Sphinx moth on nepeta

Plants for Pollinators

In Annuals, Perennials, Pollinators, Summerby Megan Nichols

Pollinators are amazing! There is much we enjoy on a regular basis for which we should thank a pollinator. From food we eat, flowers we enjoy, and their contribution to the overall health of the ecosystem, pollinators do a lot for us.

Pollination… what is it?
• It’s flower fertilization
• It’s a win/win for plants and pollinators
• Plants want to reproduce, so they need to move their pollen around
• Pollinators need nectar and pollen, so they’re drawn to the plants
• Pollinators unwittingly move pollen from plant to plant as they gather
• This cross pollination facilitates plant reproduction
• Pollinated flowers create seeds that fall and make new plants
• Many of our favorite food crops need pollination to produce
• Pollinators include bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, beetles, flies, wasps, bats, and more

We love our pollinators, and we love to show them how much we care. The best way to do that is to take good care of them like they do of us.

11 Perennials to Love

Astilbe – A favorite for the shade garden, Astilbe likes part sun to shade and consistently moist soil. Pair with Hostas and Brunnera for added pollinator benefits.

Brunnera – Tiny, delicate blue flowers that resemble forget-me-nots are great for early season pollinator food. Plant in part sun to shade. Average water needs.

Painted lady butterfly on echinacea

Coneflowers – The flat top variety are best (it’s more difficult for pollinators to extract what they need from fluffy tops). Coneflowers come in a variety of colors and pair well with grasses, especially Karl Forester Feather Reed and Prairie Dropseed. Plant in full sun and well-drained soil.

Allium – Grown from bulbs and also known as ornamental onion, allium grown in pots are usually purple, but can also be pink or white. Not all varieties grow well in a container but can be planted as bulbs in the fall and will grow just fine in the ground come the following spring. Combine with Betony and Coreopsis. Plant in full to part sun.

Salvia – Definitely a favorite of bees, Salvia (also known as Meadow Sage) comes in white, purple, blue shades, and pink. Plant in full sun in well-drained soil. Pair with Coneflowers.

Bee Balm – With little, tubular flower parts, Bee Balm is a favorite of not just bees, but butterflies and hummingbirds, too, who are specialized to extract nectar and pollen from narrow flower parts.

Heuchera – Though it’s prized by gardeners for colorful foliage, the tiny flowers of Heuchera and Heucherella attract hummingbirds. Full shade to full sun, variety dependent.

Nepeta – Low growing and blanketed in pale purple blooms, nepeta has a long bloom time and is extremely low maintenance. Drought resistant and salt tolerant, part-sun to sun.

Phlox – All kinds of phlox are pollinator favorites. Creeping phlox is great for early blooms. Woodland phlox is a perfect option for shadier locations. Garden phlox is a show stopper for a sun to part-sun location and will bloom in mid-summer.

Black-eyed Susans – Open faced, happy flowers bloom later in summer and into to fall, providing late season food for busy bees before they tuck in for their long winter’s nap. Plant in full sun. Drought tolerant once established.

Sedum flowers with bees

Sedum – This late season bloomer is a favorite of many pollinators. Once in bloom, sit back and enjoy the show as several types of bees, butterflies, hover flies, and other pollinators come to visit. Plant in full sun.

Annuals to Try

If you’re tucking in annuals or planting in a container, pollinator favorites include Zinnias, Marigolds, Pentas, Calibrachoa, Salvia, and Torrenia if you’re planting in a shadier location.

Swallowtail butterfly on zinnia

Besides planting plants that are good sources of food, gardeners help pollinators when they provide fresh water, use pesticides sparingly, and provide shelter such as bunching grasses and brush snags.

Happy pollinator planting!

Swallowtail butterfly on calibrachoa