With over 4000 types of aphids, this common pest is one of the most annoying and damaging insects encountered in any garden. If you’ve grown any plants; whether fruits and vegetables, container plants, or flowers, you’ve most likely had to deal with aphids. How do you know what flowers aphids love?
Aphids aren’t particularly picky when it comes to plants they will feast on. These insects prefer to infest roses, sunflowers, dahlias, tomato buds, and several fruits including peaches, plums, apples, cherries, and various types of berries.
Nearly anything you plant in your garden can attract aphids. You don’t have to despair though because there are ways you can keep these pests at bay. Keep reading to learn more about what aphids love and hate!
Aphids love to drain the juices out of succulent, new plant growth. They are particularly attracted to soft tissues, flower buds, and soft fruits on trees and bushes, so it’s no wonder they like flowers so much.
A flower’s petals are often velvety soft, are easy for aphids to pierce with their tiny “mouth straws”, and have attractive colors. So it’s no wonder when you see these tiny, slow-moving specks around flowers and new buds.
Specifically in regards to roses, aphids love to crowd around new buds where they prevent the flower from fully developing. They leave the petals dried out, crispy, and deformed.
Truly, it’s the sap of the roses that aphids prefer – which once they harvest it all, they move on to the next nearest rose bush!
These huge flowers can often survive an aphid infestation and keep growing. Sunflowers are annuals so once they are finished with the growing season, they attempt to reseed the ground with their massive amount of seeds.
Often times, aphids are feeding on the buds and leaves of the sunflowers as they produce some very sticky sap!
According to information published in Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook, the tarnished plant bug, Is a common insect found on sunflowers that is often confused for aphids due to their green color.
To confirm you have aphids on your sunflowers, just make sure to check for honeydew and get a really good look at them! Remember, aphids are generally a solid color while the tarnished plant bug has some pattern design throughout.
Aphids often go after growing dahlias, and if they congregate in large enough numbers, the aphids can permanently destroy them.
Most often, you’ll find that aphids actually go for the roots of dahlias and have a symbiotic relationship with ants, nonetheless! Of course, they do as well feed on the leaves which results in browning and can lead to the end of the plant.
Dahlias are especially susceptible to aphids as they produce many shoots, giving them more spaces to hide on the flowers.
4. Tomato flowers
The flowers of tomatoes attract aphids, and when the plant attempts to grow a tomato, the aphids latch onto it and ruin any chance for the tomato to grow. They will also suck the sap out of tomato leaves, making them curl up and look deformed.
You might also find indications of aphid infestation from a sticky, maybe waxy substance on the tops of leaves. As aphids feed on the sap from the host plant, they drop what is called honeydew.
Honeydew is a waste product from aphids that can cause mold on plants or other infections if it sticks around for long. This substance tends to attract ants too because they feed on the honeydew.
Once you have honeydew on your tomatoes (and the other flowering plants on this list) you’ll quickly find that you’ll have lots of ants too!
If you see ants in your garden, climbing your prized rose bushes, tomatoes, or in your flower garden, you might have aphids the ants are taking care of. A colony of ants will protect and nurture aphids like a sheepdog protects its flock from wiley coyotes!
These are fast-growing annuals that can be used as trap plants for aphids. Nasturtiums end up attracting these sap-sucking bugs so they can make good sacrificial plants to trap aphids.
Trap plants like nasturtium are easy to grow plants that you put at the base of other preferred plants so that aphids go after THOSE instead of more valuable plants. It’s a pretty nice method.
Nasturtiums are especially good for cabbage worms and aphids in particular, according to The University of Wisconsin.
We’ll get into more on that later!
Thankfully, hydrangeas are fast-growing plants that can often withstand attacks from aphids. Also, as hydrangeas grow, they get tougher, their stems become woodier, and aphids will move on to softer, more tender plants.
More so, hydrangeas often need more maintenance than other types of flowers, so it’s no good when aphids are able to get ahold of them.
Luckily, and I guess unluckily, aphids tend to attack new growth and young hydrangeas as they’re closer to the ground. Slugs are another big one to watch out for on young hydrangeas as well – they love the things!
These hearty perennials usually don’t have many pests, but aphids will often infest them. Spefically, the pemphigus aphid will produce white waxy strands throughout the roots of plants in the soil underneath.
If you’d like to view some images (and then come back to read more of course!) you should check out this page by the Michigan State University Extension which has some images of aphids going after aster roots and what it looks like.
