Lovely, lush, beautifully designed gardens offer a great escape to relax and unwind–but nothing adds more tranquility to a garden than watching butterflies flit from flower to flower. If you’re a fan of pollinators (and who isn’t?), try adding pollinator-friendly perennials to your garden design plan. You’ll increase your garden pleasure even more when surrounded by gorgeous butterflies, hilariously acrobatic hummingbirds, and buzzing bees.
To create a pollinator-friendly garden, choose a combination of plants that bloom throughout the growing season. Take a look at 9 terrific perennials—broken out by bloom time—that will make your garden a constant feast for hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies. (Please remember: pesticides harm your garden pals, so skip the chemicals.)
As winter recedes and the temperatures warm, give pollinators a boost of energy with early-blooming plants. Spring bulbs offer bees an energy source, but the blooms of daffodils and crocus disappear quickly. Add spring-flowering perennials, like Bergenia ‘Bressingham Ruby’, to provide a follow-up food source for bees. It also acts as “living mulch,” because this ground cover smothers weeds as it spreads!
While most of us think of spurge as a gorgeous foliage plant, the early spring blooms of Euphorbia ‘Bonfire’ provide a great food source for native bees. Chartreuse flowers appear in mid-spring, offering pollinators an early snack. As the blooms fade, the foliage continues the show, with spring’s green leaves maturing to a rich maroon. It’s the ideal perennial, supplying both a food source for pollinators as well as a gorgeous show in the garden.
For a lovely, drought-tolerant plant that both feeds bees and makes a statement in the garden, try Centaurea. Blooms appear in late spring, continuing into summer. The blooms of ‘Amethyst Dream’ will wow both you and your pollinator buddies with royal blue, 2-1/2 inch flowers atop silvery foliage. With a bit deadheading, you’ll enjoy more flowers throughout the season.
As daylight lengthens and temperatures rise, your garden turns into a smorgasbord for pollinators! With hundreds of summer-blooming, pollinator-friendly options, the choices may make your head spin—but if you add these three perennials to your garden, you’ll feed birds, bees, and butterflies:
Achillea. Commonly known as yarrow, its fame begins long ago in Ancient Greece, when Achilles used the plant to treat his soldiers’ wounds on the battlefield (or so the story goes.) Herbalists praise the medicinal properties of common yarrow, or Achillea millefolium. But along with medicinal properties, wildlife enjoys yarrow as a food source. Some birds even use the feathery foliage to line their nests. If you look closely, you’ll find tiny insects enjoying the flowers, along with larger bees and butterflies. Yarrow serves as a great companion plant to attract beneficial insects into a vegetable garden, too, where they’ll dine on pests, like aphids.
However, many types of yarrow require staking, as they’ll flop in the garden due to their height. Instead, try a newer cultivar, like Achillea millefolium ‘Ritzy Rose’. The naturally compact plant grows 10-14 inches tall, making it a perfect addition to borders or small garden spaces. The deep rose blooms mature to pink with lighter eyes. Plant yarrow, and your garden will fill with pollinators.
Coreopsis. When you see wildflower meadows, bright yellow Coreopsis often stands out. Also known as tickseed, it tolerates high heat, drought, and humidity. Pollinators love the blooms, with honeybees and native bees feasting on the yellow flowers. Now, through creative breeding, coreopsis comes in stunning colors, like our Limerock Series. With options that include rich red, bright fuchsia, soft yellow, and apricot-pink flowers (that mature to orange), you’ll add stunning color to the garden while enticing pollinators to visit.
Penstemon. If you adore hummingbirds, make sure to add Penstemon to your garden design. Also known as beard tongue, Penstemon is a multi-purpose pollinator magnet: bees and butterflies love it, and hummingbirds adore the tubular flowers on upright spikes. Penstemon also adds excellent vertical interest to your garden. Try ‘Prairie Twilight’. The tubular pink flowers with white tips and throats bloom from early summer until fall. Hummingbirds will appreciate the fall food source as they prepare to fly south.
Many summer perennials continue to bloom into early fall, especially if you deadhead spent flowers. Perennials like Rudbeckia, also known as black-eyed Susan, make a terrific show as the temperatures start to cool. For a Rudbeckia with both fabulous flowers and gorgeous fall foliage, try ‘Viette’s Little Suzy’. Butterflies will thank you, and you’ll appreciate the low maintenance of this heavy bloomer.
Heliopsis, also known as oxeye or false sunflower, is a favorite for many types of butterflies, flies, and bees, including bumblebees, metallic sweat bees, and leaf-cutter bees. Hummingbirds also love the daisy-like blooms. However, many varieties require staking to keep them upright. For a variety with sturdy stems and pretty semi-double, true golden flowers, try ‘Bressingham Doubloon’.
Just as many fall perennials begin to fade, Anemones arrive to perk up tired gardens—and feed the pollinators. You’ll enjoy blooms from August until first frost, making anemones an important food source for pollinators. Look for our Pretty Lady series of anemones, with varieties that offer both single and double blooms.
With pollinator-friendly plants blooming during each growing season in your garden, you’ll not only enjoy a natural oasis filled with color—but also filled with life. For more design ideas, visit our garden inspiration page!
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