Looking for ways to bring more hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies to your garden? Learn how to design a pollinator garden with native plants by following these simple tips.
Have you ever thought about starting a garden that’s not only a visual treat but also a buzzing haven for our little pollinator friends?
Get ready to dive into the exciting world of creating a garden that’s specifically designed to attract bees, butterflies, and other fascinating pollinators.
If you’ve not focused on planting for pollinators before, it is a delightful journey that combines the joys of gardening with the satisfaction of helping these essential creatures.
Pollinators play a vital role in our ecosystem, and by planting a pollinator garden, you can create a beautiful and supportive habitat for them.
Today, I am sharing tips for designing a pollinator garden together with native planting ideas to get you started on your journey toward creating a thriving habitat for these essential creatures.
Oh, and you also get a sneak peek of my new garden that I recently planted on the side of our home.
So, grab your gardening gloves and join me as we embark on a thrilling adventure of creating a pollinator paradise right in our own backyard!
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Why Pollinators are Important
But why are they so important?
Pollinators play a crucial role in the garden ecosystem, making their importance undeniable. Here are five reasons why pollinators are vital:
- Plant Reproduction: Pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, facilitate the pollination process, transferring pollen from the male parts of a flower to the female parts. This process is essential for fertilization and the production of seeds and fruits in plants. Without pollinators, many plants would struggle to reproduce and eventually decline.
- Biodiversity: By interacting with various plant species, pollinators enable cross-pollination and gene flow, which helps maintain genetic diversity within plant populations. This diversity is essential for the resilience and long-term survival of plant communities.
- Food Production: Pollinators play a significant role in the production of many of the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds that we rely on for food. Crops such as apples, berries, almonds, and squash require pollinators for successful pollination and subsequent fruit development. Without them, our food supply would be severely diminished, leading to lower crop yields and potential food shortages.
- Ecosystem Support: Pollinators are an integral part of the larger ecosystem, as they provide vital services beyond pollination.
- Beauty and Aesthetics: The presence of pollinators enhances the overall aesthetic appeal of the garden, making it a more inviting and enjoyable space for humans and other creatures alike.
By creating pollinator-friendly habitats, we can help conserve these valuable creatures and ensure the continued success of our gardens and ecosystems as a whole.
What Are Native Plants?
In the context of plants, “native” refers to species that naturally occur in a particular geographic region or ecosystem.
Native plants are indigenous to a specific area, having evolved and adapted to the local climate, soil conditions, and other environmental factors over thousands of years.
They are an integral part of the natural ecosystem and have established ecological relationships with other native organisms, including pollinators, wildlife, and microorganisms.
The concept of native plants is important because they are well-suited to the local conditions, making them more resilient and better adapted to survive and thrive in their native habitats.
They have developed strategies to cope with the local climate, pests, and diseases, reducing the need for excessive water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
Benefits of Native Plants in the Home Garden
Using native plants in gardening and landscaping offers several benefits:
- Biodiversity and Ecological Balance: Native plants provide food, shelter, and habitat for native wildlife, including pollinators, birds, and beneficial insects. By incorporating native plants into our gardens, we help maintain and restore biodiversity, supporting a healthy and balanced ecosystem.
- Water Conservation: Native plants have adapted to the local rainfall patterns and soil conditions, often requiring less water once established. Their deep root systems help prevent soil erosion and improve water infiltration, reducing the need for irrigation and conserving water resources.
- Low Maintenance: Native plants are generally well-suited to their native environments and require minimal maintenance once established. They are naturally adapted to the local climate, reducing the need for excessive fertilizers, pesticides, and watering.
- Aesthetics and Cultural Value: Native plants offer a sense of place and can create a unique, regionally distinctive landscape. They contribute to the cultural and historical heritage of a region, connecting us to the natural beauty and diversity of our surroundings.
When selecting plants for a garden, considering native species is an ecologically conscious choice that promotes the preservation of local ecosystems and enhances the overall sustainability of our landscapes.
