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The Best Flowers And Plants For Pollinators

The Best Flowers And Plants For Pollinators

Psychologists have long studied the beneficial effects of gardening on human well-being. They’ve found that fresh air, sunlight and putting your hands in the dirt can help boost mood and calm anxiety. There’s something so grounding and hopeful about growing plants — even more so if they attract beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, moths, wasps and beetles. These flying miracles help most plants generate fruit and seeds by transferring pollen from flower to flower. Not just any plant will attract pollinators, however. And not every plant will attract bees and/or butterflies.

Benefits of pollinators

Pollination is carried out by many creatures — birds, bats, flies, beetles, moths and butterflies, among others — but native bees are the world’s most important pollinators. Blooming flowers and plants are essential to bees who seek sweet nectar and protein-packed pollen when they visit. Nectar, loaded with sugars, is a bee’s main source of energy. Pollen provides a balanced diet of proteins and fats. Bees need flowers to stay alive… and we need bees to stay alive, too.

Pollination is crucial to the health of our planet. There are more than 4,000 native species of bees in North America, responsible for pollinating over one-third of our food supply. Some of the crops that require bees for pollination include: apples, cranberries, melons, broccoli, blueberries, cherries and almonds. Imagine a world without cherries!

Unfortunately, the population of bees and butterflies is declining worldwide as a result of climate change, parasites and the use of pesticides. One thing you can do to help this alarming crisis is to plant a garden that attracts pollinators. It’s a win-win-win.

Colorful Cone Flower Echinaceas

Fun fact: An insect’s flower preference depends on the length of its tongue!

Bumble Bee on a Coneflower Echinacea plant

How to create a pollinator-friendly garden

You can easily create a pollinator-friendly garden that will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds in the warmer months. Not only is this a great project for promoting biodiversity, but it will also create stunning floral displays while attracting and sustaining local pollinator populations. It doesn’t take much to start a butterfly and bee garden! 

Location, location, location

To attract local pollinators, choose local plants native to your region. When choosing plants, you’ll want to consider location, both where your plants will grow — in your yard, garden or on your patio or balcony — and what types of plants thrive in your area. The USDA’s planting zone map can help you find your zone and determine whether a particular plant is likely to do well in your area.

Let nature take its course

You can even skip mowing your lawn for a few weeks to encourage wildflowers and flowering “weeds” like dandelions and clover to pop up.

Choose some perennials

Perennial flowers will return year after year, offering a feast for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds — plus low-maintenance beauty for everyone to enjoy. Single-petal flowers like tulips, coneflower or daisies are easy for bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators to reach. Plant at least three to five types of bee-friendly native perennials together for the best results. Most perennials should be planted in the Spring, to allow ample time for roots to grow. You can buy bulbs or seeds online and have them shipped directly to you. 

Then Add some annual flowers

Annuals have the advantage of blossoming all season long. Choose alyssum, cleome, zinnias, sunflowers, salvia, calendula and verbena

Create a haven for monarch butterflies

Monarch caterpillars (future butterflies) are completely dependent on milkweed plants.

Harvest some herbs

Plant culinary herbs such as sage, thyme, borage, lavender, chives, dill, basil, oregano, rosemary and mint, and then let a few of them flower to benefit bees (and your dinner!),

Seek out sunlight

If your goal is to attract bees, you’ll want to set up an environment where they visit regularly. Make sure your outdoor garden gets at least five to six hours of full sunlight each day. Bees thrive in open, sunny gardens, meadows and anywhere flowering plants are abundant.

Set up a water station

Provide a water source for bees to rest on for a sip, like a rimmed bowl or a birdbath.

Build a bee house

You can even set up a bee house to provide habitat for solitary cavity-nesting bees to lay their eggs. A bee house provides a safe space away from predators, weather and chemicals.

Once you’ve planted and set up your garden, just sit back and wait for the flowers to bloom… and eventually the pollinators will show up. Create a garden with a variety of flowers and plants, colors and textures to please pollinators of all types. You’ll enjoy a beautiful garden, your “guests” will revel in the nectar and pollen, and future generations will be glad you helped contribute to the viability of our ecosystem.

The best plants and flowers to attract bees and butterflies

“Bee sure” to include species with plenty of nectar-rich flowers. Plants to consider:

  • Aster
  • Basket-of-gold
  • Beardtongue
  • Bee balm
  • Bellflower
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Butterfly bush
  • Bleeding heart
  • Candytuft
  • Coneflower/Echinacea
  • Cornflower
  • Dahlia
  • Daisy
  • Dandelion
  • Fireweed
  • Flannel flower
  • Foxglove
  • Fuchsia
  • Goldenrod
  • Globe thistle
  • Grevillea
  • Heliotrope
  • Honeysuckle
  • Lavender
  • Lupine
  • Marigold
  • Milkweed
  • Nasturtium
  • Pincushion hakea
  • Queen Anne’s lace
  • Roses
  • Salvia
  • Stokes aster
  • Sunflower
  • Thistle
  • Thyme
  • Torch lily
  • Tulips
  • Verbena
  • Yarrow
  • Violet

About The Author

Becca Luna

Becca Risa Luna is a senior creative copywriter, designer and content strategist for Zulily's blog, The Find. With over a decade working in ecommerce, Becca is passionate about the intersection of technology and storytelling. She spends her free time traveling, advocating for mental health awareness, and writing about her favorite things: content marketing and designer handbags. An alumni of California State University at Chico, Becca currently lives in Seattle, Wash., with her partner and their rescued mini schnauzer, Huxley.

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