I would like to add flowers to my vegetable garden to attract more pollinators. What species should I plant?
Plants in the daisy and carrot families have flowers that are the most attractive to pollinators. Daisy family flowers have the typical button center that is surrounded by strap-like petals. Marigolds also have the added benefit of deterring several plant pests. Bees are attracted to blue flowers, so blue asters are a good choice for drawing in bees. Asters, zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers are easy to grow and are readily sold in packs at most big box stores, or they can be planted from seed.
The flowers of the carrot family plants are less familiar since most of them are biennials and we harvest them before they develop flowers, as in the case of carrots, parsnips, celery and parsley. If left to mature, these plants will produce an upside-down umbrella-shaped flower (think of Queen Anne’s lace). Easy to grow carrot family annuals include dill and cilantro. In addition to attracting pollinators, the leaves and seeds can be harvested for culinary uses (the seed of cilantro is coriander).
Nasturtiums are also beneficial additions to the vegetable garden. The tubular flowers in shades of red, yellow, and orange are particularly attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. They also help repel annoying vegetable pests like squash bugs and Japanese beetles. The leaves and flowers of nasturtiums are edible and add a spicy flavor to salads.
Answered by Sue Gwise, horticulture educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County. Contact her at 315-788-8450 or firstname.lastname@example.org.