The Best Plants For A Pollinator Garden

Creating a pollinator garden not only can help provide food and other resources to pollinators, such as bees and monarchs but can also help increase your garden crop yield!

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Pollinator gardens provide food and host plants for many of our pollinating species. The best-known pollinizers are honey bees and butterflies but there are so many different insects and even animals that need pollen and can help pollinate plants. There are many different types of bees, moths, butterflies, and wasps that pollinate plants. Other species include ants, flies, beetles, bats, birds, and even rodents and lizards!

There may be many different types of pollinators but you won’t necessarily attract all of them to your garden but don’t freak out if you find ants or pollen wasps in the garden. Attracting insects to a garden is very important and it is expected when you are creating a mini ecosystem in your yard. Some insects and animals will only be attracted to the garden if their host plant is available. Monarch butterflies need milkweed, spicebush swallowtail needs the spicebush, and the zebra swallowtail needs the pawpaw tree. Not every species needs a specific plant but some might be very picky! Keep this in mind when choosing plants to attract pollinators.

Most of these plants can be planted in zones 4-8 but double check if these are compatible in your region. Also, make sure that none of these plants are invasive, weedy, or banned in your area. Planting natives is always a great option but there are some nonnatives that are great for pollinators as well.

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Everyone knows that Monarchs need milkweed but why? Monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plant and then the little baby caterpillars eat the leaves. They also utilize the pollen from milkweed but also collect pollen from other plants. Milkweed also attracts other butterflies and bees. This is a great plant to include in your pollinator garden as it is deer resistant and can tolerate poor soil. Other species to consider are A. incarnata or A. speciosa.

Perennial
Native Range:
 Eastern North America
Zone: 3-9
Sun: Full Sun
Water: Dry-Medium

Get seeds here

Beebalm (Monarda hybrida)

There are different types of beebalm available but many hybrid species are more tolerant to powdery mildew and poor soil. This plant is great for a rain garden and attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Go with a hybrid species or find some that are native to your regions.

Perennial
Zone: 5-9
Sun: Full Sun-Part Shade
Water: Medium-Wet

Get seeds here

Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

This flower is a relatively short plant that is actually a type of milkweed. Like the other milkweeds, it is tolerant of poor soil and resistant to deer. It can take awhile for this plant to establish itself which means it could take 2-3 years before they begin to flower. They attract butterflies and monarch caterpillars will eat the foliage.

Perennial
Native Range:
 Eastern & Southern United States
Zone: 3-9
Sun: Full Sun
Water: Dry-Medium

Get seeds here

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

This fragrant flower is a great attractant for both butterflies and bees. It is not native to North America so it can be tricky to grow. In some places, it is treated as an annual due to harsh winters. They do not like to get their feet wet and are relatively drought tolerant once they become established. There are different types of lavender and varieties so pick one that will grow best in your region.

Perennial
Native Range:
Mediterranean
Zone: 5-8
Sun: Full Sun
Water: Dry-Medium

Get seeds here

Calendula (Calendula officinalis)

Also called marigolds, calendula is a short spring blooming flower that attracts butterflies and bees. It can tolerate rabbits and likes average soil. However, it can suffer from powdery mildew so keep an eye out for that. Deadhead flowers to promote flowering throughout the season.

Annual
Zone: 2-11
Sun: Full Sun-Part Shade
Water: Medium

Get seeds here

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Catnip does a great job of making cats go crazy but bees and butterflies love them too! This herb can be used in the kitchen as well as providing nectar for pollinators. It is tolerant of poor soil, air pollution, and deer. Deadheading the flowers will promote more flowers to grow but watch this plant as it self-seeds and can spread if not taken care of.

Perennial
Native Range:
 Europe & parts of Asia
Zone: 3-7
Sun: Full Sun-Part Shade
Water: Dry-Medium

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Did you know that chives produce a bushy round purple flower? Chives are a great plant to consider adding to your vegetable garden. Chives are tasty to eat but their flowers also attract bees.

Perennial
Native Range:
Balkans, Siberia, Asia Minor
Zone: 4-8
Sun: Full Sun-Part Shade
Water: Medium

Get seeds here

Dandelions (Taraxacum spp.)

Yes, you read that right, dandelions. Though they may be a lawn weed you should really consider letting these guys grow throughout the spring. They are some of the first flowers that come up that provide food for bees and butterflies. You can also grow some gourmet dandelions for their leaves if you like to eat dandelions in your salad.

Perennial
Native Range:
Greece, naturalized throughout the world
Zone: 3-10
Sun: Full Sun
Water: Medium

Get seeds here

These are not the only plants that you can plant for pollinators. There are hundreds of different plants available and it changes depending on the region you are in. If you live in the U.S. there are butterfly seed collections for the eastern, midwestern, and western parts of the U.S. that help attract butterflies and bees. If you plant your garden right you could also have it registered as a natural wildlife garden.

What are you planting this year to attract pollinators?


Sources

Create Habitat for Monarchs
Missouri Botanical Garden