout the day. In the morning, the flower heads face east and gradually follow the sun’s path across the sky until they are facing west by evening.

Sunflower heads are large and provide a ton of nectar. It’s also easy to pollinators to access this nectar given the structure of the plant’s flower heads. Add sunflowers if you’d like to attract bees, butterflies, hover flies, beetles, and even seed-eating birds.

petite sunflower in bloom

11. Cosmos (Cosmos)

Cosmos are another of the common plants that attract beneficial insects. I will be honest—they actually aren’t among my favorite annuals to grow! I feel like the blooms die off so quickly, and I always get behind in deadheading them.

Nonetheless, I still grow them in my garden. Why? Because they are really pretty when they are in bloom. And they made great cut flowers. Oh—and the open flower structure on cosmos make them absolute magnets for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial bugs.

bright pink cosmo flower
white cosmos in bloom

12. Tickseed (Coreopsis)

Tickseed, aka coreopsis, is another of the newer perennials I’ve added to my garden this spring. I loved the look of the feathery leaves, and I’d been looking for some yellow additions to the garden when I found a yellow tickseed variety (though they can come in different colors).

Native to North American prairies, meadows, and woodlands, tickseed blooms quite prolifically from spring through summer. The flowers also last quite a while before needing to be dead-headed. And they attract a wide variety of beneficial insects and pollinators.

Coreopsis
tickseed

13. Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susans, aka Rudbeckia plants, are a must-have for any Maryland gardener. After all, it’s our state flower here in America’s BEST state! 🙂 And it’s another yellow perennial to add to your garden.

Native to North America, black-eyed Susans produce yellow or orange flowers with dark brown or black “eyes” in the center. Much like tickseed, they also grow wild in fields, prairies, and meadows across the continent.

No matter the type of black-eyed Susan you choose, the abundant nectar and pollen in each flower makes the plants valuable food sources for beneficial bugs like bees and butterflies. I have them planted in three places in my garden.

black-eyed Susan

14. Salvia (Salvia)

Salvia is a genus of flowering plants in the mint family. There are many different types of salvia, including annuals, perennials, and shrubs. Salvia plants are known for their colorful and often fragrant flowers. Many types of salvia flowers are purple, blue, or red.

Salvia flowers are highly attractive to pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. The tubular shape of the flowers and their nectar-rich blooms make them ideal buffets. The upright shape of the flowers also makes them a nice addition to arrangements.

purple salvia

15. Cone Flowers (Echinacea)

Coneflowers, also known as echinacea, are native to North America and are prized for their showy, daisy-like flowers with cone-shaped centers. They can be many different colors, including purple, pink, white, yellow, red, and more. I have pink and red right now.

Pollinators and beneficial insects love coneflowers because of their nectar-rich flowers and accessible cone centers. If you love butterflies, add coneflowers! Because they love coneflowers.

purple coneflower
orange coneflower

16. Shasta Daisies (Leucanthemum x Superbum)

I really love white flowers, so adding shasta daisies (leucanthemum x superbum) to the yard was a no brainer—especially because it’s a perennial where I live. Shasta daisies are a hybrid variety of daisies named after Mount Shasta in California. They have large, showy flowers and bloom profusely.

Shastas have a larger and more pronounced appearance compared to other daisies. However, like other daisies, Shastas have open flower heads that provide abundant nectar and pollen. This attracts a variety of beneficial insects including bees, butterflies, hover flies, ladybugs, and lacewings.

shasta daisies

17. Aster (Aster)

Fall might mean many of the plants that attract beneficial insects are past their peak bloom time. Some flowers might be hanging on, but they’re also probably looking a bit worse for the wear. Enter fall’s favorite flower: aster!

Aster is a genus of flowering plants native to various regions around the world. Their adorable star-shaped flowers bloom prolifically in the fall in shades of white, pink, purple, blue, and yellow. My large aster is a gorgeous purple/blue.

Asters are highly attractive to pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. They are particularly valuable as late-season nectar sources when many other flowers have finished blooming.

purpleish-blue aster flowers
white aster flowers
purpleish-blue aster flowers

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collage of flowers that says 17 things I've planted to attract beneficial bugs!
collage of flowers that says 17 plants I've added to attract beneficial bugs!

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  1. Loji says:

    I love flowers and I love to grow veggies so this is fun reading for me. Thanks! 🙂

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