Flowers are not only beautiful additions to any garden, but many flower species also provide important benefits for the environment. Choosing flowers that support pollinators, improve soil health, and attract beneficial insects can create an eco-friendly landscape that gives back to nature. Here are some of the top flowers that are good for the environment.
Planting native wildflowers is one of the best ways to make your garden environmentally friendly. Wildflowers native to your region evolved to grow in harmony with local wildlife and pollinators. They provide nectar and pollen that native bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators rely on. Popular native wildflowers include coneflowers, asters, milkweed, sunflowers, bee balm, cardinal flower, columbine, penstemon, phlox, bergamot, and more. Check with your local native plant society or extension office for recommendations on the best native flowers for your area.
Along with native plants, there are many ornamental flower varieties that attract and support pollinators. Some top pollinator-friendly flowers include cosmos, zinnias, blanket flowers, daisies, lavender, monarda, asters, verbena, snapdragons, foxglove, bee balm, candytuft, sunflowers, and dahlias. Choosing old-fashioned flower varieties rather than hybrids gives pollinators more access to pollen and nectar plant flowers in groups to create color-blocked beds that attract pollinators.
Certain types of flowers have unique root structures that allow them to convert nitrogen in the air into forms that plants can use. This process, called nitrogen fixation, benefits the soil and other plants growing nearby. Some nitrogen-fixing flowers include lupines, sweet peas, alfalfa, vetch, clover, beans, and legumes. Use these flowers as companion plants to fertilize the soil naturally. The roots secrete nitrogen compounds that nourish neighboring plants.
Flowers for Beneficial Insects
In addition to attracting pollinators, certain flowers also lure insects like ladybugs, lacewings, and hoverflies that prey on pest insects and keep your garden in balance. Plants such as amaranth, alyssum, calendula, cosmos, sweet alyssum, marigolds, zinnias, coreopsis, dill, fennel, cilantro, parsley, yarrow, and tansy help attract beneficial insects. Plant a diverse mix of these flowers throughout your garden and borders to welcome beneficial predators.
Some flowers have deep root systems that help break up compacted soil, capture leached nutrients, and add organic matter to the earth. Popular soil-improving flowers include Mexican sunflowers, sweet peas, safflowers, nasturtiums, calendulas, morning glories, bush clovers, prairie coneflowers, and amaranth. The deep roots of these flowers plow through tough soils while their blooms nourish pollinators above ground.
Opt for low-maintenance flowers that don’t need much watering or the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Once established, hardy perennial flowers are drought- and pest-resistant. Some good options include black-eyed Susans, Shasta daisies, yarrow, sedum, gaillardia, lavender, salvias, coreopsis, astilbe, iris, daylilies, hostas, ornamental grasses, and more. Avoid pampered hybrid flowers that need more water and care.
Native Grasses and Sedges
Don’t overlook native grasses and grass-like plants when creating an eco-friendly landscape. Many grasses and sedges provide food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and beneficial insects. Examples include little bluestem, panic grass, cordgrass, rushes, sedges, lilies, and ornamental grasses. Use native grasses in borders, beds, rock gardens, rain gardens, or meadow areas.
When planning your flower garden, keep diversity in mind and include a mix of different flower types to create the biggest impact. Support native wildflowers first, then complement them with other pollinator-friendly, soil-enhancing, and beneficial varieties. Avoid aggressive or invasive flowers that could threaten native plants and habitats nearby. With the right selection of environmentally friendly flowers, you can create a beautiful, nature-based garden that gives back to the local ecology.
Get Creative with Flower Planting
When planting your eco-friendly flower garden, think creatively about flower placement to provide nourishment, shelter, and beauty throughout all seasons.
Plant flowers of different heights together to provide pollinators pathways to move about the garden with ease. Use taller flowers like sunflowers and cosmos as beautiful backdrops to lower-growing flowers in the foreground.
Include early and late-blooming flowers so your garden provides a continuous sequence of blossoms from spring through fall. Strategically place early bloomers like crocuses and tulips near daffodils, iris, and lilies that flower later.
Mix up your flower beds with quick-blooming annuals like zinnias plus perennials like coneflowers that return each year. Scatter reseeding annuals throughout so they self-sow for seasons to come.
Add borders and pathways of native grasses and sedges around flower beds. Let ornamental grasses mingle and spill over borders into garden paths. Use grasses and sedges to create pollinator tunnels leading to flower beds.
Plant flowers under and around shrubs, vines, and trees. Try underplanting roses, fruit trees, berry bushes, and ornamental trees with low-growing flowers. Shady corners are great spots for shade-loving varieties like impatiens and begonias.
Create special garden features like pollinator houses, log piles for insects, birdbaths, butterfly puddling stones, and eco-friendly water features. Add garden art, pathways, benches, and arbors amidst your flowers.
Mulch flower beds with shredded leaves, bark, or compost to conserve moisture and nourish the soil. Use organic fertilizer if needed, and practice integrated pest management instead of pesticides.
Most importantly, be patient and let your flower beds evolve. It may take a few seasons for native plants to establish and your pollinator-friendly garden vision to fully flourish. But the end result will be a beautiful, biodiverse garden that brings joy while caring for our planet.