Besides the roots, ahids can stunt the growth of the leaves and the flowers of asters. Since asters tend to flower all summer long and into the fall if the aphids aren’t treated, they could set up several generations on these plants.
Aphids can produce up to 100 offspring per month and sometimes even more, so you really don’t want that in your aster roots!
Aphids like to attack the soft, new growth, and flowers of this climbing plant. Mandevilla is a fast-growing plant, but since aphids attack the flowers, this could leave this showpiece falling flat.
Specifically, you’re going to find that aphids love the stems of mandevilla plants. Luckily, we’ve got a few ways to get them off for good in our later section!
9. Fruit Tree Flowers
Whether they’re apple tree flowers, peaches, plums, pears, or most other fruit tree flowers, aphids love the soft, fresh growth of fruit tree flowers. The problem here is obvious when the flower falls away, the fruit grows. Aphids on the fruits stunt the growth, and deform them, making them inedible.
Usually, the aphids are attracted to the flowers that start in the trees, but they will stick around while the fruits start to grow. As the aphids feed on the flowers and fruits, the tree loses some of its vigor and the fruits end up looking gross and deformed. No one wants to eat a shriveled, lumpy-looking, speckled peach or apple.
Aphid destruction manifests itself in curled, misshapen, underdeveloped, and sometimes brown, dried-out parts of the plant. You can also usually see aphids themselves, especially when the infestation gets out of hand.
Aphids look like brown, black, light green, or other colored, slow-moving specks on your plants. They usually hide from the sun by hanging out underneath the leaves and flowers.
Fruits That Attract Aphids
Not only do many types of flowers attract aphids, but there are plenty of fruit trees and bushes that attract aphids. Some of these insects are specialized bugs such as the green peach aphid which typically infects peach trees or the blueberry aphid which likes to feed on—you guessed it—blueberry plants.
Some of the most popular fruits that aphids can damage include:
You’ve worked hard to get your fruit trees to grow long and healthy enough to start producing fruit. Don’t let aphids ruin all that labor by messing up your fruit trees.
If you see an infestation of aphids on your trees, you might be tempted to go to the local pest control store to find something that will eradicate them right away, but be careful spraying harsh pesticides around anything you might end up eating later.
Also, most pesticides linger for a long time and can destroy beneficial pollinators your fruit trees depend on to make juicy fruits. Keep on reading as we go over natural, safe, and effective ways to both deal with aphid infestations, and how to prevent them in the first place.
You can read more about the fruits that aphids love in our article here for more in-depth information!
How To Get Rid Of Aphids And Keep Them Away
The only way to make sure aphids never come around again is to get rid of any vegetation in your yard. But who wants a barren, concrete wasteland around their house?
I know, that’s not what you want to hear, but with the prevalence of aphids, how fast they can multiply, and because there are so many different varieties out there, it’s simply not feasible to get rid of them permanently.
You can drastically reduce their numbers, repel them, and increase the population of predatory insects that will keep aphids from damaging your plants naturally.
Use Water To Knock Aphids Away
If you notice a small gathering of aphids on your plants you can use the water hose to knock them and the ants off. This jet spray will also wash off the honeydew secretions that attract ants.
Spray the undersides of your fruit trees, flowers, or vegetable plants when you are watering them to knock the pests off. While this doesn’t destroy them, they usually don’t come back. If you have a heavy infestation of aphids, this method might not be aggressive enough.
Just a reminder… the best time to water your plants is early morning before the sun has brought on the heat of the day. When you water in the middle of the day, most of the water evaporates before it reaches the plant roots, so you waste a lot of water this way.
Watering during the evening or at night can cause water to linger on the leaves for a long time, allowing fungal and mildew growth.
Soapy Water Can Get Rid Of Aphids
Believe it or not, soapy water can get rid of aphids while not damaging other beneficial insects like butterflies, honey bees, and ladybugs.
Simply mix up a few drops of all-natural, pure liquid soap like Dr. Bronners – Pure-Castile Liquid Soap in a spray bottle full of water then spray the aphids and infected plants. Be sure to hit the bottoms of the leaves where aphids often hang out and lay their eggs.
Be sure not to use soaps with moisturizers, antibacterials, or added degreasers as these can harm the plants or beneficial organisms.
