It is wonderful to see bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in our garden. To attract more of them to our gardens we need plants to support pollinators. Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other insects are instruments of pollination. They will fly from flower to flower in search of nectar. Part of this process will include pollen being transferred from one flower to another and fertilization will occur. The plants in your garden are dependent on pollinators to produce seeds and fruits.
Here are some beautiful plants you can add to your garden that will support pollinators:
Cosmos - Cosmos are an annual flower that can be grown anywhere in the United States. It is easy to grow from seed and are not bothered by insects or diseases. They are attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds who find them to be quite delicious! Older varieties of Cosmos usually come in white, pink, and purple, and newer varieties come in colors such as yellow, orange, and red. One particularly valuable trait that Cosmos has is its lengthy flowering season. The flowers begin to appear in early to mid-summer and bloom until the first fall frost. This makes them a great choice to fill gaps in your flower border. Their height, most varieties grow 3 to 6 feet tall, make them ideal candidates for the rear of your perennial garden. They will need some support when they are planted in windy locations as they do have a tendency to get blown over during summer storms. Cosmos do tolerate a variety of soil conditions, but they are at their best in dry conditions where they get full sun all day long. They do well in the heat of summer and don’t need additional watering or fertilization. While not required, removing the dead flowers will increase the number of blooms the flower produces, and you can collect the seed in the fall to plant again.
Gaillardia - Gaillardia is also known as Blanket Flower and is part of the Sunflower family. It is an easy to grow perennial with brightly colored flowers that look almost like a daisy. This flower has a long blooming season appearing from summer through fall. They are tough and cold hardy. The flowers are single, semi-double, double, and even tubular, and grow on long stems above the long, soft leaves. The flowers are red or orange-red with yellow tips, but can also be solid yellow. It seems like there are new colors available each season. You will have these perennials for a very long time. They also make a great container plant. The flowers are rich in nectar and attract bees and other pollinators. Gaillardia can be planted in most soils and will tolerate extreme heat, sun, and even salt, making it a wonderful selection for the coastal landscape.
Salvia - Salvia is part of the mint family and is also known as Sage. Ancient Greeks and Romans used the plant as a memory enhancer. The name comes from the Latin “salvere”, which means “to heal”. It is known for its healing properties. There are more than 900 species of Salvia and many are tender perennials or annuals in locations that are not winter hardy. Culinary Sage is a type of Salvia. The flowers come in a variety of shapes, fragrances, and colors. The many colors include; blue, green, pink, purple, red, salmon, white, and yellow. Bees love the plant and hummingbirds love the tubular shape of the flowers. The plant flowers for a long time and grows well in hot, dry locations. Salvia can be planted after the danger of frost has passed in the spring. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil, but can also be planted in partial shade. Remove dead flowers to promote more blooms. In the spring, wait until new growth appears to remove old stems. Tender perennials can be divided every few years in the early spring. Hardiness zones 5 – 9.
Agastache (Anise Hyssop) - Agastache is actually an herb that is often grown in perennial gardens. It grows up to 3 feet in height and is covered with purple flowers in the summer. The plant is a perennial in garden zones 5 to 9 but generally only comes back for several seasons. It is a prolific self-seeder and if it finds a place that it likes will come back for many years. It prefers rich, moist soil conditions in full sun and its leaves and flowers both have a licorice scent that can be steeped into a pleasant-tasting tea. They also make an interesting dried flower and are a magnet for butterflies, honeybees, and other pollinators.
Bachelor’s Buttons (Centaurea) - Bachelor Buttons are an annual flower found in many perennial wildflower seed mixes as they are prolific bloomers and self-seed easily. The plant is best grown from seed as they do not transplant well and come in shades of blue, white, and pink. They are a good flower for cutting and dried arrangements. It prefers well-drained soil in full sun and the taller varieties do require staking to prevent them from being blown over or beaten down by spring and summer storms. Deadheading will encourage them to continuously flower from early summer into the fall. They are rarely bothered by insects or diseases and are drought-tolerant as well.
Butterfly Weed - Butterfly weed is a North American native plant also known as Asclepias Tuberosa. It is a perennial plant with clustered orange or yellow flowers. As its name indicates it is a favorite flower for Butterflies but it also attracts hummingbirds and bees throughout the blooming season. The small flowers are nectar and pollen-rich and bloom from June to August. This plant spreads by way of seeds, which are released from large pods in early autumn. Butterfly weed is easy to grow and thrives in bright sunlight. The plant is drought tolerant and does well even in poor, dry soil.
Cuphea - Cuphea is an annual plant native to the Americas that will flower from late spring until frost. This plant is low maintenance that does not need deadheading. There are more than 250 species in this family. Cuphea is available in a variety of colors, shapes, and flower sizes. The flower is small and often tubular and is found in orange, pink, purple, red, white, yellow, and bi-color. Some of the flowers even look like ears. While the flowers are small they are abundant on the plant. They look great in mixed containers and in flower beds. It is popular with hummingbirds and other pollinators. The plant grows best in full sun (there are some varieties that like some shade). Plant it in well-draining soil. Once the plant is established it is drought-tolerant. Fertilize the plant in the summer for best results. Hardiness zones 8-11.
Red Hot Poker - Red Hot Poker, also known as Torch Lily, is a dramatic back of the border perennial. It grows 2 to 5 feet tall and its flower spikes come in shades of yellow, orange, and red. Most varieties have tops that are red/orange and yellow on the bottom. Depending upon the variety they bloom from June to August and look best planted in groups of 3 or more. They are drought tolerant once established and will be long-lived if they find a spot that suits them. After the plants finish blooming you can keep the spikes in place for visual interest or remove them and trim the grass-like foliage for a neater appearance.
Pentas - Pentas attract hummingbirds as well as bees and butterflies. The flowers are formed by five petals and are available in lavender, pink, red, and white. Hummingbirds prefer the red ones or try mixing several colors together. While most gardeners consider them perennials, they are tender perennials (hardy for zones 10 – 11). The plant is low-maintenance as long as they get full-sun, water, and are fertilized. They can also be a houseplant if they are grown under the correct conditions. It thrives in geographies that have hot summers. Pentas can be grown from seed or seedlings. It is best to start them from existing plants. Plant them in a location that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. A location that gets more sun is even better. If they are grown in a partly shady location, the number of blooms will diminish. Plant them in well-drained soil and water them often after you first plant them.