It helps create landscapes that are not only beautiful but also harmonious with the surrounding natural environment.
Now that we understand the importance of native plants, let’s dive into some design tips for creating a thriving pollinator garden.
8 Easy Design Tips for a Pollinator Garden
If you are ready to foster a haven for pollinators, here are some design tips to follow:
Aim for a variety of plants with different colors, shapes, and sizes. This diversity will attract a broader range of pollinators, as each species has its preferences.
Include plants with a mix of flower shapes, such as tubular, daisy-like, and umbel-shaped, to accommodate different pollinator species.
Grouping and Mass Planting
Instead of scattering individual plants throughout your garden, plant them in groups or masses.
Grouping plants together creates visual impact, makes it easier for pollinators to locate flowers, and maximizes pollination opportunities.
Select plants that bloom at different times of the year to ensure a continuous food source for pollinators.
By incorporating early, mid, and late-season bloomers, you provide sustenance throughout the growing season and attract a diverse array of pollinators.
Include Host Plants
Host plants are essential for specific pollinator species that rely on them for egg-laying and caterpillar development.
Research the host plants for butterflies or moths in your area and include them in your garden to support their life cycles.
Provide Water Sources
Pollinators need water for hydration and reproduction. Create a shallow water feature, such as a birdbath or a small pond, with stones or twigs for landing spots.
Ensure a constant water supply by regularly refilling it or adding a drip system.
And by the way, you don’t need a large yard to enjoy a water feature. There are so many great options on the market today, you can add one that will accommodate any garden space or budget.
Avoid Pesticide Use
Avoid using pesticides in your garden, as they can harm pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Embrace natural pest control methods, such as companion planting and introducing beneficial insects, to maintain a balanced ecosystem.
Even those labeled as being eco-friendly can be problematic for pollinators. So it’s best to avoid using them altogether.
Avoid cutting back plants too early
Many pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, rely on the stems and foliage of perennial plants for overwintering and shelter during the colder months.
By leaving these plants standing until late winter or early spring, you provide vital protection and nesting opportunities for pollinators.
The dried flower heads and seed pods can also serve as a valuable food source for birds throughout the winter.
So, resist the urge to tidy up your garden too soon and allow these natural elements to support the pollinators and wildlife that depend on them.
Now that you have some design tips in mind, let’s explore a selection of native plants that are perfect for a pollinator garden:
Allow Herbs to Go to Seed
Flowering herbs provide nectar and pollen for bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects, supporting their populations and contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of your garden ecosystem.
While allowing them to go to seed alters their flavor, it does provide pollinators with much-needed food sources and habitats.
There are several herbs that when allowed to go to seed, provide valuable habitats and food sources for pollinators. Here are a few examples:
I recently allowed my cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) and dill (Anethum graveolens) to go to seed as we are diving into summer and they started to bolt anyway.
Cilantro produces delicate, umbrella-shaped white flowers that are highly attractive to a variety of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hoverflies. They are drawn to the abundant nectar and pollen offered by the cilantro flowers, contributing to their successful pollination and seed production.
Dill, with its feathery green foliage and yellow umbel flowers, is a favorite of beneficial insects and pollinators. The flowers of dill attract bees, butterflies, and hoverflies, all of which seek out the nectar and pollen provided by the plant. Additionally, dill serves as a host plant for swallowtail butterfly larvae, providing a vital habitat for their development.
By allowing these herbs to go to seed, you not only provide essential food sources for pollinators but also create habitats that support their populations, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of your garden.
10 Native Plant Ideas for a Pollinator Garden
Now that we’ve covered the basics of designing a pollinator garden, here are some plants to include to attract more of them:
Bee Balm (Monarda spp.)
Bee balm (Monarda spp.) is a native plant that holds a special place in the hearts of both gardeners and pollinators.
As a native species, bee balm is well adapted to the local climate and soil conditions, making it a low-maintenance addition to any garden.
Blooming from summer to fall, its vibrant and showy flowers, available in shades of pink, red, and purple, are irresistible to a variety of pollinators.
Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are particularly fond of bee balm, drawn to its abundant nectar-rich blooms.
The tubular flowers and delightful fragrance make it a popular destination for these valuable pollinators.
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
Rudbeckia, commonly known as black-eyed Susan, is a native plant that brings a burst of sunny cheer to any garden.
Black-Eyed Susans are hardy, daisy-like flowers that are a favorite of butterflies and bees.
With summer-to-fall blooms, its golden-yellow petals with dark centers add a cheerful touch to any garden and are a magnet for a wide range of pollinators.
Bees and butterflies are frequent visitors to Rudbeckia, seeking out its nectar-rich flowers. Additionally, it attracts beneficial insects such as ladybugs and hoverflies, which help control garden pests.
It’s one of my favorite blooms because its flowers effortlessly and looks amazing in the cottage garden.
This native beauty not only adds a pop of color to the landscape but also provides vital nourishment for our important pollinator friends.
Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Coneflowers, also known as Echinacea, are beloved native plants that bring beauty and ecological benefits to gardens. Native to North America, coneflowers have become popular for their vibrant and cone-shaped flowers in shades of purple, pink, and white.
Its distinctive pink-purple petals and cone-shaped centers provide nectar-rich flowers throughout the summer.
I’ve been growing coneflowers for years. There are lots of different varieties available if you want to expand your flower palette.
By incorporating coneflowers into our gardens, we not only enjoy their stunning display but also provide essential food sources for our invaluable pollinator friends.
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is a captivating native plant that serves as a beacon for pollinators, particularly butterflies.
As a member of the milkweed family, butterfly weed is not only a vibrant addition to the garden with its clusters of bright orange flowers, but it also plays a crucial role in supporting monarch butterfly populations.
The nectar-rich blooms attract various pollinators, including bees and hummingbirds, but it is especially beloved by butterflies, like the monarchs, who lay their eggs on the plant and rely on it as a food source for their caterpillars.
By planting butterfly weed, we provide a valuable habitat and food resource for these delicate and beautiful creatures.
I found this plant readily self-sowed in other areas of my garden. It never overtook a space by any means, but I’d find it popping up in different locations.
Butterfly weed grows with ease and looks so pretty in the summer garden.
Last year, I tried planting it here at the new house but a rabbit mowed it down and it hasn’t returned. So, I’m on the hunt to replant it again.
Liatris (Liatris spicata)
Liatris, also known as blazing star or gayfeather, is a native plant that adds a vertical burst of color and texture to the garden. Native to North America, liatris is well-adapted to thrive in a variety of soil conditions.
Its tall, slender spikes of purple or white flowers make it a favorite among pollinators as it adds vertical interest to flower gardens from mid to late summer.
Bees and butterflies are particularly drawn to the nectar-rich blooms of liatris, eagerly collecting their sustenance from the tiny individual florets that make up each spike.
By incorporating liatris into your garden, you not only enjoy its striking beauty but also provide a valuable food source for these essential pollinators.
The same rabbit that ravaged my butterfly weed got to my liatris last year, but this year? It’s doing well and has been left untouched.
I’m hoping to divide it this fall so I can double my stock.
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.)
Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) is a native plant that brings a vibrant burst of yellow to gardens and natural landscapes.
Often unfairly associated with allergies, goldenrod is actually an important source of nectar for bees, butterflies, and other pollinators.
Bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects flock to its abundant nectar and pollen-rich flowers.
It’s important to note that some goldenrod species can be incredibly invasive, so it’s recommended to read plant tags, speak with your local cooperative extension, and choose non-invasive varieties for your garden only.
By selecting the right goldenrod species, you can enjoy its beauty and provide a vital food source for pollinators without the risk of it spreading beyond desired boundaries.
The flowers look really pretty in the late summer to fall garden. So if you find your garden has a lull with color and texture, consider adding non-invasive goldenrod for a fun pop of color.
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) is a native plant that holds a special place in the hearts of pollinators, particularly monarch butterflies.
