They might look similar to wasps or hornets, but hoverflies are hugely beneficial to your garden whilst not being dangerous. Attracting them is as simple as planting a few particular plants. So, what plants attract hoverflies to your garden?
Hoverflies are attracted to plants with flat, open flowers, which make it easy for nectar to be retrieved. These plants include helenium, echinacea and rudbeckia.
What Characteristics Do Hoverflies Like?
Hoverflies look just like bees so the assumption is that if a bee likes a flower then it will suitable for hoverflies. But this is wrong!
Bees have long tongues that they can use to dig deep into a plant to retrieve the nectar. Hoverflies, however, only have a simple mouthpiece that does not have a tongue. Hoverflies, therefore, need flowers that serve the nectar up on a plate.
This is why hoverflies prefer plants with open flower heads that have easily accessible nectar. These flower heads tend to be flat, giving the hoverflies somewhere to settle while they retrieve the nectar.
Foxgloves and lavender might be loved by bees, but they are far from suitable for hoverflies. This is why having a range of plants of differing shapes, sizes and flower forms is vital in the garden, to ensure you encourage a wider range of insects.
7 Best Plants for Hoverflies
If you look at the flower heads of a plant and can see it’s open and flat then, chances are, it will attract hoverflies. If you want the specific names of plants that will attract hoverflies, give these a try:
Echinacea (or coneflowers, thanks to their shape) have the benefits of being hugely appreciated by hoverflies whilst looking visually stunning.
They work particularly well spread naturally throughout cottage gardens or wildlife-friendly flower borders but can also be planted in pots.
Also known as the poached egg plant, Limnanthes Douglasii produces plenty of flower heads from one plant giving hoverflies a bountiful supply of easy to access the nectar.
The forms flower heads are saucer-like in shape with the nectar sitting in the open centre making it particularly easy for the hoverflies to grab. It’s also loved by a range of other pollinators and beneficial insects.
Just from the photo below, you can see little nuggets of nectar poking out of the ends of each flower. It’s almost as if the common yarrow is feeding the hoverfly directly.
The one reservation people have about yarrow is that it can easily be mistaken as a weed which is why the next option on our list is a great alternative.
Ammi Majus is the fancy, lacework-like version of common yarrow. It has a similar form and it’s not difficult to understand why hoverflies love this plant when you consider the characteristics they look for in a plant.
It’s worth noting, however, that Ammi Majus can be toxic and it can even lead to skin irritation and burns.
From afar, you can see why hoverflies love rudbeckia. Its dark, nectar-filled centre stands out as petals grow out from the edge. The nectar is ready and waiting for any hoverfly looking for a quick top-up of energy.
Verbena Bonariensis is fashionable for a reason. It adds height and movement to borders. It spreads throughout the garden giving you free plants.
It attracts a huge array of beneficial insects including bees, butterflies, moths and (of course) hoverflies.
It does spread, though! You might plant two or three in your garden but next year, expect to see Verbena Bonariensis seedlings popping up all over the place.
Helenium has a very similar form to echinacea at the top of this list which is why it’s clear why hoverflies love helenium too.
The nectar-coated centre of the flower protrudes up and out making it super easy for every hoverfly to gain the nectar it requires.
This list is far from extensive but what it does show is that beneficial plants that will attract hoverflies don’t have to be weed-like and can, in fact, also be visually appealing.
Will These Plants Attract Other Pollinators?
Absolutely! The beauty of most flowers is that they don’t just appeal to one cohort of pollinators.
You’ll find Verbena Bonariensis covered in butterflies throughout the summer. Bees will swarm towards echinacea and helenium in their droves. Even the likes of rudbeckia will draw in beneficial beetles.
Do you have other questions about hoverflies and the plants that draw them in? Then check these FAQs out:
Yes, any flower that has a lot of nectar that is easily accessible will attract hoverflies. They particularly like flowers with open flower heads.
If a flower has a complex, intricate flower head with hard to reach nectar then a hoverfly will not be interested in it.