The soapy water works by removing the waxy, outer covering that protects the soft-bodied aphids, eventually sending them to the bug afterlife.
There isn’t a residue left behind that can harm beneficial insects, so if you don’t spray them directly, you don’t have to worry about damaging honey bees and others.
Aphids Hate Essential oils
Strong scents from essential oils can help prevent and repel aphids from your flowers and plants. The most effective aphid repellent scents are:
Mix up a batch of insect repellant by adding 4 to 6 drops of essential oil to a water-filled spray bottle and spray the plants you either have aphids on or are trying to protect. Most of these essential oils also deter many other types of plant-eating insects and caterpillars.
You can adjust how many drops of essential oils are needed to keep the bugs away. If a few drops are not doing a great job, add a few more, but be sure not to add too much. Very high concentrations of essential oil can damage plants.
Neem oil can be used the same way. Harris Neem Oil is an organic product that will repel and get rid of aphids. Use it the same way you use the essential oil mixture. This product also works against molds and fungus that can affect your garden plants.
If you’d like to read more about aphids and repelling them with certain smells, take a look at our full list of scents aphids hate – it’s a doozy!
Introduce Predatory Insects To Get Rid Of Aphids
There are plenty of insects that can get rid of aphids for you. Ladybugs are one of the main aphid predators, but you can also attract or even purchase green lacewings. Other bugs that make a meal out of aphids include spiders and predatory wasps.
Specifically, beneficial, predatory insects such as green lacewings, syrphid fly, and ladybugs are very important for aphid control. Their populations tend to rise as their food source becomes more plentiful.
You can attract these aphid-eating insects by planting flowers such as alliums, yarrow, Queen Anne’s lace, coreopsis, geraniums, marigolds, and many others. Herbs that attract ladybugs include dill, parsley, and fennel.
Add these plants around your fruit trees, in your garden, or in your flower beds to keep aphid sentries coming back to your garden year after year. Full-grown ladybugs will eat a lot of aphids, but the larvae are the real troopers that keep them in check.
Ladybugs tend to eat, get their fill and take off. They may or may not come back, but ladybug larvae cannot fly yet. They will prowl around on the plants that aphids have set up residence on and consume much more than the adults.
Green lacewings are another insect whose larvae will decimate aphid populations. The adults don’t eat aphids, but when they feel welcomed they will lay eggs on certain plants such as daisies, coreopsis, cosmos, coneflowers, oregano, verbena, and sunflowers.
You can also purchase Green Lacewing 5000 Eggs, and 1500 Pre-Fed Live Ladybugs to help control and keep down aphid populations in your area. These natural predators will patrol your garden for you while getting rid of the nuisance insects.
Grow Plants That Aphids Avoid
There are plenty of garden plants and herbs you can and probably do use regularly that will send aphids running in the opposite direction. If you plant these strategically, you might be able to keep heavy infestations from happening to your garden and flower beds.
Most plants from the allium family produce a smell that aphids despise. Think of onions, chives, garlic, and leeks. Even the lollipop-looking allium plants you can find in your local nurseries will help to run aphids off.
Setting up an herb garden will not only help to prevent aphids, but many strong-scented herbs such as dill, basil, cilantro, parsley, and rosemary will help to attract ladybugs. Other herbs you can plant that will send aphids away are mint, oregano, savory, and thyme.
Not only do you get fresh herbs and seasonings for your meals, but you send aphids packing at the same time. Just be careful with mint, if you plant it directly in your garden, it will quickly take over. The best way to keep mint in check is to keep it in containers.
According to ThurstonCounty.gov, some aphid predators feed on aphids during their larval phase, then turn to flower nectar in their adult stage.
Planting their favorite nectar-producing flowers will attract these beneficial predators to your yard. These can include parsley, sunflowers, daisies, marigolds, and yarrow.
Use Aphid trap plants
Another way to outsmart aphids and keep their numbers under control is to employ trap plants. Trap plants are sacrificial plants that attract aphids you don’t mind trimming or removing completely to get rid of the bugs.
Aphids love mustard plants (mustard greens), nasturtium, sunflowers, and nettles. Plant these flowers either in your garden, your flower bed, or near your fruit-bearing trees to attract the aphids here so they leave your other plants alone.
You don’t want to harvest anything off these plants, they are simply there to attract aphids to keep them away from other plants.
