"Flowers for borders" is the concept behind ground-breaking research and has revealed how gardeners can attract beneficial insects — ladybugs, lacewings, ground beetles and other insects that feed on pests — simply by planting certain flowers. We've been monitoring this research and compiling a list of plants that are both highly ornamental and proven effective in attracting and sheltering beneficials. Here's our exclusive special report on these beautiful and valuable plants.
To get energy to search for their prey, or to reproduce, many beneficial insects feed on nectar (for carbohydrates) and pollen (for protein) from flowering plants. Researchers are discovering that some flowers are much better sources of nectar and pollen to sustain beneficial insects than others. Studies are also revealing the best plants to grow for shelter to help good bugs thrive. And as an added bonus, many of the nectar sipping/pest-eating insects that are attracted to flower pollen will also pollinate your fruit and vegetable crops and increase your yields.
Here are the top ten ornamental plants we recommend for Beneficial Borders. All are very easy to grow and ideal choices even for new gardeners.
The 11 Best Plants for Beneficial Borders
1. Bachelor's Buttons or Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) This beautiful blue wildflower has extrafloral nectaries, which means the plant's leaves release nectar even when the flowers are not blooming. Research in Germany has found that bachelor button nectar has a very high sugar content of 75 percent. This nectar is highly attractive to flower flies, ladybugs, lacewings, and beneficial wasps. Sow easy-to-grow bachelor's buttons seeds directly in the garden in fall or early spring; plants usually reseed energetically.
Photo: (cc) Carl Lewis/Flickr