Flying bee

National Pollinator Week

In Feature, Perennials, Pollinators, Summerby Megan Nichols

It’s National Pollinator Week! What better way to celebrate than to provide them with a smörgåsbord of their favorite foods? Here are 15 good perennial options to try:



The open, flat landing pad make this one perfect for butterflies and bees alike. They come in pink, white, red, yellow, orange, and shades in between, and range in height from 12-36 inches so there is sure to be the perfect coneflower for any sunny garden.



Commonly called bee balm, this one is favored by butterflies and hummingbirds, too. Careful, the old-fashioned varieties like to spread. The new, shorter cultivars are less aggressive, however.


Whether in blue or red, lobelia is a stunning addition to the moist, part-sun garden. Hummingbirds love this plant!


Hosta flower

It may not be a favorite plant of pollinators, but if you’ve got shade it will do the trick and give them something to visit in less-sunny gardens. Grow in part sun to shade. Hosta range in size from just a few inches tall and 1 foot wide to 4 feet tall and wide, depending on variety.



Another flat flower, this one can be a runner and reseeder so be sure you’re prepared to tackle the extra work. It’s a pollinator favorite, though, so it’s worth it, and really puts on a show in the garden. Full to part sun, 2-3 feet tall.


Bee and chelone flower

This late bloomer does well in part sun or shade and is favored by big bumble bees. Over time it will widen to look almost shrub-like. 2-3 feet tall.

Bleeding Heart

Dicentra (Bleeding Heart) flower

Shade loving and early blooming, Bleeding Hearts are perfect for early emerging bees. Try a fern leaf variety for longer bloom time, try Gold Heart to brighten a shady corner of the garden.


Geranium flowers

Long blooming and much loved by bees, geraniums come in a variety of heights and growth habits and love to be grown in sun to part shade.


Monarch caterpillar on milkweed

This is important. It’s the only plant on which Monarch butterfly larvae feed. They like it all – swamp, common, showy, whorled, butterfly weed…


Panicum virgatum (Switch grass)

This grass is a larval host for some native butterflies. Grasses also provide protection for pollinators from storms and predators.

Prairie Dropseed

Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie dropseed) grass

This is also a larval host plant for some native butterflies, and the cascading nature of the blades provides the perfect place for native, ground-nesting bees to fly under and drill into the soil to make their nests.

Black-Eyed Susan

Rudbeckia (Black-eyed susan) flowers

Late blooming and sun loving, the gold color of this open flower is the perfect color for fall in the garden. 2-4 feet tall.


Phlox flowers

Woodland phlox is perfect for early bloom and shade. Tall garden phlox is the way to go for mid-season blooms and part-sun to full-sun. This is a favorite of the fascinating Sphinx Moth, and will be visited by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, too.


Salvia flowers

Mid-season and long-blooming, Salvia is a stunning addition to any sunny garden and comes in a variety of colors and heights.


Aster and bumble bee

This late bloomer is hard to match when counting visits from pollinators.

More Pollinator Garden Tips

While planting flowers is the best thing for pollinators, there are still other things they need and other important considerations that will make your garden pollinator friendly:

  • Plant plants that provide nectar and pollen. Nectar provides carbohydrates and pollen provides protein.
  • Provide a water source. Be sure to clean containers often and keep water fresh and filled. A shallow dish with flat rocks for pollinators to land on is easy to create and appreciated by bees and butterflies alike.
  • Provide sweet treats. Use your overripe fruit such as oranges and bananas to feed the butterflies. When it’s a little too far gone for us is when it’s just right for them. Beware, ants will find it too, so hanging the dish of fruit can help.
  • Plant in a sunny area.
  • Create large swaths or groupings of the same native, non-invasive plants.
  • Create continuous bloom throughout your growing season.
  • Eliminate or minimize the use of pesticides and fungicides. If spraying pesticides is a must, do so very early in the day or late in the evening when pollinators aren’t out and about.

Besides being just plain amazing to watch and enjoy, pollinators are vital to food and flower production, and without them gardening does not exist as we know it. Gardeners need only do what they already love to do: Plant plants!