Creating a Pollinator Garden Back »

Mixed pollinator garden.

Written collaboratively by David Graper, Hiedi Hofftiezer, and Marcus Honcharenko.

What is a Pollinator Garden?

Pollinator Gardens are becoming more popular all throughout the United States. Citizens are becoming more concerned with the decline in the pollinator population and the role that pollinators play in our ecosystem. Pollinator Gardens help to attract pollinators of all shapes and sizes, including bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds. Pollinators help plants reproduce by spreading their pollen and help plants produce their fruit. A loss of pollinators would cause a decrease in plant reproduction and in the amount of fruit available to consumers. Thus, people have begun to plant pollinator gardens in their own in backyards and community gardens throughout the United States.

If you are you concerned about the pollinator populations and wondering how to go about planting your own pollinator garden, then this is the guide for you.

How to Begin

Whether converting an existing garden over to a pollinator garden or converting turfgrass to a brand-new garden, the process is essentially the same. Once you have your site chosen, clear the soil of weeds, other unwanted plants, debris and prepped for planting, it is then time to select plants for your pollinator garden.

There are a large number of pollinator plants available from which to choose. To ensure the best possible result, make sure you consider the growing conditions of your site.

  • Consider the soil conditions, amount of sun, and amount of shade.
  • Most pollinators are active in sunnier locations so focus on those areas and install plants adapted to a sunny location.
  • Butterflies in particular are sensitive to excessive wind, so consider utilizing sheltered locations.
  • Choose a variety of flower colors and shapes that will attract a variety of pollinators.
  • Choose Plants that flower at different times providing nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season.
  • Plant in clumps rather than single plants to better attract pollinators.

What is Pollination?

Pollination occurs when pollen grains from a flower’s anthers are moved to the stigma of the same species. Once on the stigma, the pollen grain fertilizes the ovule, producing the seed.

  • Plants produce nectar to attract pollinators.
  • As the pollinator moves from flower to flower collecting nectar, they are also moving pollen from flower to flower.
  • Certain fruits will not be produced if their flowers are not pollinated.
  • Over 75% of the world’s flowering plants need the assistance of pollinators for reproductive success.
  • Over 150 food crops in the United States depend on pollinators.

Attracting Pollinators

  • Bees
    Attracted to Bright white, yellow, or blue flowers, and flowers with contrasting ultraviolet patterns.
  • Butterflies
    Attracted to bright red and purple flowers with a faint but fresh odor.
  • Hummingbirds
    Attracted to scarlet, orange, red or white tubular shaped flowers with no distinct odors.
  • Moths
    Attracted to pale red, purple, pink or white flowers that emit a strong sweet odor
  • Others
    Other pollinators include; bats, ants, beetles, flies and wasps.

Butterfly-Friendly Plants

Achillea millefolium

Achillea 'Moonshine'.

  • Perennial that blooms from early summer to frost.
  • Grows from 18 to 30” tall and 24 to 32” wide.
  • Flowers white, pink, red and yellow.
  • Also attracts bees.

Anise Hyssop
Agastache foeniculum

Monarchs on Agastache.

  • Blooms mid to late summer.
  • Aromatic foliage.
  • Flowers mostly lavender but some hybrids have different colors.
  • Plants grow 2 to 5’ tall.

Butterfly Weed
Asclepias tuberosa

Monarch caterpillar feeding on a butterfly weed.

  • Food source for monarch larvae.
  • Flowers orange to yellow.
  • Blooms in mid to late summer.

New York Aster
Aster novae-belgii

Painted lady butterfly on aster.

  • Blooms in the fall.
  • Flowers white, pink or purple.
  • Attracts a variety of butterflies and other pollinators.

Joe-Pye Weed
Eupatorium purpureum

Eupatorium in flower with monarchs.

  • Pink, fringy flowers.
  • Flowers mid to late summer.
  • Grows from 30 to 60” tall and 24 to 36” wide.
  • Attracts a wide variety of butterflies.
  • Also attracts bees.

Liatris sp.

Monarchs on Liatris.

  • Great for monarchs and other butterfly species.
  • Flowers mid to late summer.
  • Flowers white, pink to purple.
  • Plants grow 2 to 5’ tall depending on species.

Bee-Friendly Plants

Threadleaf Coreopsis
Coreopsis verticillata

Coreopsis verticilata.

  • Bright flowers emitting ultraviolet patterns.
  • Blooms mid to late summer.
  • Flowers yellow, orange and red.
  • Also attracts butterflies.

