Toss out the mindset of getting rid of all the weeds, and you could not only help pollinators but possibly find some new favorite flowers in these 9 beneficial weeds. Open your mind, and let’s dive in.
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Beneficial Weeds? These 9 Weeds Could be your New Favorite Flowers
Not sure about you, but I grew up with parents and grandparents who had that old mindset – all weeds must go.
That is not only a downhill battle, but back then, many weed killers were used. Those are toxic not only to our soil and to wildlife, but to us. There’s no way we can spray or sprinkle that stuff all over and think it doesn’t affect us.
Besides that, “weeds” are very beneficial in many ways. From the soil to pollinators, and even remedies for humans, they can be great. Who decides what’s a weed or not anyway? You can! Here are 9 beneficial weeds I keep around.
I completely cringe when I think of all the weed killers my parents used on their little suburban lawn when I was a kid to get rid of these beautiful, beneficial weeds.
This little yellow flower is one of the first flowers to bloom in spring, so its the first food of hundreds of honeybees and other native pollinators. Without it, they can suffer as they search for nectar early in the season.
This bright, cheerful yellow flower is one of the first signs of spring, and I think they are worth leaving in my yard. Yes, I remove most of them from my flower garden, but they are allowed to grow everywhere else. And on 10 acres, that can be a lot of room for them!
Dandelions can be made into teas, thrown into soups and salads, and even made into salves for various things. The roots can be used to make coffee, and if you want to experiment like my husband’s parents did, you can even make some pretty potent wine from it!
Please reconsider this pollinator-friendly plant!
The problem with goldenrod is that a large population of people confuse it with ragweed. I used to as well.
Ragweed is known to cause intense allergic reactions in many, while almost no one is allergic to goldenrod.
Goldenrod is a very important late-summer bloomer for pollinators. While so many other flowers are already spent, goldenrod continues to supply nectar. Especially to migrating Monarchs!
It’s pretty yellow flowers burst out on most of this plant as it looks like sunshine in many fields.
Goldenrods, like most beneficial weeds, are good for the soil and help add nutrients to make it healthy.
For humans, it can also be made into a tea to treat UTI’s and inflammation.
I have designated places that I allow it to grow and flourish. Not only is it pretty, but I love seeing the butterflies and bees on it. It’s a keeper!
3. White Clover
Just recently, my dad said it looked like winter in July, since his back yard had so much clover. Haha, I was proud of him for leaving it instead of trying to get rid of it like his younger days.
He said it was full of honeybees, so he wanted to leave it. Good man! And that’s just it, white clover is excellent for pollinators and especially honeybees! Talk about beneficial weeds! 🙂
When I walk in my yard, I’m always looking down, so I don’t step on any (think clover honey!). Plus, the white clover is great for the soil, and is actually often used for ground cover in orchards as it not only protects the soil but tree roots.
It will actually show up first in low nitrogen areas, so I figure they are needed to grow there!
The entire plant is edible and can be used for teas, tinctures, and salves.
4. Milk Thistle
I have these growing everywhere in my fields. It makes me happy to have more beneficial weeds that pollinators love.
One thing to note, please don’t confuse these with the bull thistle, which is considered an invasive species.
The pretty pinkish/lavender flower of the milk thistle is native. It will host many pollinators, including the honeybee, as this is one of their favorites.
Painted Lady butterflies also love this plant and will use it for their host plant. Goldfinches also love it, who will use it for nesting material.
All parts of this plant (besides the thistle) are edible and can make a great spinach substitute. Its tea or juice is considered a healing herb, and its roots can be roasted for coffee.
Like most beneficial weeds, they make a barren-looking piece of land look pretty with wildflowers. 🙂
Not sure if you know the Mullein? You’ll recognize it by the tallest wildflower of the bunch!
It has a “stalk” of yellow flowers that attract pollinators of all kinds, including the bees!!
Although not native, it isn’t an invasive plant (I usually only see one or two at a time). Mullein is biennial, so you’ll see the flowers in the second year and then often never see it again.
It’s been used for respiratory conditions and used for skin, lung, and digestive remedies.
Not the prettiest plant sometimes, but worth keeping around as it still delivers nectar even in the driest summers.
Out of this list of beneficial weeds, I would say yarrow could most easily be mistaken for a greenhouse flower.
As a matter of fact, you can purchase these in nurseries and greenhouses. If you look on certain websites, it’s listed as a perennial instead of a weed. Yay!
They are a beautiful flower in the sunflower family that pollinators absolutely love. They do spread easily, though, so be mindful of watching that, let them grow, or be ready to transplant.
For people, it can be used in tea to treat allergies or chewed for digestive remedies. It can also be used to lower a fever naturally and was used by settlers for a few other things.
It’s a great addition to any flower or pollinator garden!
If you’re not familiar with the looks of these beneficial weeds, I would say that you recognized them as soon as you saw the picture.
The chicory is a popular roadside and field weed related to the dandelion, except with pretty blue flowers. As a kid, I remember these as the plants that scratched against my ankles, haha!
Chicory has the nickname honey plant, and for a good reason, as bees absolutely love it! Very drought resistant, it’s also dependable for them.
For humans, the roots can be ground as coffee (ever try chicory coffee?). It’s sometimes used as a tonic for upset stomachs or to help with digestion.
You’ll often see chicory with the other beneficial weeds listed here like goldenrod.
8. Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis)
I think the yellow sorrel (also called wood sorrel or oxalis) is a pretty little flower. It resembles miniature flowers of something you’d buy at your favorite greenhouse.
As a matter of fact, this is another of those beneficial weeds you actually can buy in stores.
It’s often sold as ground cover as it resembles a yellow shamrock or clover.
This is the plant that my granddaughter saw one year and said, “oh grandma, you can eat these.” Smart little girl, yes, you can.
Besides being visited by pollinators, the yellow sorrel has a lemony flavor that would be a great addition to your salad. It’s actually quite good!
It can also be used as a poultice to treat burns or bug bites.
I leave several select ones in my flower gardens for my pollinators and because they’re pretty. The leaves stay bright green, and the tiny flowers are like little yellow lights throughout.
You’re welcome, pollinators!
9. Queen Anne’s Lace
I remember growing up being told something about the black dot in the middle of this plant’s flower. I also remember cupping my hand over it gently because it felt soft and fit just perfectly.
What I didn’t know back then, was that the Queen Anne’s Lace can serve as a host for Black Swallowtail butterflies. Bees and other pollinators love her too.
As with most beneficial weeds, it’s helpful to humans too. The leaves have antibacterial properties and are a member of the carrot family. Its roots can be eaten the same way.
I also leave a few of these in designated areas for pollinators to enjoy.
Personally, I have not tried to use any of these beneficial weeds as remedies. I have only tasted some of them. I caution you to be very sure you have the right plant before you try.
Good research and an awesome app called Seek by iNaturalist can help you identify the plant and produce the proper remedy.
My main reason for leaving any of these beneficial weeds is for pollinators, although I like the flowers! 🙂
What do you think about these beneficial weeds? Do you have any others you like that I didn’t list? Please let me know below! 🙂