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Plants that Attract Pollinators

By: Beth Krietsch Spring

Pollination is crucial to plant health and reproduction, and pollinators like birds, bees, and butterflies are the unsung heroes of this ecological process. Pollinators help support thriving plant life and encourage biological diversity across ecosystems, despite the fact that many humans often don’t realize or recognize the extent of their importance. Plants that attract pollinators help support pollinator populations and can help gardens thrive. Here’s how you can plant a pollinator-friendly garden.

The importance of pollination

Pollination occurs when pollen is carried between one plant and another of the same species. By cross-pollinating, plants ensure the genetic diversity needed to build resilience within an ecosystem. While some plants rely on wind to carry pollen from plant to plant, it’s much more common for plants to seed using wind as a primary transport.

More than 90% of flowering plants rely on pollinators like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, wasps, flies, and beetles for reproduction. It’s not just flowering plants that thrive when pollinator populations are prevalent—35% of the world’s food crop relies on pollinators.

Pollinator populations across the globe are being threatened. More than 40% of the world’s invertebrate pollinator species are at risk of extinction. But there’s a simple thing that anyone can do to help reverse this trend and protect pollinators—plant a garden full of plants that attract pollinators.

Plants that attract pollinators

Focus on native plants rather than invasive species. Native plants are best suited to thrive in the local environment and are often less challenging to grow and maintain. Local garden shops or garden clubs can also be a resource for identifying and purchasing native plants that support pollinator populations. Even a small patch of carefully selected plants will attract and support pollinator populations.

Depending on where you live, your garden might require different native species to attract pollinators.

Plants that attract pollinators

Aster
Lamb’s ear
Sage
Black-eyed Susan
Oregano
Sunflower
Catnip
Redbud
Verbena
Lavender
Rosemary
Yarrow

Important considerations for your pollinator-friendly garden

When possible, select plants that are rich in nectar. These plants are rich in sugar and provide pollinators with nutrients essential for survival. If you prefer plants that aren’t as rich in nectar, supplement your garden with butterfly or hummingbird feeders to supplement your garden.

As biodiversity—even within a small garden—helps pollinators thrive, select plants that represent a wide variety of native species. When searching, find plants that are different colors and shapes, as well as plants that bloom at different times.  

Pollinators also need shelter—which is often provided by plants. Help support a natural habitat by allowing a section of your lawn to grow wild, or leave a bunch of grass cuttings on the ground so pollinators have a place to seek shelter away from predators and harsh weather.

You may choose to avoid using herbicides and pesticides. These are toxic to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. There are many ways to grow healthy plants without using pesticides. But if you must, apply pesticides when pollinators won’t be present in your garden.

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