If you’re hoping to attract beneficial insects and animals to your garden, this post is for you!
Whenever I go out into my garden in the spring I see so many bees it’s hard to believe that they are in trouble.
In contrast, I just talked to my sister yesterday who said that she went on a walk in a residential area and while the landscapes were nice, there wasn’t a pollinator in sight.
We, humans, can create spaces that either repel beneficial insects and animals or attract them. I prefer to attract them!
Why Attract Beneficials?
Beneficial insects and animals are a must in a permaculture garden or any backyard ecosystem that thrives.
Bees, moths, butterflies, bats, beetles, hummingbirds, and others pollinate the flowers of fruiting plants like tomatoes, apples, cucumbers, berries, squashes, peppers, and melons.
Without pollinators, we’d have to do all that work ourselves!
Yes, pollinators may simply come to your garden because of your fruiting plants’ flowers, but depending on where you are, your garden may not be on local pollinators radar.
If you live in a city where there is little nature or a rural property near heavily sprayed farms, you may have a hard time getting pollinators to visit.
But even if you live in a decent location for pollinators, the more of them you can attract to your garden, the more fruit (or fruiting vegetables like tomatoes) you’ll get to harvest.
Additionally, with pollinator populations on the decline, it’s a great idea to provide a safe, chemical-free space for pollinators to live and feed.
Pollinators are not the only beneficials that can visit and improve your garden.
Beneficial insects, birds, and frogs or toads can help keep bad insect populations under control.
Beneficials help keep the garden in balance so that there is a lot less work and headache for the gardener!
How to Attract Beneficial Insects and Animals?
Some plants that are really amazing at attracting beneficial insects and Animals to the garden (listed below), but before we jump into that, let’s discuss the basics for attracting any beneficial.
The bottom line is beneficials will find their way to a location that provides them with the main things they need to survive:
Pretty basic, right? You can do this by:
- Leaving an unmanicured piece of your yard – bees, frogs, and other beneficials love to hide or nest in areas that are left unkempt. Brush piles, hollowed-out logs, and partially composted leaves make great homes for these creatures.
- Keeping trees or bushes available for birds – they will make nests in trees and use bushes for cover as they explore your yard.
- Offering water – Birdbaths, bee waterer, etc. can help give beneficials the water they need to stay in your garden area.
- Make sure you have something blooming at all times! If you plan your garden so that something is always in bloom, your pollinators won’t have any reason to leave.
- Use native plants – they’re more attractive to local insects because their lifecycles are generally synced. They’re also really easy to care for (since they have evolved in your area) making gardening easy for you!
- Plant a wide variety – they more variety in your garden, the more of a variety of beneficials you will attract.
- Don’t eradicate pest insects – remember that frogs, birds, and beneficial insects need pest insects to eat. If there are none, your beneficials will leave. This is one of many reasons not to spray the yard or garden with chemicals (though, even natural pest sprays can harm beneficial insects).
Doing these things in your yard will help entice beneficial insects and animals to make your yard their home.
18 Best Plants to Attract Beneficials to Your Garden
If you’re not sure what to plant in your yard to attract beneficial insects and animals, try these:
Purple Dead Nettle
This grows wild in many areas, so you may not need to plant any. It’s one of the first foods for bees (even before dandelions) so it’s a great addition to a homestead.
This edible and medicinal flower is one of my favorites. Bees and other pollinators also love it (probably because the blooms are beautiful (bright!) yellow and orange).
Another edible and medicinal flower, nasturtium attracts bees to the garden as well as acts as a sacrificial plant for pest insects (pests love it so much they leave the other plants alone).
Borage blooms in late spring and through the summer. It attracts bees and parasitic wasps as well as repels pest insects.
Borage flowers are usually a beautiful blue color but can be pink or white too. The leaves and flowers are edible and used medicinally.
The good old dandelion (dandy flower as my kids like to call it!) attracts lacewings, ladybugs, and bees. It’s also an edible and medicinal flower but this one generally grows wild.
In the spring, avoid mowing your lawn to let the dandelions grow and feed the bees.
