Dragonflies are one of the oldest known insects by humans, enchanting us with their exquisite appearance for millennia. Although most insects are not usually a welcomed presence in our gardens, there is, without a doubt, something magical about dragonflies.
Of course, besides their looks, there is always a question that inevitably appears when it comes to our beloved gardens: are dragonflies truly beneficial for the general well-being of our plants and environment?
The great news is YES! Dragonflies surprise us with their occasional visits and shouldn’t be ignored or feared like so many other species of insects. These buddies bring lots of benefits to our gardens, especially if we encounter regular issues with pests or if we are constantly searching for eco-friendly ways to avoid unwanted intruders.
Dragonflies are truly fascinating so keep reading our guide to find out more about the pros and cons of attracting dragonflies to your garden, what plants actually benefit from their presence, and even some fun facts about these graceful insects!
Interesting Facts about Dragonflies
- Around 300 million years ago, dragonflies were among the very first winged insects to evolve. Fossil dragonflies have been found to have wingspans that develop as long as 2 feet (60 cm). Nowadays, our dragonflies feature wingspans of only 2 to 5 inches (5-12.5 cm) in length.
- While some adult species of dragonflies generally live for only a few weeks or so, others may exceed this lifespan by up to a year.
- There are more than 5000 discovered species of dragonflies out there. These species belong to the Odonata order. The name of their order means “toothed one” in Greek, referring to the dragonflies’ serrated teeth.
- When dragonflies are still in their larval stage, about the first two years of their life, they are aquatic species. During this period, they eat almost anything they can find. Such as mosquitoes, fish, tadpoles, or other insect larvae. Sometimes, even each other.
- Nearly all of their head is eyes. Because of this, dragonflies have an incredibly good vision that allows them to encompass almost every angle except right behind them.
- Dragonflies are probably the best fliers you can find. Besides their basic flying skills, dragonflies can even mate mid-air. Likewise, if these insects cannot fly, they may starve because dragonflies typically eat only the prey they catch while flying.
- The flying expertise of dragonflies is an inspiration for engineers who want to create robots that can fly as perfectly as dragonflies do.
Where Do Dragonflies Usually Appear?
First things first, for dragonflies to show up in a location, it must always be a healthy environment, not affected by pollution. Since they prefer good air quality overall, it will be pretty difficult to see dragonflies in dense urban environments or cities. If you already have some dragonflies in your garden every now and then, this is a common indicator that the air you breathe in your area is pretty safe and unpolluted.
In terms of habitats, dragonflies will generally appear very often in boggy, wet places. These beautiful flying insects enjoy hanging around fountains, garden ponds, waterways, rivers, and lakes, and other environments that include aquatic features.
How to Attract Dragonflies in Your Garden?
If your quest is to have as many dragonflies as possible around you, we have great news! The truth is that it is not as difficult as you might think to attract dragonflies in your garden. There are several fruitful methods you can opt for and you will see results in little to no time.
Keep in mind, though, that your chances of success are high only if the air in your area is of excellent quality. In case you do not manage to attract dragonflies after following the steps below, don’t be discouraged, it might take some time for these insects to find their way to your garden.
Now let’s get to the real deal – how to create the ideal environment for these graceful creatures to show up in your garden!
Step 1 – Provide Good Air Quality
As mentioned above, dragonflies are more likely to show up in gardens with little to no sign of pollution. If you live in a dense urban area and want to attract a colony of dragonflies to your garden, it might be a bit tricky to achieve this. In rural areas, however, the methods presented next should prove effective for attracting dragonflies and convincing them to stick around.
Either way, for the best air quality out there, we warmly recommend you surround yourself with lots of plants. The more foliage you have in your garden, the best the quality of the air will be. The greatest foliage-based plants you can add to your garden would be shrubs and trees.
Step 2 – Install a Marsh, a Pond, or an Aquatic feature
In general, you should look for a location in your garden that features very poor drainage. If you have this, this is the perfect opportunity for you to create a wet environment that can attract dragonflies effectively.
A space in your yard where you can install a pond or a fountain would be more than welcoming for dragonflies who thrive in wet environments. This little heaven for dragonflies should have about 20 feet (6 m) in diameter, but you can make it even bigger if this idea suits your preferences. However, if you install a pond, make sure you do not add any species of fish to it, as they will tend to prey on dragonflies.
Another great site that you can create for dragonflies would be a small bog or marsh area. This particular environment can attract small insects which are a popular feast for dragonflies.
Step 3 – Acquire Perches and Stakes
Although this might seem a bit counterintuitive at first, it is an important step that will make attracting dragonflies easier! Yes, dragonflies are insects that love to fly and live their life floating around on most days. Still, you should know that they also like to perch and rest in a safe spot, preying on small insects that may appear there. Due to this, you can set up several stakes of about 3 feet (90 cm) in height throughout your garden and wait for the magic to happen.
Step 4 – Place Rocks for Sunbathing
Dragonflies are exothermic species, which means that they use the warmth of the sun to fill with all the heat they need throughout each day. It is very common for these gorgeous insects to just lay down on a flat rock and enjoy the warmth of the sunlight.
This particular feature of dragonflies offers you an opportunity to take action and go find some cute rocks to add to your yard. It would be wise to place the flat rocks near the boggy area you have created to increase your chances to attract dragonflies, as this site provides both moisture and sunbathing.
Pros for Attracting Dragonflies in Your Garden
- Dragonflies are absolutely harmless to humans and your garden can benefit nicely from their presence. These fellows are great mosquito and fly hunters. Moreover, their powerful wings and excellent vision make dragonflies able to easily catch other small flying pests.
- Since dragonflies come along with a high carnivorous appetite, they are also very good against spider colonies. Dragonflies will make sure small spiders will not attack your beloved plants. They can even cut through spiderwebs with minimal effort.