From there you can simply let the aphids and trap plants grow and “do their thing” or you can cut the plants down—aphids and all—and dispose of them. If you’re worried about aphids moving off the trap plants and onto your good plants, you don’t have to worry too much.
When aphids find a good food source they typically don’t leave it unless it gets overcrowded. To bypass this problem you purchase plants like nasturtium, mustard, and especially sunflowers that can withstand aphid damage, or outgrow it.
If you are worried about the numbers of aphids on your trap plants, simply thin out some of the aphids either by hand or spray some of them with the soapy water solution from earlier.
You can place those traps in a compost bin and turn up the heat to get rid of them as well. Check out our guide on the 7 reasons why aphids keep coming back to learn more!
A large population of aphids often sends in larger numbers of aphid predators like ladybugs. In the case of nettles, they initially attract aphids, but soon after, ladybugs are attracted to the same flower. Nature sometimes takes care of itself.
Tree wraps Prevent Aphid Infestations
For fruit trees, rose bushes, possibly even tomato plants, or other larger, thick stalk plants you can employ a tree wrap to stop insects from crawling up.
Most aphids do not fly, so putting a wrap around the trees is a good way to prevent an infestation unless you already have aphids in your tree trees. The aphids already in the trees can drop from one to another, or get blown around.
The plant wrap is a sticky barrier that prevents insects like aphids from crawling up to the tender flowers and fruits of the tree. This will prevent ants from crawling up and colonizing other plants or trees with aphids.
Ants will farm aphids for the honeydew they drop while feeding. Ants love the honeydew and will fight off other predators like a sheepdog fights off coyotes from sheep. But when you wrap a sticky band around the tree trunk, ants can’t get past to infect the tree with aphids that wouldn’t normally have been there.
You can find sticky tree wrap traps here: Catchmaster Tree Banding Shield which can be used on fruit trees to prevent crawling insects from damaging them.
For smaller plants such as tomatoes, roses, or seedling fruit trees, you can make your tree wrap. Start with a cling-type plastic wrap and wrap it around the plant you are trying to protect, then slather on a thick band of petroleum jelly.
About an inch to two inches wide will be a thick enough barrier to keep crawling insects from getting to the leaves and branches.
This is a temporary trick, but if you notice a lot of ants crawling up and down the trunk of the plant, this will prevent them from going back up or coming down. Soon the trapped ants will expire and not be able to come back up.
If you have aphids already, you’ll need to get rid of them while you have the sticky band or petroleum barrier up.
Also, look for other entryways ants might be using to get into the tree or plant. Are there any stabilizing stakes, guide wires, or branches touching other plants or the ground where ants and other crawlies can get into the canopy?
Lastly, simply you can use a water moat to put around your plant so ants cant climb up it!
Yellow Sticky Ground Traps for Aphids
It’s thought that aphids are attracted to the color yellow. Another way to prevent aphids is to employ yellow sticky traps near the ground of plants they like to infest.
These Gideal 20-Pack Dual-Sided Yellow Sticky Traps for Flying Plant Insects can be strategically placed around your roses, fruit trees, or others that often attract aphids. They stake into the ground, and when aphids or other nuisance insects crawl or fly into them, they get stuck.
This will only work as a preventative though. If you already have aphids on your plants they aren’t going to leave for a yellow sticky pad.
It’s not that they are that smart, it’s probably because aphids are slow-moving and pretty lazy. Once they have their mouths stuck into a soft part of the plant and are draining the juices, they’re not going to move from that area, unless it starts to become too crowded.
If you’d like, take a look at our full guide on the best aphid repellents here for more options!
Now we know what flowers and fruits attract aphids, and you have several ways to fight them off and prevent them from coming back.
The world will never be rid of insects like aphids. Though I know I wouldn’t shed a single tear if all the yellow jackets in the entire world suddenly shriveled up, never to come back again. We can learn what attracts these bugs to our gardens and find natural ways to combat them.
From using nature’s predators like ladybugs and lacewings to using their olfactory senses against them by planting garlic, cilantro, and other smelly plants, we can help to keep aphids away from our fruits and flowers.
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Buga, S. V., and A. V. Stekolshchikov. “Aphids as pests of fruit-and berry-producing plants in Byelorussia.” Redia 92 (2009): 239.
Herman, M. A. B., B. A. Nault, and C. D. Smart. “Effects of plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria on bell pepper production and green peach aphid infestations in New York.” Crop Protection 27.6 (2008): 996-1002.