Top 10 Pollinator Garden Plants For Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds

Top 10 Pollinator Garden Plants For Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds

Pollinators have a significant role in our ecosystems and food production. Create your own backyard pollinator garden to help your local ecosystem!

In this article, we’ll review the importance of adding native plants to your pollinator garden, the impact this makes on the environment, and our top 10 plant recommendations for your backyard pollinator garden.

*This article contains affiliate links to some of our favorite products for your pollinator garden. We earn a small commission from purchases made through these links. Thank you for your support!

Why do native plants excel in a pollinator garden?

Not all plants are equal when it comes to attracting pollinators. Native plants, which have evolved in the same area as these local bugs and birds, have an advantage. Their co-evolution means they are perfectly suited for each other.

Here’s why native plants are fantastic for attracting pollinators:

  1. Richer Nectar/Pollen: Native plants often have higher levels of nutrients compared to non-native plants.
  2. Better Accessibility: The shape of native flowers matches the feeding habits of local pollinators.
  3. Increased Hardiness: Native plants are low-maintenance and hardy to their home regions, giving them the chance to thrive with little to no care.

So what’s the bottom line? Native plant species can attract more pollinators and provide better support for them. Now let’s dive deeper into this fascinating world of native pollinator garden plants!

The Vital Connection: Native Plants and Native Pollinators

Creating a pollinator garden isn’t just about splashes of color and beauty; it’s about fostering a thriving ecosystem where native plants and pollinators form a symbiotic relationship. This connection is pivotal for the survival of many local pollinator species. Here’s why:

1. Specific Co-Dependencies

Some native pollinators rely exclusively on certain native plant species. For instance, the Monarch butterfly caterpillars feed only on milkweed. These plants have evolved to provide the exact nutrients these creatures need.

2. Native Pollen and Nectar Advantage

Native pollen and nectar have evolved to meet the nutritional needs and physical traits of local pollinators. Their rich, complex composition is often more nutritious than what non-native plants offer, and their structure makes them easier for native pollinators to access.

3. Key Native Plant Groups

Different groups of native pollinators have specific plant preferences:

  • Wild Bees: They are particularly fond of plants like sunflowers and Joe-Pye weed, which offer ample pollen.
  • Butterflies: They thrive with nectar-rich flowers such as wild bergamot.
  • Moths: Evening bloomers like phlox are nocturnal moth favorites.
  • Birds: Red columbine and trumpet vines are well-suited for hummingbirds with their tube-shaped blooms.
  • Beetles: They prefer flowers with open structures like goldenrods.

Each group of pollinator garden plants plays a critical role in sustaining our local biodiversity. By planting native, we’re not just gardening; we’re restoring natural habitats.

A bee sits on goldenrod in a pollinator garden.

Top 10 Native Plants to Attract Butterflies, Bees, and Hummingbirds to Your Pollinator Garden

Creating a pollinator garden is like setting the table for a banquet where the guests are some of nature’s most vital players: butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. Let’s dive into the top 10 plants that will make your garden a buzzing haven.

1. Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Appearance: A sturdy perennial with clusters of fragrant pink, orange, or white flowers.

Growth Habits: Thrives in full sun and well-drained soil.

Pollinator Benefits: The sole host plant for Monarch butterfly caterpillars and a nectar source for various bees.

Cultivation Tips: Milkweed is easy to grow from seed; avoid using pesticides that can harm caterpillars.

Pink milkweed flowers attract monarch butterflies to pollinator garden.

2. Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Appearance: Show-stopping purple petals with a prominent central cone.

Growth Habits: Prefers full sun but tolerates partial shade; drought resistant once established.

Pollinator Benefits: A buffet for butterflies and bees; seeds attract birds in fall and winter.

Cultivation Tips: Deadhead spent flowers to encourage more blooms. Plant Coneflower from seed to fill out large areas.

Purple coneflower with heads filled with seeds ready to collect and plant.

3. Bee Balm (Monarda didyma)

Appearance: Whorls of red, pink, purple, or white tubular flowers atop square stems.

Growth Habits: Likes moist soil and full to partial sun; can spread vigorously.

Pollinator Benefits: Irresistible to hummingbirds and bees, including native bumblebees.

