How do you get the good bugs to come hang out in your garden?
The answer is simple: Grow what they like. I call this post The Ultimate Guide to Attracting Good Garden Bugs because there are certain plants that are super attractive to good bugs (ladybugs, flower flies, etc.). These good bugs drink the nectar from these plants and then prey on the bad insects that can do damage in your garden. Isn’t that awesome?
The Three Plant Families That Attract Good Garden Bugs
There are three plant families that are especially enticing to beneficial insects. I have all three of these plant families in my own cottage garden and I like them all. Let’s go through them now.
Mint Family Plants (Labiatae)
I know Mint has a bad reputation for being invasive, but I love it. It’s fun for children’s gardens and it is easy to pull out if it ends up somewhere you don’t want it. Mint is known for it’s square stems. You know the line from Ratatouille, Everyone can cook? Well, everyone can grow mint. Here’s some of my Chocolate Mint in a pot last year.
You can have a lot of fun with mint. There’s a mojito mint, an apple mint, a chocolate mint, peppermint mint, and so forth. There are tons of varieties. I usually grow a lighter fragranced mint like spearmint outside my front door and by my grill. When company stops to tour the garden, we can sip water or lemonade garnished with a little mint fresh from the garden. Cat mint (Nepeta) is also considered a mint. Finally, salvias are also in the mint family. This is my cat mint hedge at the back corner of the house.
Aster, Daisy & Sunflower Family Plants (Compositae)
I like to call this family of plants The Three Sisters. I bought many clumps of daisies from a farmer who sold them on Craigslist a few years back. Now they are everywhere. I wait til they start to bloom and then use them as cut flowers. Once they have seeded, I pull out the ones I do not want.
More daisies in the front porch garden.
Also in this family of plants, you’ll find artichokes, yarrow, and echinacea (cone flowers). And, don’t forget the species of this plant family we all reluctantly play host to; the dandelion.
Carrot Family Plants (Umbelliferae)
I always think “umbilical cord” when I see the term Umbelliferae. I know that when I snap the stems of plants in this family, they will be hollow like an umbilical cord. These plants are also known for having a tap root. Carrots, parsley, dill, sea holly, cilantro and fennel are just some of the plants that are part of this family. If you’ve ever picked Queen Anne’s Lace (QAL) and smelled the stem or root, it smells just like a carrot. I love it when QAL self-seeds into my garden, like it did in the photo below.
Install almost any plant from this family next to other plants and the neighboring plants will be healthier and happier. Almost every member of the carrot family of plants is a companion plant. Check out the ultimate resource on carrots at the online World Carrot Museum at carrotmuseum.co.uk. To attract good bugs, these plants must be allowed to flower.