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 and 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 early spring display as well as 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.
These stately annuals seem to provide the perfect shaped flower for insects and both them and the foxgloves will come back year after year.
4. Viper’s Bugloss
Another hardy annual, insects love this pretty purple flower. It’s even been called the ultimate bumblebee plant and 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, is lavender and it’s a great pollinator for honey bees too. There are so many varieties to choose from and we think it always adds that touch of romance to a garden.
If you’ve got the space, hawthorn with its white blossom which so typically heralds the arrival of spring is another great early flower which will help give our insects a boost.
A common garden staple that insects will love is the sedum. It’s hardy and comes in many varieties and because of its interesting shape, versatility and colour, it also makes a great addition to a garden.
With its dainty spring flowers which are also good pollinators, hellebore remains a firm favourite amongst many gardeners. Tolerant of shade, it is fairly easy to grow and again comes in many colours.
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.
Don’t forget your forget-me-nots with their delicate haze of blue throughout spring. Easy to grow and they’ll come back year after year.
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.
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.
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 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 sunflower 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.
Do you have a plant that insects just love? Tell us about it on our social media sites and let’s get the nation buzzing.