6 Plants That Attract Aphids the Most

Aphids are teeny tiny insects that no plant owner ever wants to encounter. They often target distressed plants, feeding on their sap and slowly causing their leaves to lose their pigment and wilt. To protect your plants from these bugs, you should know what plants they are most attracted to. 

The plants that attract aphids the most are roses, mustards, peonies, nasturtiums, sunflowers, and hibiscus plants. However, aphids may very well infest any plant that is not naturally equipped to repel them.

In this article, I will tell you more about the plants that aphids are more likely to target. If you already have one of these plants or are planning on getting one, you may want to take adequate steps to prevent a potential infestation. 

1. Roses

There is something that you need to know about aphids: these little creatures are particularly fond of soft plant tissues, such as flowers and leaves. Some plants with soft stems may also be attractive to these pesky pests.

Their affinity to soft plant tissues has to do with how aphids suck up plants’ sap. Aphids use their mouths to pierce flowers, leaves, and fruits: the softer the tissue, the easier the process. 

Roses, with their soft petals and bright colors, are an exceptionally desirable target for sap-feeding bugs. Aphids typically attack a rose’s new and fleshy buds due to the abundance of moisture and their tender consistency. 

So what happens when a bunch of aphids infests a rose bush? New buds will fail to bloom. Instead, they will wither and fall off, significantly reducing the yield. This can be especially troublesome if you’re growing roses for business purposes.

Control, Management, Prevention

Managing aphid infestation among your roses can be a tedious process, as you often have to remove them manually

Look out for aphids in the middle of the spring when the buds start coming out. Wearing gloves, you can gently rub them off the buds. The gloves can also protect your hands from the thorns in case you need to remove some aphids from the stem.

You can catch the aphids with a sticky trap as they fall off the roses. You can then apply a diluted neem oil solution to prevent re-infestation. It’s best to do so after sunset to prevent burning the foliage and the flowers.

2. Mustards

The mustard family includes thousands of species, many of which have been known and used for thousands of years. Mustard is a remarkably resistant plant that thrives in temperate climates. 

The most commonly cultivated verities are:

  • Black mustard
  • Brown mustard
  • White mustard

Since ancient times, mustard has been used to make a condiment very similar to what we use today. It also has medicinal properties and can be used to preserve meat.

If you’re growing mustard for any of the purposes mentioned above, it can be unnerving to find your plant infested with aphids.

Everything about mustard attracts aphids: the texture of its edible leaves, its yellow flowers, its fragrant smell, its fruits, and even its seeds. In fact, the mustard crop is so attractive to pests that frequent infestations are the main reason why many farmers struggle to achieve satisfactory yields. 

Aphids are so fond of this plant that there even is a particular type of aphid that has been named after it, the mustard aphid.

You can manage aphid infestation on mustard the same way you do for flowering plants like roses.

3. Peonies

Peonies are truly remarkable plants. When in bloom, they exhibit breathtakingly beautiful flowers and luxuriously green leaves. Unlike most of the plants on this list, peonies are perennials, meaning that they can easily survive for many years. If properly looked after, your peonies may very well outlive you!

Depending on the variety that you have or the climate in your area, peonies may bloom in late spring or early summer. The beauty of these plants is that they are both aesthetically pleasing and quite resistant to deer and harsh weather conditions.

As long as they are kept in a bright spot and well-drained soil, they should be perfectly fine. Peonies even enjoy a certain degree of cold, which helps them develop new buds. 

Unfortunately, peonies represent everything aphids (as well as other types of sap-feeding bugs) desire. For instance, they have lots of soft, brightly-colored flowers and leaves to feed on. It’s no wonder that people with peonies often complain about ants infesting their plants. 

The reason why ants are so attracted to peonies is that their buds and leaves are often covered in large amounts of honeydew, which is secreted by aphids and other sap-feeding pests.

