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9 Flowers and Plants That Attract Dragonflies

  • Animal
Flowers and Plants That Attract Dragonflies

You may have seen a beautiful female blue or common green dragonfly hovering over your pond and wondered what it was looking for when no fish were swimming around. It turns out that certain types of aquatic vegetation are known as “sweet smelly flowers” because they emit an odor attractive enough to lure hungry dragonflies away from their favorite dinner — small fish. If you’re growing any one of these 9 plants near your water feature, the next time you see a dragonfly landing on your pond, know that it’s there to help keep mosquitoes at bay.
Anise

1. ANISE Flower

ANISE Flower

This herbaceous perennial has long been used medicinally throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Its flavor is similar to licorice but its aroma is sweeter. In fact, many people confuse this plant with true licorices such as black pepper licorice candy. The purple flowers look like little pom-poms.

You can find anise planted along roadsides and between rows of vegetables or at the base of trees. When harvesting seeds, pick only those that haven’t turned light brown yet. To use the leaves, crush them into a fine powder using a spice grinder to make sure all the volatile oils stay intact. This will give you more punch than if you just grind up whole dried leaves. A few drops added to sugar water makes a great natural sweetener alternative.

2. BASIL Flower

BASIL Flower

A member of the mint family, basil grows low to the ground and thrives in full sun conditions. Although most varieties do well, some prefer partial shade. Many culinary herbs fall under the category of “it takes two,” meaning that the flavors actually come together better when paired with other ingredients.

For example, basil tastes much stronger when combined with tomatoes or oregano. But don’t expect basil to taste good alone unless you’ve grown heirloom varieties that originated before World War II. These oldies-but-goodies produce large amounts of essential oil, which gives basil its unique smell. Like rosemary, basil doesn’t need fertilizer since it gets so much nutrition from the air, rainwater and minerals in the soil. Harvest fresh leaves right after they sprout and store them in paper bags, plastic containers or glass jars until needed. Most plants should start producing new foliage in 6 weeks.

The common name basil comes from the Italian word basiare, which means “to pound.” Therefore, the original recipe called for pounding basil leaves with garlic salt. Today we usually take our basil straight without adding anything else.

3. BLACK-EYED SUSAN/CONE FLOWER

BLACK-EYED SUSAN

Also called African daisy, this annual produces 1 inch yellowish petals with five white centers. Cascading blooms appear in clusters of 10 to 20 during late summer through early winter. Plant it among tall grasses or wildflower beds where deer won’t bother eating the blossoms’ nectar.

Cut off spent flower heads once the buds turn color instead of letting them wither and die. Wait three months and replant the cuttings about 2 inches deep in rich moist loam soil. Water deeply every day and mulch heavily with shredded bark or compost. Use scissors to remove dead stems, leaving just a single leaf behind. Divide larger clumps whenever necessary. New growth appears in spring.

4. CATMINT (NERVELDE)

CATMINT
CATMINT FLOWER

Known also as pot marigold, catnip belongs to the mint family and smells strongly of lemon. Native Americans used catnip as both food and medicine. They chewed its leaves to relieve stomach cramps and rubbed crushed leaves on burns. Medicinal uses include treating colds, flu and fever, arthritis pain, muscle aches and pains, menstrual discomfort and insomnia.

Grow it anywhere where butterflies love to rest, including in shady areas. Sprinkle freshly picked catnip leaves liberally outdoors where beneficial insects live. Or try making herbal tea made from catnip leaves, drinking it twice daily to treat symptoms associated with allergy attacks. Be careful not to touch your eyes while handling catnip due to irritating effects.

5. CHIVES Flower

CHIVES Flower
CHIVES Flower

Not related to onions, chive is a hardy biennial that resembles scallions. Leaves grow close to the surface of the ground and form tubular bulbs at the end of each stem. Clusters of tiny fragrant white flowers open in mid-summer followed by round seed pods.

Dig up entire bunches of chives anytime and dry them indoors overnight in loose layers spread onto screens. Store them in zip-close plastic baggies. Then shake powdered chive tops onto salads or sprinkle on soups. You’ll enjoy their strong onion-like fragrance even days later.

6. COLUMBINE Flower

COLUMBINE Flower
COLUMBINE

These colorful tropical perennials resemble peonies except that their flowers last longer and bloom earlier. Their showy orange, pink or red cup-shaped bells alternate on sturdy stalks that grow up to 3 feet high. Depending upon sunlight intensity, columbine requires either partial shade or bright sunshine.

