A pond as small as one-half of a wooden barrel can attract dragonflies to a garden and provide a habitat for these beneficial insects. Dragonflies can eat their own body weight in mosquitoes and flies in 30 minutes and don't sting or bite so pose no danger to people. Water plants provide somewhere for dragonflies to lay their eggs and places for dragonfly nymphs to hide, rest and hunt. Rocks and nearby shrubs also help attract dragonflies to a garden.
A garden pond at least 2 feet deep is an attractive habitat for dragonflies. Deep water provides a place for dragonfly nymphs to hide from predators, such as raccoons. The pond should contain varying depths to grow a range of water plants, and it should have shallow edges where one or two flat rocks can lie. Light-colored rocks attract some dragonfly species, and many dragonflies warm up by basking on rocks. Place the pond somewhere sheltered from strong winds but exposed to midday sun.
Ponds containing submerged, floating and emerging water plants attract dragonflies. Dragonflies don't eat water plants, but they need them to complete their life cycle. Adult dragonflies often perch on plant stems that emerge from water.
Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana) fills a dragonfly habitat with vegetation below the water line. Absorbing nutrients from the water, fanwort also helps keep pond water clear. Its bright-green, feathery foliage grows 3 inches tall and spreads 12 to 36 inches wide. Fanwort blooms in summer, producing white flowers 1/2 inch wide just above the water, and it is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 through 10 and thrives in full sun.
American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) is a floating plant that shades the water in a dragonfly habitat. Its waxy, green, cupped leaves are 2 inches wide and float on the water surface. In summer, the plant's 8- to 12-inch-wide, pale-yellow flowers appear. Growing 3 to 6 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide, American lotus is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 10. This plant grows best in water at least 2 feet deep in a site exposed to full sun.
Common rush (Juncus effusus) provides a perch for dragonflies. Hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, common rush grows in spreading clumps 2 to 4 feet tall and wide. This grasslike perennial grows best in a sunny spot and wet soil or standing water up to 4 inches deep. In fall, its leaves turn yellow, and in winter they turn brown.
Shrubs for Dragonflies
Shrubs 2 to 3 feet from the water's edge provide resting sites for dragonflies. Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) grows well in wet soil near a dragonfly pond. Hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9, buttonbush features clusters of tiny, fragrant, white, summer flowers that are attractive to bees and butterflies. Buttonbush does best in a sunny or partially shaded spot and grows 5 to 12 feet tall and 4 to 8 feet wide.
Seedbox (Ludwigia alternifolia) thrives at pond edges in partially shaded or sunny spots. Growing 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 1 1/2 feet wide, seedbox is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8. Its yellow flowers appear in summer, followed by cubical fruit capsules.