12 Plants to Attract Ladybugs for Natural Garden Pest Management

ladybugs Mar 23, 2024
plants that attract ladybugs

Are you ready to transform your garden into a buzzing, blooming paradise while keeping those pesky pests at bay? Well, get excited because we're about to dive into the wonderful world of ladybugs and the twelve plants that will have them flocking to your garden like it's the hottest spot in town!

Types of Ladybugs

First things first, let's talk ladybugs! These delightful little beetles come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. From the classic red-and-black spotted beauties to the lesser-known varieties sporting stripes or even solid colors, ladybugs are like the superheroes of the garden world. With over 5,000 species worldwide, there's bound to be a ladybug or two (or twenty) just waiting to lend a helping hand in your garden.

Some of my favorites are the seven-spot ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) or the mealybug destroyer. Ironically, the larvae of the mealybug destroyer (Cryptolaemus montrouzieri) which eats mealybugs and scales actually looks like a large mealybug. The harlequin or Asian ladybug (Harmonia axyridis) is an invasive species and although it is a voracious pest eater, it outcompetes native species and will often overwinter en masse in homes becoming a nuisance.

Ladybug Life Cycle

Now, let's take a peek into the fascinating life cycle of these garden heroes. Ladybugs start as tiny eggs, usually laid in clusters on the undersides of leaves. From there, they hatch into hungry larvae, which are like little pest-predating machines! After munching their way through aphids, scale insects, and other garden nuisances, they enter the pupal stage before emerging as fully-fledged adult ladybugs. It's like a mini superhero transformation happening right in your garden!

Knowing what each stage looks like is super important, especially if you are getting ready to manage your pests with pesticides.

Pests that Ladybugs Eat

Speaking of pests, ladybugs are voracious predators with a serious appetite for garden troublemakers. Aphids, scale insects, mealybugs, mites—you name it, ladybugs will gobble it up like it's their favorite snack. Ladybugs devour up to 50 aphids per day, or 5,000 during their lifetime.

By keeping these pests in check, ladybugs help maintain the delicate balance of your garden ecosystem without the need for harmful chemicals. Talk about a win-win situation!

When You Will See Ladybugs

So, when can you expect these delightful little beetles to make their grand entrance? Ladybugs are most active during the warmer months, usually from spring through early fall. As temperatures rise, they'll start buzzing around your garden, hunting for tasty treats to feast on. Keep an eye out for them during periods of peak pest activity and get ready to welcome them with open arms (or should I say, open leaves?).

Best Practices for Keeping Ladybugs Around

Now, let's talk about how to roll out the green carpet and keep those ladybugs coming back for more. Creating a ladybug-friendly environment is key to ensuring they stick around and do their thing. That means planting a variety of flowers and herbs that attract pests while providing nectar for our hungry ladybug friends.

In addition to flowering plants, providing sheltered areas is crucial for attracting ladybugs. Rocks, logs, and mulch piles offer refuge from predators and harsh weather conditions, encouraging ladybugs to take up residence in your garden.

Oh, and don't forget to skip the pesticides—they're like kryptonite for ladybugs! Even environmentally friendly ones like insecticidal soap and neem oil can kill ladybug larvae chomping on aphids. If you see larvae, spray water instead to knock down the population.

Best Practices When Releasing Ladybugs

If you're eager to give your garden a ladybug boost, releasing them can be a game-changer. But before you set them loose, there are a few things to keep in mind. Timing is everything, so aim for early evening when temperatures are cooler and humidity is higher. Ladybugs hunky down in the evening so you want them to be ready to eat your bugs when they wake up. All too often I see a ladybug release in mid-day and they all fly after from all the action.

And don't forget to give your garden a good watering beforehand to make sure those ladybugs feel right at home. Ladybugs are quite thirsty after their trip in the container to get to you.

