Flowers for Borders

Control pests by planting these flowers for borders and drawing beneficial insects into your garden.

By Cheryl Long


Plants for Pollen and Nectar

Basils (Ocimum basilicum)
Bachelor's buttons (Centaurea cyanus
Bee phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia)
Birds Eyes (Gilia tricolor)
Blue Lace Flower (Trachymene coerulea, aka Didiscus coeruleas)
Borage (Borago officinalis)
California poppy (Eschscholtzia californica)
Candytuft (Iberis umbellata)
Chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
Corn (Zea mays)
Corn poppy (Papaver rhoeas)
Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)
Dill (Anethum graveolens)
Lobelia (Lobelia erinus)
Meadow foam (Limnanthes douglasii)
Mexican sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia)
Pincushion flower, aka Sweet scabious (Scabiosa atropurpurea)
Signet ('Gem') marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia)
Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus)
Sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima)
Sweet marjoram (Origanum majorana)
Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Early research on flowers for beneficials has focused primarily on weeds and wildflowers growing around farms, to discover which of these plants farmers might encourage to help with pest control. Gradually, more ornamental plants are being identified, and we now have a very nice list you can choose from:

Asters (Aster alpinus and A. tartaricus )
Angelicas (Angelica )
Anise hyssop (Anastache foeniculum)
Basket of Gold (Aurinia saxatilis)
White lace flower, aka Bishop's weed (Ammi majus)
Blanketflowers (Gaillardia<.i>)
Blue cardinal flower (Lobelia syphilitica)
Bog rosemary (Andromeda polifolia)
Catmints (Nepeta)
Carpet bugleweeds (Ajuga)
Cinquefoils (Potentilla)
Comfrey (Symphytum)
Coneflowers (Echinacea)
Coral vine (Antigonon leptopus)
Coreopsis (Coreopsis)
Crimson thyme (Thymus serpyllum 'Coccineus')
Crocus (Crocus )
Cup plant (Silphium perfoliatum)
Evening primrose (Oenothera biennis)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium)
Garlic Chives (Allium tuberosum)
Golden marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria)
Goldenrod (Solidago)
Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus)
Korean mint (Anastache rugosa)
Lavenders (Lavandula)
Lavender globe lily (Allium tanguticum)
Lovage (Levisticum officinale)
Lupines (Lupinus)
Milkweeds (Asclepias)
Mountain Mints (Pycnanthemum muticum and P. virginianum)
Mints (Mentha)
Mountain sandwort (Arenaria montana)
Peonies (Paeonia)
Pincushion flower (Scabiosa caucasica)

Poppy mallow (Callirhoe involucrata)
Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota)
Rocky Mountain penstemon (Penstemon strictus)
Sea lavender (Limonium latifolium)
Sea pink (Armeria alliacea)
Stonecrops (Sedum kamtschaticum, S. spurim, S. album)
Fernleaf Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare var. crispum)
Teasel (Dipsacus) Thrift (Armeria maritima)
Green lace flower, aka Toothpick ammi (Ammi visnaga)
Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
Wood Betony (Stachys officinalis)
Yarrows (Achillea)
Patrinia (Patrinia)

Trees and Shrubs
Top choices include willows (for their early spring pollen to provide a food source and get overwintered beneficials off to a strong start), forsythia, firethorn, potentilla, ceanothus, four-winged saltbush (Atriplex canescens), euonymous, and Texas sage (Leucophyllum frutescens).

Cover Crops
Clovers and other soil-building cover crops provide pollen and nectar, alternate insect prey, and shelter. Crimson clover is as beautiful as any "regular" flower, and buckwheat is a standout because it grows very, very fast and has extrafloral nectaries that attract a wide variety of beneficials even before it begins blooming.

Plants that Shelter Beneficials
Clump-forming grasses:
Blue wildrye (Elymus glaucus)
Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens)
Orchard grass (Dactylis glomerata)
Tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia caespitosa)
Velvet grass (Holcus lanatus)

Permanent plantings of perennials, trees and shrubs.
Especially good are dense low-growing groundcovers, perennial cover crops, and certain perennial flowers with woody stems and/or dense crowns, such as yarrows, comfrey, and coneflowers. Comfrey provides highly attractive hibernation sites for spiders, with up to 240 spiders per square yard, compared to only 10 spiders per square yard in adjoining wheat fields.

These plant lists were compiled from a variety of scientific sources, including Enhancing Biological Control—Habitat Management to Promote Natural Enemies of Agricultural Pests, edited by Charles H. Pickett and Robert L. Bugg, and a 3-year study of 170 species of ornamental plants by Mohammed Al-Doghairi and Whitney Cranshaw, Ph.D. of Colorado State University.