- Dragonflies are one of the best indicators of good air quality, as they cannot withstand and will not show up in regions with polluted air. Their presence will help you find out if the air around your house is good for you.
Cons for Attracting Dragonflies in Your Garden
- The enormous carnivorous appetite of dragonflies can become a bit too much sometimes. They can eat thousands of insects weekly, so it can happen to also go and prey on insects that you might like, such as small bugs, moths, ants, or flies.
- Although it is not necessarily a bad thing that should prevent you from attracting dragonflies, you should know that these insects do not visit plants to pollinate them. If you grow flowering plants for this purpose, dragonflies may chase away some insects that are beneficial for pollination, but this would only be a problem if you managed to attract an impressive number of dragonflies.
What Plants Can Attract Dragonflies to Your Garden?
When it comes to which plants dragonflies like the most, things are not very difficult. Dragonflies are easy-going creatures that will enjoy the presence of most plants. Yet, this does not mean that they do not have any favourites! Luckily, their most-loved species of plants are super low-demanding, so you will not put much effort into growing and caring for them if you want to attract dragonflies with their help.
Besides being highly attractive to dragonflies, the Black-eyed Susan is also prone to receive visits from other popular creatures like butterflies and bees.
Its bright yellow blossoms resembling those of Sunflowers will bloom profusely from late spring to the end of the summer, adding lots of colour to any dull spot in your yard. Other than deadheading, the Black-eyed Susan requires little maintenance even during its active growing period. Read our complete guide to Black-eyed Susan to learn how to grow and care for these plants.
It is safe to say that no pond or boggy environment is complete without one or more Water lilies in it. This gorgeous flowering plant comes along with white or pink blossoms and large leaves that float above the water. It will attract dragonflies in the blink of an eye, as it can spoil them with a spot where they can rest or take a nap during the day.
Water lily is super easy to grow and care for thanks to its aquatic nature. It features roots that grow submerged in water, making it basically independent, and grows nicely in well-lit areas. Read our complete guide to Water Lily to learn more about these attractive aquatic ornamentals.
Yarrow is another great flowering plant to help you attract dragonflies to your garden. This popular ornamental plant can take up a considerable amount of space with time, so you should find a place where it can develop without any trouble.
You can easily take care of a Yarrow plant, as it does not have all those needs of most ordinary flowering plants. Depending on the cultivar, it can come in cute shades of white, yellow, or pink and it will make a perfect addition to wildflower meadows, pond gardens, city gardens, cottage gardens, coastal gardens, and any other type of garden. Read our complete guide to Yarrow to learn more about growing this low-maintenance plant.
The low-maintenance, drought-tolerant, and sun-loving Coneflower is an all-time favourite among gardeners worldwide. This is not only due to its adorable appearance, with pinkish-lavender flowers, but also for its magnetic nature when it comes to dragonflies.
Likewise, if you are a big fan of butterflies, Coneflower is surely your go-to flowering plant. You can learn everything about this flower from our complete guide to Echinacea a.k.a Coneflower.
Meadow sage is another favourite plant for dragonflies and will even attract some butterflies along the way. This plant is absolutely wonderful, featuring lush green foliage and bright purple flowers, a colour mix that few gardeners can resist. Moreover, it is a hardy species that can survive in warmer conditions and demands only a bit of water from time to time to thrive.
Cattail is probably one of the most common plants you will find near a wet, swampy area. Its peculiar appearance will surely make for a spectacular specimen plant in your garden, as it does not look like anything else. It is a plant that also provides protection for dragonfly eggs.
Cattail is a nice companion that will help you attract mostly young dragonflies and you will not have to give it much in return. Learn how to grow and care for this aquatic plant from our complete guide to Cattail.
Swamp milkweed is a pollinator plant, so it attracts butterflies through its nectar and it is of particular interest to dragonflies. The greatest feature of this plant is that it contains a toxic sap which is a repellent for unwelcomed insects like mosquitoes.
This means that you can get rid of these insects with doubled efficiency from both dragonflies and the plant itself. If you want to avoid mosquitoes, this plant is a perfect choice.
With its vibrant blue, star-shaped flowers, Borage is a must-have for every gardener that wants to attract dragonflies and also add more colour to its plant family.
This flowering plant comes along with irresistible easy-to-grow features and most growers adore it for its ability to tolerate extended periods of drought. Borage is also a herbaceous species, featuring a cucumber-like flavour that makes it a delicious addition to various culinary recipes.
If you already have a pond in your backyard or if you are planning to install one, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the opportunity to grow the beautiful Lotus flower. Especially when it is so easy to care for since it can basically grow on its own as long as it stays in the water.
And besides its ability to attract dragonflies, they will also enrich your garden with a striking pink shade through its lovely flowers. Growing these aquatic flowers is not difficult and you can learn how to do it from our complete guide to Lotus flowers.
Cabomba caroliniana, commonly known as Fanwort is native to North and South America, but it is considered invasive in the EU, so it’s best to be cautious when it comes to this plant. This perennial aquatic plant attracts dragonflies because these insects deposit eggs on the stems and undersides. Fanwort grows fully submerged, and only its attractive blooms are visible on the surface of the water.
Sagittaria Latifolia, commonly known as Broadleaf arrowhead, Indian potato, or duck potato thrives in wet environments and is a marginal aquatic perennial. It attracts dragonflies in a similar way as fanwort, by offering a perfect breeding ground where these insects can lay their eggs.
Dragonflies are fascinating insects that are definitely worth observing and attracting to any garden. Although they are not pollinators and don’t really help your plants in this aspect, they can help you determine if your garden is a healthy ecosystem and will feed on mosquitoes and other unwanted guests. Do dragonflies visit your garden? Let us know in the comment section!