Plants for flying insects

‘Summer in September’ lasted all of two weeks, but it’s been a great start to autumn, especially after the cool, wet summer we have experienced this year. The warmth of the past few weeks brought the garden to life with the welcome appearance of bees, butterflies and a myriad of other flying creatures.

One evening Ric and I were sitting with a ritual glass of wine looking at a patch of border that consisted of Persicaria amplicaulis ‘Jo & Guido’, Origanum ‘Herrenhausen’, Phlox paniculata ‘Luc’s Lilac’ and Sedum ‘Abbey Dore’. It was alive with the busy buzzing of at least a 200 little flying creatures. When I looked more closely it was interesting to see what they were feeding on. It was generally plants with little flowers, which if you think about it makes sense when you realise how many flowers there on a slender spike of persicarias or cluster of  Origanum flowers. It was also interesting to see that certain insects went to certain plants.

Scabious Butterfly Blue with Bumblebee


Bumblebees are some of the most delightful flying visitors to our garden. We have a number of different types, which include ones banded with white, with red bottoms and the ‘normal’ yellow ones. Bumblebees being heavy insects, seemed to prefer plants with sturdier flowers such as Origanum and ones with landing platforms like Scabiosa (Scabious) and Helenium (Sneezeweed).


On the other hand bees, which also come in different colours, are slight enough to find food in most plants, ranging from the hooded flowers of Aconitum (Monks hood) to the delicate upright spires of Persicaria (Bistort) and Salvia (Hardy Sages). Early in the year they are particularly attracted to Centaurea (Perennial cornflower), which starts flowering in May and continues on and off throughout the summer, especially when regularly cut back.

Echinacea and Tortoiseshell Butterfly


I love butterflies, they are so graceful and amongst the most frequently seen in the garden this year are Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies with the occasional Comma or Red Admiral. They feed on the same plants as bees and bumblebees, but they also gravitate to plants with large flowers that face upwards such as Echinacea (Conflower), Aster, Helenium (Sneezeweed) and Scabious. I’ve also found that late flowering plants with flat heads of small flowers such as Achillea (Yarrow), Verbena, Sedum (Ice plant) and Eupatorium (Joe Pye Weed) are attractive to them, providing butterflies with much required late food.


We must not forget the other flying creatures such as hoverflies of which there are many different types. These very useful flying insects (some types very generously eat aphids) have their favourites plants too. These including the soft yellow Scabiosa ochroleuca, scabious like Succisa pratensis (Devil’s bit scabious) and asters.

Here is a list of some plants that attract flying insects:

Achillea - Aster - Astrantia - Calamintha - Centranthus - Centaurea

Echinacea - Echinops - Eryngium - Eupatorium - Helenium - Monarda

Nepeta - Origanum - Persicaria - Pulmonaria - Salvia - Scabiosa

Stachys - Succisa - Symphytum - Verbena - Veronicas - Veronicastrums

If you are interested in buying plants for attracting butterflies and bees please visit our website



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