If you are planning on getting yourself a beautiful peony, make sure to inspect it on a regular basis and take immediate action at the first signs of colony formation. Spraying your plant with plain water may be enough to eradicate small colonies before they can do any damage. 

Because aphids are particularly attracted to flower buds, this is where you may expect to see the most damage. Generally speaking, aphids tend to feed on peonies’ buds, releasing large amounts of honeydew. 

Over time, this may result in the buds developing serious fungal infections that are very difficult to treat. You will know if this is the case with your peonies, as their buds will turn increasingly dark. At first, they will appear brownish and then almost black. 

4. Nasturtiums

The nasturtium genus includes approximately 80 species, some annual and some perennial. In most cases, nasturtiums only last one growing season and are particularly sensitive to cold temperatures. 

However, they may very well perennialize in warmer climates.  

With their soft, bright-colored flowers, nasturtiums are among the plants that attract aphids the most. In fact, they are so appealing to these creatures that they are often used as a “trap crop.”

If you are planning on growing vegetables, you should definitely consider having a few nasturtiums in your garden. Being practically irresistible to sap-feeding bugs, nasturtiums will attract aphids and keep them away from your vegetables. 

Nasturtiums are especially recommended to those who are planning to grow pumpkin, kale, cabbage, and radish. Nasturtiums also attract other pests, including cabbage white butterflies, protecting your desired plants. 

It is a known fact that when nasturtiums are planted in the vicinity of white cabbage crops, cabbage white butterflies tend to lay their eggs on the former rather than the latter. 

As previously mentioned, mustards are also very appealing to aphids. 

Well, here is something you probably do not know: nasturtiums’ flowers and leaves are edible and taste vaguely like mustard. Say what you will, but these little bugs are quite consistent when it comes to their likes and dislikes! 

5. Sunflowers

Sunflowers are relatively resistant plants. Annual sunflowers shed a large number of seeds after the blooming season. Many of these seeds will grow into new plants the following year, so aphids don’t pose a real threat.

Aphids are attracted to the large sunflower blooms and their sticky sap, but rarely cause severe damage to them. However, in large enough populations, aphids may distort sunflower leaves and stems.

If you see aphids on your sunflowers, there is a good chance that they belong to the Macrosiphum genus. These aphids are commonly known as potato aphids. 

Sunflower and melon aphids also find sunflowers very appealing. These pests are very small and soft-bodied and tend to move in large, dense groups. 

The kinds of aphids that infest sunflowers are typically green, which may cause one to mistake them for Lygus bugs (or vice versa). To protect your plant, it is important that you first determine which bug you are dealing with. 

6. Hibiscus

Known for their colorful, showy flowers, hibiscus plants are tropical or subtropical plants that are often used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. The genus includes both annual and perennial species, many of which make excellent ornamental plants. 

If you hear someone complain about their hibiscus being infested, rest assured that they are probably dealing with aphids. This is because hibiscus plants are among the most attractive for aphids, along with roses, mustards, and nasturtiums.

When targeting a hibiscus, there are two particular spots that aphids tend to cluster around: flower buds and the upper part of the plant’s stems. If you suspect that your hibiscus has been infested by aphids, make sure not to overlook these areas, as this is where they usually reside. 

Just like with roses, when aphids infest a hibiscus, they feed upon its softest tissues, preventing its flowers from opening up. Mild infestations do not usually have devastating consequences and are quite easy to manage. 

However, severe infestations can have a detrimental impact on a plant’s health and appearance.

Here are some of the most common signs that your hibiscus is suffering from an advanced infestation:

  • The plant appears to have lost its vigor.
  • The plant is growing fewer flowers and branches.
  • Even when the plant grows new flowers and branches, they are smaller than they should be.
  • The flower buds fail to unfurl.
  • The plant grows deformed leaves.
  • The plant appears smaller than it should be (delayed or stunted growth).
  • Dark mold appears on the plant’s leaves due to aphids releasing a large amount of honeydew.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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