Did you know that there is a small group of flowers that not only feed the bees really well, but also attract beneficial insects to your garden? These five flowers can be the workhorse of your garden, feeding the bees with large amounts of nectar and pollen, while also driving away the “bad” bugs and pests from your garden and yard. I make sure to plant these five flowers every year.
Attracting beneficial insects to my yard is a cornerstone of my organic gardening method. Yes, I invite the bugs in by providing flowers I know they will like. Once the beneficial insects, such as hoverflies, lacewings, and ladybugs arrive, they will eat the destructive or “bad” bugs that love to eat my garden. These beneficial bugs keep the “bad” bugs in check and keep my gardens pest free. As a result, I don’t need pesticides. For more details on this method, see my post, How to Keep the Pests Away.
All of these five flowers and herbs are grown as annuals, so you can tuck them in anywhere. They are really flexible. The “fabulous five” all work great in a vegetable garden, where pest damage can be high.
For two varieties of basils that may feed the bees especially well, check out my post, Great Organic Gardening at Tower Hill + Best Bee Flowers. As gardeners we are commonly told to pinch off basil flowers to encourage more leaves. But doing so will deny the bees and bugs. So either go easy on the pinching or plant a patch of basil that you leave alone. Consider planting basil as an edging plant to provide a mass of flowers the bugs will love.
This pretty flower with lacy foliage comes in white, shades of pink, maroon and orange. Varieties range in height from 1-6 feet high. Cosmos is a tough flower that can take dry conditions. Avoid planting the “double-flower” varieties. With all of the extra petals, insects have a hard time reaching the nectar and pollen (if there is any). This is a flower that works well in many situations with many different flowers. I bet you can find a spot for it.
Even I didn’t love eating dill (I do), I would be sure to grow dill because it offers so much benefit for the bees and bugs. This herb is super easy to sow directly in the early spring or summer. Choose a full sun site with rich, well-drained soil. I like to sow it thick. A patch of it looks gorgeous. Dill will grow to about 2-3′ high. The ‘Bouquet’ variety is a bit shorter. Dill also benefits vegetables in the cabbage family when grown next to them.
Sunflowers, the annual variety, are native to North America and are easy to grow. A sunflower’s head is actually composed of hundreds of tiny flowers. It is a food bonanza for most bees and pollinators, offering a high-quality pollen and nectar. Tall or short, there are many sunflowers to choose from. Just be sure to avoid the pollen-less varieties which offer no nutritious pollen for the insects. For more information, see my post Every Bee Loves a Sunflower. Once the seeds develop, you can then feed the birds.
Easy to grow, a heavy bloomer with colorful blooms, zinnias are a gift to the gardener. Also a favorite among butterflies. Smaller zinnias can be used as edging and in containers. Zinnias grow best when directly sown in your garden. Can be grown in almost any soil, though additional compost will help them do well. A cheerful, fuss-free flower, with big benefits.
All of these flowers will work best when you plants lots of them! (See my post Bee Abundant in the Garden for more information on this.)
I typically grow these flowers from seed because I don’t have to worry about the plants being treated with herbicides or insecticides. This also gives you lots of flowers at a great value.
By growing these flowers the beneficial insects win, the bees win, and you win with a better garden. How cool is that?