Cultivation Tips: Divide every few years to maintain vigor and prevent crowding. Easy to cultivate from seed (we recommend these seeds by the Seed Needs store).

Bee balm stands tall and multiplies easily in backyard pollinator gardens.

4. Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Appearance: Bright yellow petals surround a dark brown central disk.

Growth Habits: Adaptable to various conditions; full sun preferred. Fall bloomer.

Pollinator Benefits: A favorite of butterflies for nectar and birds for seeds.

Cultivation Tips: Self-seeds readily; deadhead if you want to control spreading. We use these seeds by Sweet Yards for initial cultivation and allow self-seeding in subsequent years.

Black eyed susans are an eye catching and beneficial native plant addition for pollinator gardens.

5. Salvia (Salvia officinalis)

Appearance: Spikes of tubular flowers in shades of blue, purple, red, or white.

Growth Habits: Loves the sun and well-draining soil; some species tolerate drought.

Pollinator Benefits: Hummingbirds adore it, and it’s popular among bees too!

Cultivation Tips: Cut back after the first bloom to encourage a second flush of flowers. Common sage has foliage that can be used in culinary efforts as well.

Purple salvia, or sage, has both culinary benefits as well as pollinator benefits.

6. Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Appearance: Tall stems crowned with mauve-pink flower clusters.

Growth Habits: Prefers moist soil and full to part sun; great for back-of-border planting.

Pollinator Benefits: A magnet for butterflies and beneficial insects.

Cultivation Tips: Stake tall varieties to prevent them from flopping over. Start from seed to fill in large areas (we recommend these seeds by Gaea’s Blessing!)

Pink blooms on a Joe Pye Weed plant in a native flower meadow.

7. Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Appearance: Brilliant red flowers on spike-like racemes rise above lance-shaped leaves.

Growth Habits: Enjoys wet conditions and partial shade but can adapt to sunnier spots with ample moisture.

Pollinator Benefits: Hummingbirds can’t resist its vivid red blooms—a true spectacle when they visit!

Cultivation Tips: Keep the soil consistently moist for best results. Easy to start from seed (we recommend using these seeds by Everwilde Farms).

Tall red spikes of flowers with cardinal flower.

8. Liatris (Liatris spicata)

Appearance: Sturdy spikes adorned with fluffy purple flowers that open from the top down.

Growth Habits: Loves well-draining soil in full sun; drought-tolerant once established.

Pollinator Benefits: Attracts a wide array of pollinators including butterflies, bees, and moths.

Cultivation Tips: Plant corms in the fall for blooms next season.

The native liatris attracts many pollinators and is a good addition to pollinator gardens.

9. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

Appearance: Tall clusters of flowers in hues of purple, blue, and pink. Fall blooming through the first frost.

Growth Habits: Loves well-draining soil in full sun; drought-tolerant once established.

Pollinator Benefits: Attracts butterflies and bees, especially later on in the season.

Cultivation Tips: Start from seed for planting large areas. We recommend these seeds from the Seed Needs store.

New England Asters are a native plant that can easily be grown and started from seed.

10. Common Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Appearance: Large clusters of tiny blooms create a striking blanket of color in pollinator gardens.

Growth Habits: Very drought tolerant once established, prefers full sun.

Pollinator Benefits: Bees, moths, and butterflies frequently visit Yarrow flowers.

Cultivation Tips: Spreads easily and readily. Plant inside pavers or stones if keeping in a contained area.

Pollinator gardens benefit from a pop of color with the native common yarrow.

Caring for Your Pollinator Haven

Cherishing your pollinator garden comes with its own set of care instructions. Just as different plants have varied needs, so too do the pollinators they attract. But don’t worry, we’ve got the basics covered for you.

Watering and Mulching Techniques

Pollinator gardens require attention to watering and mulching. Remember, overwatering can be lethal for many plant species. Try to stick to a watering schedule that aligns with the natural rainfall of your area.

Mulch is a vital tool in any garden. It not only suppresses invasive weeds but also helps retain soil moisture and regulate temperature fluctuations. Opt for organic mulch like leaf litter or compost, which can also provide additional nutrients for your plants.

Pesticide-Free Gardening

Protecting pollinators means avoiding or minimizing pesticide use. Pesticides are toxic to these essential creatures. Instead, adopt an organic gardening approach. By maintaining a diverse mix of native plants, you encourage a healthy ecosystem where pests are naturally controlled.

