Insects, birds and small animals play a vital role in helping a healthy garden thrive. It’s important to encourage them into your garden and give them an environment that keeps them coming back time after time. The benefits from inviting wildlife into your garden range from a reduction in soil-borne disease to fruit, veg plants being pollinated more effectively and less ‘problem pests’ than before.
It’s really easy to do! There are many different species of insects, birds and small animals and their tastes in plants are diverse. So if you’re planning your planting with wildlife in mind, here’s 20 plants that they’ll enjoy to help get you started.
As spring arrives Crocuses are a great source of early pollination for our bees. Plant your bulbs in autumn and enjoy a beautiful hit of colour in an early spring display while giving insects that first helping the hand of the year.
Relatively quick-growing, fragrant and fairly easy to maintain, Honeysuckle is a great choice - particularly if you have a fence, wall shed or pergola for it to climb. The scent is incomparable if you are sat out of an evening.
These stately blooms seem to provide the perfect shaped flower for insects. Both insect and Foxgloves will come back year after year. It’s a lovely sight in spring to see busy bees climbing up into the bells.
4. Viper’s Bugloss
Another hardy annual. Insects love this bold purple- blue flower. It’s even been called the ultimate bumblebee plant! It flowers throughout midsummer and looks fantastic in a border in a sunny position.
Lavender is a wonderfully fragrant plant which is easy to grow in containers and a great pollinator for honey bees. There are so many varieties to choose from and it always adds a touch of romance to a garden. Its scent adds to the charm and it is known for its relaxing properties too.
If you’ve got the space then Hawthorn with its white blossom that typically heralds the arrival of spring, is another great early flower which will help give our insects a boost. This traditional hedge plant adds a delicate beauty to your springtime and the birds love the berries too.
A common garden staple that insects will love is the Sedum. It’s hardy, comes in many varieties and because of its shape, versatility and colour, it will also add interest to a garden.
With its early spring flowers that make good pollinators, Hellebore remains a firm favourite amongst many gardeners. It is tolerant of shade, fairly easy to grow and comes in many colours with interesting flowers to enchant any border.
Talking of shade, if you do have a wooded area, Bluebells are not only an iconic reminder of early summer with their heady smell and rich colour but once established, they’ll also spread and attract insects.
These large heads of flowers are perfect for growing from bulbs in containers or in a border and they’ll make a real statement as well as attracting insects. There is something fascinating about watching insects on these architectural flowers, and the resulting seed heads will continue to provide shape after the flowers go over.
These large heads of flowers are perfect for growing from bulbs in containers or in a border and they’ll make a real statement as well as attracting insects.
12. The Snapdragon
A short-lived perennial often grown as an annual. The Snapdragon conjures up images of typical English country gardens with bees buzzing contentedly, and just like the Foxglove it’s fun to watch them climbing in and out of the flower heads. They offer a huge range of colour, don’t take much space and are very easy to grow. What’s not to love?
We tend to think of the waving spikes of the Buddleia flower as a great butterfly attractor but they are also good for bees and other insects. Fast-growing, low maintenance and really attractive, if you have space, Buddleia is a great choice that will provide year after year.
14. Hardy Geraniums
Such a versatile and easy plant, the hardy Geranium comes in many shapes, colours and sizes and can be very useful for providing colour and cover in a large border. As an added bonus to these colourful blooms, insects love them too.
Your herb garden can provide a fragrant feast for insects and Mint is no exception. Again there are lots of varieties of Mint, (and don’t forget it can be invasive) but the summer flowers will keep your bees and other insects very happy.
While we’re in the herb garden, Marjoram is another useful herb which will double up as fuel for the bees. It’s perennial and self-seeding too, just to make your life easier!
Have you got a south-facing wall or pergola? Wisteria is just wonderful as it pours its fragrant and delicate blooms over your walls. It has protein-rich pollen and also comes in white as well as the traditional bluey purple.
Iris is an elegant flower that comes in all sorts of varieties. Some types of Iris will do well in ponds if you have a wet area where you need to add colour.
One of our favourites. Hollyhocks can grow to a staggering 10 feet and are so typical of an English cottage garden. They might take a little care (staking) but they are well worth the effort and insects will thank you.
20. The Sunflower
Dwarf or tall, these bright balls of yellow are not just a great mood lifter and supplier of oil and seeds but the bees love them too. Grow small varieties of Sunflowers in a pot or tall ones up against a wall and let them act as a beacon to bees.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of flowers and plants that will attract insects but they’re a great place to start. Insects play such a pivotal role in our ecology, it really is important that we do what we can to support them.