Also known as butterfly weed, milkweed attracts — you guessed it — Butterflies!
Milkweed blooms in the summer and into the fall depending on the variety. The flowers are tiny and star-like and they smell wonderful!
With colorful, starlike blooms, daisies attract bees and butterflies and are edible by humans too.
They are one of the easiest flowers to grow, so they’re great for beginners. Daisies bloom in late spring and summer.
A perennial herb, yarrow is a great choice in the garden. It has medicinal uses, attracts beneficials, acts as ground cover, and is pretty!
Yarrow attracts ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps.
This flower (a head made from tiny flowers) blooms in spring and summer with some varieties continuing to bloom through fall.
Like yarrow, dill flowers are really a head made of tiny flowers. I love dill in fermented pickles and greek recipes. This herb attracts ladybugs, lacewings, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps.
Dill blooms in summer around the time that cucumbers are ready for picking.
If you know me you know that I simply adore lavender. It’s such a versatile herb and is incredibly gentle.
But lavender is also helpful in the garden. This perennial attracts hoverfly, parasitic wasps, and bees.
It also repels pest insects, making it a well-rounded addition to the homestead garden.
Lavender blooms 2 or 3 times throughout the growing season.
These late bloomers (fall) are another of my favorites. Just when you think they aren’t going to bloom before it frosts, they do!
Zinnias attract hoverfly and parasitic wasps and look beautiful in a table arrangement.
Goldenrod is a pretty yellow flower cluster that often grows alongside ragweed.
For this reason many people believe they are allergic to goldenrod (it’s probably the ragweed!). Goldenrod attracts butterflies, bees, parasitic wasps, syrphid flies, tachinid flies, and soldier beetles.
Goldenrod blooms in late summer into fall which is why it’s an important food source for migrating butterflies.
Mint is a tasty addition to a summer dish (it’s great with lamb!) as well as the garden.
This herb grows well in shady areas, so it’s great for anyone trying to grow in a small yard with little sun. Mint attracts parasitic wasps and repels pest insects.
Chamomile’s small white flowers are a great sight in the garden. I use chamomile for relaxing tea among other medicinal uses.
Chamomile flowers attract hoverflies, parasitic wasps, ladybugs, and honey bees. This plant blooms in summer and stays up until the first frost.
Parsley is a great addition to the herb garden for its many medicinal and culinary uses.
Most don’t think of parsley as attracting beneficial but butterflies really love it.
Leave it in the garden after it flowers to help feed the late-season beneficial.
With a name like bee balm it must attract bees, right? But bee balm also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
This perennial has blooms that are red, pink, purple, and white which bloom mid to late summer.
While not one single plant, fruit trees had to make the list. Fruit trees like plums, apples, crabapples, peaches, cherries, and pears are amazing for attracting pollinators.
They also offer birds a place to build their nests. Fruit trees are a great addition to any homestead but take a long time to get established so it’s best to plant them yesterday (or today if you can’t time travel!).
Berry bushes give birds cover in your garden and also offer food.
Some gardeners try to keep birds away from their berry bushes, but in my experience, there is enough to share when there are many other food sources as well.
Blueberries, elderberries, raspberries, huckleberries, and gooseberries are some of the delicious berries you can grow.
Attracting Beneficial Insects and Animals to the Garden can Be Easy!
If you need to bring more beneficials into your yard and garden, consider planting some of the above plants.
Start with one this year and add more each year as you can. Most plants that are good for beneficials also have other uses like food, medicine, or pest repelling so there’s no reason not to!
More Gardening Resources
Are you looking for more resources on growing an abundant garden (with as little work as possible)? Check out these blog posts:
- Organic Gardening 101
- Permaculture Gardening for Beginners
- Composting 5 Ways
- How to Build Raised Beds
- Best Vegetables to Grow for Beginners
And if you’re ready to jump in with a guided plan for your homestead, join Our Inspired Roots Academy where you will learn how to grow and preserve food as well as homestead management and other important topics (all from a permaculture perspective!!).
What are your tried and true ways to attract beneficial insects and animals?