Alternative Pest Management

Embrace natural predators! Birds, spiders, and even other insects can help manage pests in your garden. Plant species that attract these helpful hunters.

Physical barriers are another natural alternative for pest management. Netting or row covers can protect your plants from larger pests while ensuring small pollinators still have access.

Maintaining a thriving pollinator garden is a labor of love but one that rewards you with an abundant display of color, beauty and the delightful hum of nature’s tiny workers.

Enhancing Your Landscape as a Pollinator Paradise

Ready to take your pollinator garden to the next level? Let’s dive into some additional strategies that transform your space into a true pollinator paradise.

1. Nesting Sites and Sheltered Areas

Creating nesting sites and sheltered areas with suitable materials helps different types of pollinators to inhabit or overwinter in your garden. For instance, you could:

  • Leave small piles of rocks or decomposing logs around the garden for beetles.
  • Make a bee hotel from hollow stems for solitary bees.

2. Supplemental Feeding Stations

There might be times when natural nectar resources are scarce, especially early in the spring or late in the fall. During these times, offering supplemental feeding stations can be a lifeline for hungry pollinators. Here are some ideas:

  • Provide appropriate sugar solutions for hummingbirds.
  • Place fruit slices out for butterflies.

3. Water Features

Don’t forget about water! Pollinators need it just as much as they need nectar. Consider:

  • Installing shallow water features like birdbaths or pebble trays.
  • Providing a safe space for pollinators to drink from and cool off.

With these tips for successful pollinator gardens, you’ll not only attract more pollinators but also create an environment where they can thrive all year round. The result? A bustling, vibrant garden filled with fluttering wings and buzzing bees – absolute bliss for any nature lover!

A butterfly clings to the native New England Aster flower.

FAQs About Creating Vibrant Pollinator Gardens

What are the essentials for establishing a pollinator garden?

  • Choosing the Right Plants: Select flowers and shrubs that provide ample nectar and pollen. Aim for a mix that blooms at various times to provide year-round resources.
  • Sustainable Practices: Ensure you’re using organic gardening methods to protect the delicate ecosystems of pollinators.

Are non-native plants beneficial to pollinators?

Certainly! Some non-native plants can be rich in nectar and pollen. Lavender, borage, and cosmos are great examples that attract a wide range of bees and butterflies.

How quickly will pollinators find my garden?

It varies, but generally, if you build it, they will come—often within a few weeks. Ensuring a diverse selection of plants is key to speedy discovery.

Can I attract specific butterflies or bees?

Absolutely! Planting milkweed will bring monarch butterflies; bee balm is irresistible to hummingbirds and many bee species. Do some research on local species for targeted planting.

Should I be concerned about pesticides in my garden?

Yes, pesticides can have harmful effects on pollinators. Always look for natural pest control methods or organic pesticides as safer alternatives. Invest in Neem Oil before planting – we recommend Captain Jack’s Neem Oil for organic and native gardens!

How can I support migratory hummingbirds?

Planting native tubular flowers like trumpet vine or salvia can provide essential refueling stops for these travelers.

Identifying Bees: Native vs Non-native?

Watching behavior helps—native bees tend to be solitary and visit a variety of flowers, while non-native honeybees are more social and often seen in groups.

Start Your Pollinator Garden This Year!

Dive into the rewarding experience of creating a pollinator garden with native plants. The ripple effect on local wildlife and ecosystems is profound, providing crucial support to butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and many more beneficial creatures.

By embracing these practices, you join a community dedicated to preserving the natural world. Let’s cultivate these tiny sanctuaries one garden at a time for the enduring health of our planet’s pollinators.

Here are some actionable steps you can take to create your own pollinator garden:

  1. Take Action: Start your pollinator-friendly space, big or small, to foster biodiversity.
  2. Seasonal Blooms: Plant a tapestry of native species that flower at different times for year-round feasts.
  3. Pesticide-Free Promise: Commit to chemical-free gardening to safeguard our insect allies.
  4. Nurture with Nature: Offer water sources and nesting habitats to complete your garden’s allure.

Remember, every effort counts in making a difference for pollinators!