Dragonflies are some of the best predators to keep mosquito populations low. Not only do they scavenge the skies in adulthood, but they eat large numbers of mosquito larvae in their larval form--which happens in the water. One study found that dragonfly larvae could play a significant role in the regulation of mosquito populations. While they are most effective in their larval stage, adult dragonflies can still eat up to 100, if not many more, mosquitoes per day. Not only do dragonflies control mosquito populations - they help control other bugs, too, like midges.
Attracting dragonflies to your garden and backyard requires planting a diverse array of plants. Planting trees and shrubs around the perimeter of the yard will provide adequate hiding spots for young dragonflies. Blooming plants also attract pollinators, like butterflies, beetles, wasps, moths and other small flying insects, that dragonflies love to prey on. Water plants that grow near and within ponds are also highly sought out by dragonflies.
While building a backyard pond is the best way to attract dragonflies as they mate and lay their eggs in water, you can still attract dragonflies through other means. Planting flowers that attract prey for dragonflies will bring them to your garden indirectly. Here are five plants you can grow to attract more dragonflies into your backyard.
1. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Black-eyed Susans attract butterflies and other pollinators - a popular choice of the dragonfly. These bright yellow wildflowers typically live for around two years in climates that remain warm for most of the year, and will die off once winter hits in cooler climates. They adapt well to nearly every type of soil and require full sunlight and regular watering to bloom.
2. Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
A cousin of the better-known common milkweed, swamp milkweed produces attractive white and pink flowers that come back every year. Their flowers are very showy and good for attracting dragonfly prey like butterflies, wasps and bees. As the name suggests, this plant grows best in moist, wetland areas. It likes wet, clay soil, but also prefers full sun.
3. Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
This attractive plant produces pale pink-purple flowers that last from mid-summer through fall. It attracts multitudes of butterflies and other pollinators like bees, which dragonflies love. These plants reach a height of anywhere between three and 12 feet, so they're perfect for dragonflies that like tall perches. The flowers also come with a light vanilla fragrance that becomes more intense when crushed. These plants grow in full or partial sunlight and occur naturally in moist woods or meadows. The dried roots and flowers of the Joe Pye weed can also be used to make a diuretic tea.
4. Meadow Sage (Salvia Marcus)
Meadow sage is a beautiful perennial with eye-catching purple flowers that attract butterflies and other small insects. This flower loves full sun, but it can also do well in partial shade. The best growing location receives morning sun and afternoon shade. Once established, this plant does not need a lot of water. In fact, it can handle pretty well in drought conditions, but if the scarcity of water does become a thing, make sure you give it a sip at least once a day.
5. White Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
This graceful perennial wildflower produces an abundance of huge, flat clusters about five inches across, packed with 20-25 creamy-white flowers. Their fern-like foliage is disease-resistant, and they attract bugs like butterflies and tiny parasitic wasps that dragonflies love. This plant thrives in full sun, in average, dry to medium moisture, well-drained soils.
A few other plants that attract dragonflies are arrowhead-or duck-potato-wild celery, water horsetail, cattail, and water lily. However, these would require a manmade pond.