It’s the fortunate gardener whose yard is home to Beneficial Insects. These Good Guys are Mother Nature’s version of pest control, which help us rid unwanted populations of Bad Guy invaders who mean to harm our plants. Hosting Beneficials isn’t about luck, it is about planning and providing them with what they need to come and put down roots in your yard. This includes three seasons of nectar and pollen producing flower blossoms for food, water to drink and a place to lay eggs and overwinter.
Most of the time we don’t even see the battle being waged for us when these Beneficials are patrolling our yards. Consider the Lady Bug – the bright red shelled, black spotted adult is easily visible on a plant where it might be enjoying a meal of sap-sucking aphids. Yet we rarely notice the tiny larval stage of this beetle enjoying the same meal. Getting to know which insects are the Beneficials and which are the Bad Guys is important for your garden’s health. And, unfortunately, insecticides which get rid of insect pests often kill the Beneficials. Visit the University of Illinois Extension Horticulture website, http://web.extension.illinois.edu/state/hort.html, to learn more on this topic.
Evaluate your Early Fall garden to see if it needs more blooming plants to encourage the Beneficials to come or to stay in your yard. Flowers of many shapes and sizes will please a variety of these Good Guys. The following plants will attract butterflies, bees, some beetles and others, which use pollen or nectar as food at this time of year.
Leadwort (Ceratostigma plumbaginodes) is a blue-flowering groundcover that begins flowering in August and continues into October. It has beautiful red fall color, needs full sun or part shade and is low maintenance.
Sweet Autumn Clematis is a vigorous growing vine, which flowers from September into October. It is a reliable, prolific bloomer of white, four-petalled flowers with showy stamens. Train it over a fence or trellis in full sun or part shade.
Sedums have succulent leaves and thrive on neglect once established. Flowering times of the many varieties are throughout the summer and fall. ‘Bertram Anderson’ is a short growing purple foliaged sedum, flowering into October. ‘Autumn Fire’ is a tall, sturdy blue-green plant which blooms pink through September. Full sun and well drained soils are required for sedums.
Fall blooming aster choices abound and many can provide a colorful flower show into October. Evaluate your planting site then select for flower color, bloom time, ultimate size and sun requirements.
Julie Moore is a Master Gardener volunteer with the University of Illinois Extension in DuPage County.