It is a must-have for supporting monarch butterflies because common milkweed is the host plant for their caterpillars while creating a stunning visual display with abundant nectar for bees and butterflies in summer.
As a host plant for monarch caterpillars, milkweed provides a crucial nursery for their development. The nectar-rich flowers of milkweed also attract a wide array of pollinators, including bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.
By planting milkweed in your garden, you not only support the survival of monarch butterflies but also create a haven for diverse pollinator species, contributing to the overall health and biodiversity of your ecosystem.
Last year, my milkweed was attacked by aphids. Instead of grabbing a pesticide, I opted to spray them off daily with a spray of the garden hose.
Hibiscus ‘Crimsoneyed Rosemallow’ (Hibiscus moscheutos)
Hibiscus ‘Crimson Eyed Rosemallow’ (Hibiscus moscheutos) is a native plant that showcases stunning flowers with deep red petals and a dark center.
This captivating native hibiscus is not only a visual delight but also a magnet for pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are drawn to the abundant nectar and pollen offered by its showy blooms.
What I love most about them are the large showy flowers that add a touch of tropical beauty to your pollinator garden.
Give hardy hibiscus lots of room to grow because they get really big! You cannot beat the size of the blooms and the foliage color is beyond gorgeous.
Purple Giant Hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia)
Purple giant hyssop (Agastache scrophulariifolia) is a native plant known for its tall spires of vibrant purple flowers that add a touch of elegance to any garden.
As a native species, it has evolved to attract a diverse range of pollinators. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are particularly attracted to the abundant nectar-filled blooms of purple giant hyssop.
Its tubular flowers and delightful fragrance make it an irresistible destination for these pollinators, ensuring that your garden becomes a buzzing hub of activity and supports the health and well-being of these essential creatures.
I just planted some agastache in my new garden on the side of our home from Proven Winners.
It’s called Agastache “Royal Raspberry’.
Coreopsis, also known as tickseed, is a beloved native plant that adds a burst of sunny charm to gardens and landscapes.
With their bright and cheerful yellow or golden flowers, coreopsis acts as a beacon for pollinators.
Bees, butterflies, and other nectar-seeking insects are highly attracted to the abundant nectar and pollen provided by coreopsis blooms.
Their daisy-like flowers and extended blooming period make coreopsis an excellent source of sustenance for these vital pollinators, bringing life and movement to your garden while supporting the well-being of these beneficial creatures.
There are lots of different options of native plants so research the specific native plants that thrive in your region, as they may vary. Incorporating a mix of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees will provide a multi-layered habitat for a diverse range of pollinators.
Check out these sites as a starting point but check with your local cooperative extension as they’ll have a great list to review.
If you’d like some tips for designing a garden that’s always in bloom, click here.
And if you’d like to do a deeper dive on how to attract more butterflies to your garden, here are 31 easy-care plants to include in your home garden.
My New Garden for Pollinators
On the side of our home, we had a bed that was pretty baron. It’s in full-partial sun, and is filled with mulch, and a few daffodils.
So it’s a prime location to plant a new garden that pollinators will enjoy.
Here’s what I planted (all garden plants are from Proven Winners and Walters Gardens).
- Agastache “Royal Raspberry’
- Echinacea ‘Butter Pecan’
- Echinacea ‘Raspberry Beret’
- Amsonia ‘Storm Cloud’
- Achillea ‘Firefly Peach Sky’
- Gypsophila ‘Festival Star’
- Dianthus ‘Raspberry Ruffles’
- Anemone ‘Fall in Love’
- Salvia ‘Azure Snow’
- Clematis ‘Stand by Me’
- Leucanthemum ‘Marshmallow’
- and a few everblooming hydrangeas I got from a friend.
In the fall, I plan to add a few perennial divisions of bee balm, liatris, and coreopsis too. But for now, this is a great start!
While not all of these are native plant varieties, they attract lots of pollinators that will enjoy the flowers.
More Pollinator Garden Ideas
Do you have a favorite flower that pollinators love? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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