Plants that Attract Ladybugs

Alright, now for the main event—the twelve plants that will have ladybugs swarming to your garden faster than you can say "pest control party"! Ladybugs are attracted to pollen-rich blooms, especially flat-topped flowers. Let's dive in:

1. Angelica (Angelica archangelica)

This tall, aromatic herb is a ladybug magnet, thanks to its large, umbrella-like flower heads. With its fragrant blooms and tasty treats, angelica is sure to be a hit with your garden's resident pest patrol.

2. Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

As the name suggests, butterfly weed is a favorite among pollinators and beneficial insects alike. With its clusters of bright orange or yellow flowers, it's like a neon sign for ladybugs, inviting them to come and feast on pests to their heart's content.

3. Calendula (Calendula officinalis))

With its cheery orange or yellow blooms, calendula is like a beacon of light for ladybugs. Plant it in your garden, and you'll have these helpful insects flocking to your doorstep in no time.

4. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum)

Delicate and flavorful, cilantro is a must-have herb for any ladybug-loving gardener. Its tiny white flowers are like a magnet for these helpful insects, drawing them in with the promise of food and shelter.

5. Dill (Anethum graveolens)

Delicate and flavorful, dill is a favorite among both gardeners and ladybugs alike. Its tiny yellow flowers are a treasure trove of nectar and pollen, making it a must-have for any ladybug-friendly garden. This is also a host plant for Eastern black swallowtail caterpillars, so you may see them munching on your seasoning.

6. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)

Fennel's feathery foliage and clusters of tiny yellow flowers are irresistible to ladybugs. Plant it in your garden, and you'll be rewarded with a steady stream of these helpful insects ready to take on any pest that crosses their path. Keep in mind that fennel can affect the growth of several vegetables so plant it in a separate area.

7. Marigold (Tagetes spp.)

Marigolds are like the party starters of the garden world, with their bright, cheerful blooms and strong scent. Plant them in your garden, and you'll have ladybugs dancing the night away (or should I say, the day away?) as they feast on pests and enjoy the sweet nectar of your marigold blooms. Place marigolds all over the garden to take advantage of their pest-repelling abilities as well.

8. Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)

Parsley may be a staple in the kitchen, but it's also a favorite hangout spot for ladybugs. Its delicate foliage and tiny greenish-yellow flowers are like a cozy bed and breakfast for these helpful insects, offering both food and shelter in one convenient package. The first year of growth you can harvest the leaves for yourself. It is in the second year where it flowers. Parsley is also a host of the Eastern black swallowtail caterpillars so keep an eye out for those babies and leave them be.

9. Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Sweet alyssum may be small in stature, but it packs a punch when it comes to attracting ladybugs. Its clusters of tiny flowers are like a five-star hotel for these beneficial insects, offering a cozy spot to rest and refuel between pest-hunting missions.

10. Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)

Tansy may be a bit on the wild side, but that's what ladybugs love about it! With its aromatic foliage and clusters of small yellow flowers, it's like a playground for these helpful insects, offering endless opportunities for exploration and pest-hunting adventures.

11. Tickseed (Coreopsis spp.)

Tickseed is like a hidden gem in the garden world. With its bright yellow, orange, or red flowers, it's like a treasure trove of nectar and pollen for ladybugs, drawing them in with the promise of endless food and fun. It is also a favorite for butterflies.

12. Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Last but certainly not least, yarrow is like the VIP lounge for ladybugs, with its clusters of small, colorful flowers serving up a feast of nectar and pollen. Plant it in your garden, and you'll have ladybugs lining up for a taste of the good stuff!


And there you have it, folks—the twelve plants that will turn your garden into a ladybug paradise! By incorporating these ladybug-friendly plants into your garden, you'll not only attract these helpful insects but also create a vibrant and thriving ecosystem that's as beautiful as it is practical. So, what are you waiting for? Get planting and get ready to welcome your new ladybug allies with open arms!

Attracting ladybugs is a great strategy for managing pests in a vegetable garden. If you’re struggling with figuring out your problem areas, then download my free Vegetable Gardener’s SOS Guide: 10 Easy Steps to Master Plant Issues like a Pro. It includes a detailed guide packed with diagrams and photos and a worksheet to get you laser focused on your symptoms and diagnose your plant effectively.

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