During warm weather, let excess moisture evaporate naturally and feed sparingly with weak liquid organic fertilizer. Once established, columbines self-seed easily. Prune after flowering and divide annually in autumn. Propagate via softwood cutting taken just below a bud cluster.

Place the cuttings in pots filled with damp moss and place in a sunny window sill. After rooting, transplant outside into shallow holes. Give newly rooted plants plenty of room to develop roots. Ascoltanner, a sticky substance found inside pollen sacs, keeps aphids away. Crush a handful of ascoltanner and rub it onto young shoots and emerging buds. Aphid problems disappear within several weeks.

7. DRAGONFLY EXOTIC PLANTS

DRAGONFLY EXOTIC PLANTS

Forget trying to catch ’em with your hands. Instead, encourage these winged wonders to land on your specially designed floating planter. With a simple design consisting of a perforated lid attached to a Styrofoam cylinder, the top holds a layer of water while allowing drainage.

Fill the bottom half with rocks, gravel or sand. Cover the container with netting secured tightly with rubber bands. Poke small stakes into the sides to hold down the netting. Now you’re ready to introduce exotic plants that attract dragonflies.

8. FENNEL Flower

FENNEL Flower
FENNEL Flower

Use featherweight string to hang fernleaf philodendrons from tree branches in your yard. Each year, replace dying fronds with new ones that emerge from underground rhizomes. Also known as farfalle, this aromatic beauty adds interest to borders and pathways where it looks nice whether standing erect or cascading gently downward.

Take care not to damage delicate leaves. Snipping damaged tips encourages lush regrowth. Enjoy snacking on crisp juicy stalks harvested about 4 weeks after first frost. Pick off wilted greens and dispose of remaining bits of stalk. Some gardeners say that rubbing chopped fennel against clothing helps ward off fleas and ticks.

9. HELICONIA

HELICONIA

Sun worshippers who want to add extra zing to their gardens might consider heliconias. These evergreen shrubs thrive best in hot climates and require lots of direct sunlight. Flowers occur in groups of four or six and range in colors from white through shades of lavender, cream and pink. Small trumpet-shaped bell-shaped flowers surround a central point. Stems bear opposite pairs of glossy sword-edged oval leaflets.

While helicons grow very slowly, they’re easy to maintain thanks to minimal watering requirements and lack of pests. Feed generously with slow-release granules mixed with general purpose fertilizer. Remove faded old leaves and diseased parts before replacing them with new healthy leaves.

Dead wood on older specimens must remain for support. Before pruning, check the plant’s shape and health for signs of disease or insect infestation. Try to avoid removing more than 25 percent of total foliage at once. Your gardening skills really pay off when you cultivate helicons because they reward patient maintenance.

When you’re trying to keep mosquitoes away from your yard or patio, it’s easy to overlook a key weapon against pests — beneficial insects like ladybugs, lacewings, hover flies, green lacewings, and others. But if you’ve got an outside space that needs some extra attention, don’t give up on those helpful bugs just yet. They can help control aphids and other common garden pests. And they’ll also provide food for their own populations of predatory wasps, bees, spiders, and beetles.

Ladybug larvae are especially good at devouring eggs laid by harmful nematodes and slugs. The larvae themselves may not get eaten, but when they grow into adult winged forms, they feast on aphid colonies. Lacewing adults feed on mealybugs while hovering over flowers. Green lacewings do most of their hunting above ground, where they consume aphids, thrips, whitefly, leafhoppers, spider mites, scale insects and more. Hover fly adults will go after any flying insect pest with reckless abandon, including small black flies, gnats, butterflies, moths, mosquitos, and hornworms [source University of Georgia].

Most types of native pollinators — honeybees, bumblebees, native solitary bees, sweat bees, carpenter ants, parasitic wasps, and several species of butterfly and moth caterpillars — prefer nectar-producing flowers. These include catkins, roses, lavender, purple loosestrife, goldenrod, clovers, lupine, daises, wild geranium, yarrow, aster, and many more. If you want to encourage these pollinator friends as well as specific types of useful insects, plant certain flowers that appeal to each group. So there it is, 9 flowers to attract dragonflies to your garden.

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