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Plants that invite beneficial insects into your garden.

CHOOSE THE RIGHT plants, and you can encourage beneficial insects--those good bugs that feast on such garden pests as aphids and whiteflies--to stop and stay awhile in your garden.

What are the right plants? They're ones that offer beneficial insects the food and shelter they need for survival. Beneficial insects' preferred food source is other insects, but to complete their life cycles they also require pollen and nectar, which they dine on when the pest insect population is low.

The plants listed at right offer a haven for beneficial insects. Plant them in flower borders or use them to edge vegetable plots.

Insectary plants generally come from the carrot, daisy, and pinks families and bear small, shallow flowers. Luckily for gardeners, these include many favorite border flowers such as cosmos, sweet alyssum, and yarrow.

The key to attracting beneficials is a diverse planting. Mix many different plants; the broader the spectrum of food and shelter you provide, the greater the variety of insects your border will attract. Plan to have something in flower all year, so the insects are not forced to find pollen and nectar sources outside your garden. To offer a continuous food source, select plants such as feverfew and common fennel for a long bloom season, and plants such as buckwheat and corn cockle for late-fall bloom.

While the benefits of planting to attract beneficials have not been widely evaluated, one recent study conducted by University of California researcher Bill Chaney proved that planting rows of white sweet alyssum between rows of lettuce actually increased the number of beneficial insects that visited the plantings. It also suppressed aphids on lettuce crops 50 feet away.

As you experiment with plants to attract beneficials, remember that the goal is not complete elimination of pests, but keeping their numbers down so that damage to plants is at a tolerable level.

15 plants for beneficial insects


Baby blue eyes (Nemophila menziesii). Blue flowers on 6-to 10-inch plants; blooms March to May. Attracts: parasitic wasps, pirate bugs.

Bishop's weed (Ammi majus). Similar to Queen Anne's lace; blooms April to October. Attracts: parasitic wasps, pirate bugs, syrphid flies.

Coriander (Coriandrum satirum). Small white flowers on fine-textured plant; blooms May and June. Attracts: hover flies, parasitic wasps, pirate bugs.

Corn cockle (Agrostemma). Tall, wispy plants with pink cuplike flowers; blooms November through April where winters are mild, May to August elsewhere. Attracts: lady beetles, parasitic wasps.

Cosmos (C. bipinnatus). White works best; 1- to 4-foot ferny foliage; blooms April to November. Attracts: insidious flower bugs, lacewings, lady beetles.

Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima). White to purple flowers on 6- to 8-inch plants; blooms all year in mild-winter areas. Attracts: hover flies, lacewings, parasitic wasps, pirate bugs.

Tidytips (Layia platyglossa). Yellow and white flowers on 5- to 16-inch plants; blooms March to August. Attracts: parasitic wasps, pirate bugs.


Buckwheat (Eriogonum). White, yellow, pink, and rose flowers on 1- to 4-foot plants; blooms May to October or later. Attracts: hover flies, pirate bugs.

Common fennel (Foeniculum vulgare). Soft, ferny foliage; yellow, flat flower clusters; blooms April to November. Attracts: hover flies, lacewings, lady beetles, paper wasps, soldier bugs.

Coreopsis. Yellow, orange, and maroon flowers on plants 1 to 3 feet tall; blooms May to September. Attracts: hover flies, lacewings, lady beetles, parasitic wasps.

Crown pink (Lychnis coronaria). Soft gray foliage on 2-foot plants; magenta, pink, and white flowers; blooms April to August. Attracts: hover flies, parasitic wasps.

Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium). White daisy flowers on 1- to 3-foot plants; blooms from April to September or later. Attracts: hover flies.

Rue (Ruta graveolens). Beautiful blue-gray foliage, yellow flowers; blooms in early summer. Attracts: mud wasps, parasitic wasps, potter wasps.

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare). Yellow flowers on plants 2 to 3 feet tall with ferny foliage; blooms June and July. Attracts: lacewings, lady beetles, parasitic wasps, pirate bugs.

Yarrow (Achillea). Pink, yellow, red, lavender, and white flowers; blooms April to September. Attracts: lady beetles, parasitic wasps.
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Author:Lincowski, Emely
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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