How to attract beneficial creatures to your garden

These critters not only do your garden good—they also are beautiful or at least interesting to look at. But to get them in your garden, you have to roll out the welcome mat.

These critters not only do your garden good—they also are beautiful or at least interesting to look at. But to get them in your garden, you have to roll out the welcome mat. Ed Lyon, director of Allen Centennial Gardens, offers a selection of plants they find alluring.
Toads
Toads are very beneficial as they prey on insects, slugs and snails—a single toad will eat up to 10,000 of them in a single summer. They need a moist, shady place to live. Native plants that enjoy moisture and have large leaves to provide shade include prairie dock, Canadian ginger and mayapple. Appealing ornamentals include hostas, Rodger’s flower and hellebores.

Native Bees
To attract native bees it’s important to have a diversity of plants—ideally at least three different species—with a range of flower colors and shapes blooming at the same time. That way you provide a diversity of food for the generalists and will likely include some flowers preferred by specialist bees. Appealing native plants include wild indigo, goldenrod, fire weed, blazing star, purple coneflower and sunflower. Other attractive plants include lavender, cosmos, and such herbs as basil, rosemary, oregano, Russian sage and borage.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth
These engaging creatures have long tongues that they carry rolled under their chins and use to reach the nectar of long-necked flowers—food that is inaccessible to many other pollinators. Caterpillars do well with a range of plants: honeysuckle vine cultivars, snowberry, hawthorn, cherry and plum trees and the European cranberry bush. Adults enjoy nectar from a wide variety of flowers including beebalm, lilac, phlox and many flowering annuals.

Cedar Waxwing
Even though this bird eats berries and sugary fruit year-round, noxious insects are an important part of their diet in the breeding season. Native plants producing edible fruit include hackberry, hawthorn, winterberry and dogwood. Ornamentals include cotoneaster, serviceberry and flowering crabapples.

Hummingbirds
These birds serve as mobile links between plant populations in different landscapes, facilitating pollen and gene flow over often considerable distances. Native attractions include cardinal flower, spotted jewelweed, Canada lily, red columbine and Indian pink. Ornamentals include beebalm, bottlebrush buckeye, trumpet honeysuckle and trumpet creeper.