Pollinator-Friendly Perennials to Keep Your Garden Buzzing
As gardeners, nearly every day can feel like Earth Day as we enjoy the plants around us. However, Earth Day is about more than just appreciating the planet; it’s a call to action. So, what can you do to make a difference this Earth Day (April 22, 2023)? Consider supporting your local birds, bees, butterflies, beetles, and moths by planting pollinator-friendly perennials!
Pollinators play a vital role in our ecosystems, gardens, and especially our food chain. Flowers produce pollen as a means of reproduction. To successfully reproduce, most plants require their pollen to reach a different flower to complete fertilization. That’s where pollinators come in. As they visit flowers in search of food (generally, protein-rich pollen or nectar), they are dusted in pollen grains, which they carry to the plants they subsequently visit.
Without fertilization, the life cycle of plants is halted. No seeds, fruits, or berries can be produced without it! With populations of pollinators in decline, this has made a substantial impact on our ecosystems and agriculture. One of the best ways to help your local pollinators rebound is by expanding their habitat and providing more food using pollinator-friendly plants. With all the hard work they do, they definitely deserve it!
While there are so many pollinator-friendly plants to choose from, here are seven of our favorites. You’ll love them, and the pollinators will too.
Our favorite pollinator-friendly perennials
Alliums may be related to onions, but these ornamental varieties are known for their large, globe-shaped purple flower heads! The globular flowers are comprised of many individual florets, each loaded with nectar and pollen. They start blooming in late spring and continue to persist for weeks or months into summer. They attract pollinators but deter other pests, deer, and rodents with their onion-like foliage.
The striking colors and superlative performance of bee balm make it a favorite among pollinators and gardeners alike. While it may have “bee” in its name, it also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds! Firework-like flowers bloom in the summer, and when they fade, birds can enjoy the seeds. It’s native to the US, easy to grow, and deters deer and rabbits.
Milkweed is a powerhouse for pollinators, especially Monarch butterflies. Clusters of colorful flowers bloom in the summer and boast fragrance and sweet nectar. More importantly, it’s a host plant for Monarchs! Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on the leaves of milkweed. Cardenolides in the sap are stored in the Monarch’s body, which serves as a defense against predators. Without milkweed, Monarch populations would severely drop!
Coneflowers earn their name for the cone-shaped center, where all the pollen and nectar are stored for pollinators. Vibrant flowers bloom all summer long, no deadheading required! Fritillaries, swallowtails, and painted lady butterflies flock to the blooms. Leave flower heads standing in the fall so birds can enjoy their seeds.
There are so many reasons to add salvia to your garden. It’s deer resistant, drought-tolerant, easy to grow, and most importantly, it’s a magnet for pollinators! This long-blooming perennial is bursting with color in the summer. Pollinators, especially bees, adore their spikes of flowers that are heavily laden with nectar. Long bloom time + lots of nectar = happy pollinators!
The flowers of foxglove are designed especially for bees! Purple bell-shaped blooms have small spots on their lower lip, guiding pollinators straight to their pollen and nectar. It serves as a landing strip for bees, who are the perfect size to crawl into the flowers. Flowers bloom at the bottom of the flower stalks first and slowly open to the top. The result is a long bloom time and a reliable source of food for bees!
‘American Gold Rush’ black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) is the triple crown-winning perennial for 2023, and for good reason! All-America Selections chose it as the herbaceous perennial winner after a 3-year winter trial, showing no signs of fungus even in wet, humid conditions. In addition, its gorgeous golden yellow flowers and seedheads attract birds and other wildlife in troves.
Dianthus features brightly colored petals, a strong fragrance, and an abundant supply of nectar to keep the pollinators coming back for more. The flower clusters make the bees and butterflies feel right at home; just make sure these plants get a decent amount of sun, about 4-6+ hours of exposure.
White, confetti-like blooms cover calamint from mid-summer to fall. This durable perennial is so easy to care for, which makes it a minimal maintenance addition to pathways, patios, and rock gardens. In addition, its aromatic foliage will attract pollinators and people alike!
If you want a truly magical display in your pollinator garden, spike speedwell is sure to be a fantastic addition. This easy-to-grow perennial features densely packed spikes in an array of pink and purple colors. Try planting this unique beauty in containers or alongside a garden hedge for a stunning display that both you and pollinators will enjoy!
Tall Garden Phlox
Brighten up your garden during the summer with tall garden phlox! Dark pink eyes decorate the light pink flowers, guiding bees, butterflies, and more straight to its sweet nectar. After adding phlox, your garden will be all the “buzz” amongst pollinators. Phlox is also great for beginner gardeners and requires little maintenance for vivid blooms.
More plants for pollinators
In this blog we listed just some of our favorite pollinator plants, but it doesn’t stop there! ‘Lucifer’ montbretia, yarrow, cardinal flower, catmint, and Russian sage are also amazing additions to pollinator gardens. The best part of planting pollinator-friendly perennials is that they will continue to provide food and habitat for years to come. Sprinkle a few of them throughout your garden or devote a whole section to these important creatures. Either way, the birds, bees, and butterflies will be delighted you thought of them!