Cone Flower
Echinacea purpurea

Echinacea 'Firebird' with bee.

  • Many hybrids available.
  • Blooms early summer to frost.
  • Flowers pink, red, yellow, white, orange and purple.
  • Drought and heat tolerant.
  • Grows from 15 to 40” tall and 12 to 30” wide.
  • Good cut flower.

Hemerocallis hybrid

Hemerocallis yellow and burgundy.

  • Perennial that blooms from early summer to fall.
  • Grows from 15 to 36” tall.
  • Flowers purple, red, orange, pink, lavender, white, rose and yellow.
  • Also attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and flies.

Bee Balm
Monarda didyma

Monarda dydima closeup.

  • Interesting flowers in mid-summer.
  • Flowers red, pink, white, lavender.
  • Grows from 15 to 30” tall and 16 to 24” wide.
  • Aromatic foliage.
  • Good cut flower.
  • Also attracts hummingbirds.

Garden Sage
Salvia sp.

Bumble bee in salvia.
Salvia hybrid 'Rockin Deep Purple'.
  • Variety of flower colors, but mainly red and shades of lavender to purple.
  • Flowers early summer to frost.
  • Mostly annuals but some perennials too.
  • Some with aromatic foliage.
  • Attracts humming birds too.

Spike Speedwell
Veronica spicata

Veronica spicata 'Hocus Pocus'.

  • Perennial that blooms from early summer to fall.
  • Grows from 12 to 30” tall and 15 to 20” wide.
  • Flower pink, blue and purple.
  • Also attracts butterflies.

Zinnia elegans

Zinnia 'Zesty Pink' mass.

  • Very easy to grow annual.
  • Flowers in a wide variety of colors.
  • Plants grow 10” to 4’.
  • Excellent cut flower.
  • Also attract butterflies.

Hummingbird-Friendly Plants

Million Bells
Calibrachoa hybrid

Hummingbird in Callibrachoa.

  • Hundreds of small, round, tubular flowers.
  • Many flower colors and patterns, similar to petunias.
  • Plants perform best in containers.
  • Flowers from late spring to frost.
  • Also attract moths.

Garden Canna
Canna generalis

Hummingbird in canna.

  • Bright, tube-like flowers are excellent for attracting these tiny birds.
  • Flowers mid to late summer.
  • Variety of flower colors from bright pink, red, orange and yellow.

Trumpet Honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

Lonicera sempervirens.

  • Woody vining plant.
  • Glaucous blue, interesting foliage.
  • Greenish yellow flowers.

Lupinus spp.

Lupines in bloom in Terrace Gardens.

  • Tall, showy flower spikes in late spring.
  • Flowers white, pink, red or purple.
  • Interesting palmately lobed leaves.
  • Remove flower stalks right after flowers fade to encourage plants to come back again next year.

Moth-Friendly Plants

Swamp Milkweed
Asclepias incarnate

Asclepias incarnata and sphinx moth.

  • White to pink flowers.
  • Flowers mid to late summer.
  • Food source for Monarch larvae.
  • Grows 2 to 3’ tall.
  • Easy to grow perennial.

Morning Glory – Moonflower
Ipomoea spp.

Ipomoea 'Heavenly Blue'.

  • Flowers appear in the evening through the morning.
  • Flowers white, pink, blue, purple and multi-colored.
  • Annual, vining plant.

Shrub Verbena
Lantana camara

Lantana Luscious® 'Royale Cosmo'.

  • Flowers early summer to frost.
  • Grows 15 to 24” tall and wide.
  • Flowers yellow, orange, pink, lavender, red.
  • Heat tolerant.
  • Also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Petunia x hybrid

Petunia hybrid 'Supertunia Vista Pink'.

  • Used to attract moths.
  • Flowers may be a variety of bright colors include, pink, orange, yellow, red, and purple, some with mixed flower patterns.
  • Blooms Spring to late summer.

Garden Phlox
Phlox paniculata

Phlox paniculata 'Junior Dance'.
Phlox paniculata 'David'.
  • Perennial that blooms from early summer to fall.
  • Grows from 12-32” tall and 12-30” wide.
  • Flowers pink, white, blue, coral, red or purple.
  • Also attracts butterflies.

Garden Verbena
Verbena hybrid

Sphinx moth in Verbena.

  • Low growing plant.
  • Performs well planted in the ground or in containers.
  • Wide variety of flower colors.
  • An easy annual to grow.

More Information

For more information on native pollinator plants and pollinators see:

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