Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
April, 2012
Regional Report

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These cilantro blooms provide nectar for this syrphid fly whose larvae eat aphids.

Another Reason to Grow Flowers

We plant flowers for many reasons. They add beauty to the landscape and garden. Some provide wonderful fragrance. Some are suitable for cutting so they can be brought indoors to be enjoyed inside the home. Cut flowers make a nice gift for friends. Just the planting and care of flowers is a rewarding endeavor that gives us a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

Many gardeners plant flowers to attract butterflies. Others plant flowers to attract hummingbirds. I'll bet you will find at least one of the above reasons alone to warrant including flowers in your gardening plans this year.

There is another reason to plant flowers. Some kinds of flowers provide food for beneficial insects. The insects that attack pests in our garden and landscape often rely on flowers as a source of energy and nutrients. Have you ever thought of planting a flower garden for beneficial insects?

I don't plant just a garden of just these types of flowers, but I do scatter them about my landscape and garden areas. Beneficial insects will inhabit your property if there is something for them to eat. What they eat depends on the species and the life stage such as larvae or adult. Larvae generally feed on the pest. Some adult beneficials also feed on pests while others feed on flower nectar or pollen.

Lady beetles are an example of a beneficial insect that feeds on pests in both the larval and adult stage. Tiny parasitoid wasps and syrphid (hover) flies are examples of beneficials that feed on pests when they are larvae but turn to flowers for sustenance when they become adults.

The statement, "If you build it they will come," applies here. When you grow flowers they like you will see these "good guys of the garden" hanging out at your place!

An internet search will yield many lists of flowers to plant for beneficial insects. Basically I group the flowers into three groups: small daisy-like flowers, flowers with "umbrella-shaped" bloom clusters, and other small blooms.

Among the small daisy-like blooms are chamomile, coreopsis, feverfew, copper canyon daisy, fall asters, and even larger blooms like black-eyed susan and coneflower.

Flowers with umbrella-shaped bloom clusters include yarrow, dill, fennel, coriander (cilantro) and anise.

This brings us to the "other small blooms". You may have noticed that the above list contains some herbs. In fact there are many herbs that will attract beneficials. The blooms of onion chives and garlic chives will be all abuzz with beneficial insects. The small blooms of thyme, rosemary, mint, oregano, basil, rue are also popular with many beneficial insect species.

Even our vegetable gardens are potential flower patches of tasty nectar. Each year I allow some broccoli to bloom. A few carrots are left in the ground to send up their umbrella-like bloom stalk. The same goes for a few lettuce plants.

I find it fascinating to see all the types of beneficial insects visiting these blooms around the garden and landscape. Scattered about these plants amount to feeding stations for the insects helping me with the task of managing the pests that would consider my plants their salad bar!

Try adding some more flower to your landscape this spring -- flowers that will draw many types of beneficial insects to stop in for a rejuvenating sip, and maybe hang around to raise their pest-eating young on your plants.

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