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22 flowers, grasses, trees and shrubs for pollinators

If you love pollinators as much as we do, you’re always looking for plants to add to your landscaping that can help provide habitat and food sources.

Our pollinator populations are dwindling, and it’s up to us to bring them back. You can truly make a difference even with small pollinator plots at your own home, and there are many native options out there to help our butterflies, bees and other pollinators. Here are some in a few different categories:

Wildflowers

Photo of orange butterfly milkweed plant

Butterfly milkweed

Butterfly milkweed: Milkweed is the host plant for monarch butterflies. Butterfly milkweed is a beautiful orange option that grows well in gardens.

Purple prairie clover: Purple prairie clover is the host plant for the dogface butterfly and is also a favorite of many other pollinators such as native bees and beetles.

Wild white indigo: Bumblebees love wild white indigo, which has pea-like blossoms on long spikes. Moth and butterfly caterpillars love to feed on its foliage.

Wild bergamot: Otherwise known as bee balm, wild bergamot is an all-around great option for many different pollinators. It has bushy purple blooms that add brightness to gardens.

Stiff goldenrod: Many pollinating insects love to feed on these bright golden flowers that bloom into the fall. Goldenrod species do NOT cause hay fever.

Photo of purple spiderwort plant

Ohio spiderwort

Ohio spiderwort: This bright purple-blooming flower is considered of special value to native bees, including bumblebees.

Black-eyed susan: Black-eyed susans are a host plant for the gorgone checkerspot and bordered patch butterflies. The bright yellow blooms also draw in other insect pollinators.

Purple coneflower: Many pollinators, including monarchs, feed on the nectar from these bright prairie flowers. It blooms from June-September, making it a colorful option for many gardens.

Photo of a moth on swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed

Swamp milkweed: For those with a wetter garden area, swamp milkweed is a great option. It is a host plant for monarch butterflies and has pretty pink clusters of blossoms.

Rattlesnake master: With its pointy seedhead, rattlesnake master can add variety and interest to a garden while also offering habitat for many pollinating insects.

Grasses

Blue grama: This native prairie grass is drought-tolerant and grows to about 1 foot but can be mowed to look like other turf grasses. It is a host plant for skipper butterflies.

Buffalograss: Mixed with blue grama, buffalo grass can be a great option for native turf lawns. It is a host plant for the green skipper butterfly.

Little bluestem: Little bluestem is the host plant for four skippers and is excellent habitat for wildlife and insects. It adds blue-green color to garden plots.

Photo of prairie dropseed

Prairie dropseed, photo by David J. Stang, via Wikimedia Commons

Prairie dropseed: This grass offers interest to native gardens, is a host plant for the Leonard’s skipper butterfly and is a great nesting site for native bees.

Indian grass: Indian grass is a host plant for skipper butterflies and is a valuable food sources for grasshoppers and caterpillars. It is a great option for larger prairie stands.

Switchgrass: A host plant for skipper butterflies, switchgrass is a good option for larger prairie plantings. It provides winter cover for small mammals and birds.

Photo of big bluestem

Big bluestem

Big bluestem: Big bluestem grows up to 6 feet tall and has a beautiful purple-blue seedhead in the fall.

Trees and shrubs

Lead plant: This shrub grows up to 3 feet tall and has spikes of tiny purple flowers that are beneficial for bees, butterflies, moths, beetles and other pollinating insects.

Photo of New Jersey tea

New Jersey tea

New Jersey tea: New Jersey tea has lacy, white flowers and is a host plant for spring azure, summer azure and mottled duskywing butterflies. Its dried leaves can be made into tea.

Red osier dogwood: Red osier dogwood can make a good lawn border that grows 7-10 feet tall. It has dark red stems and produces berries that are a good food source for wildlife.

Photo of false indigo

False indigo, photo by Dominicus Bergsma via Wikimedia Commons

False indigo: False indigo is a host plant for several butterflies and skippers and is visited by other native bees, butterflies and beetles.

Wild plum: A shrub or small tree, wild plum is a host plant for a variety of butterflies and moths. It is also visited by other pollinating insects.

Basswood: The branching clusters of yellow flowers are fragrant, drawing in beetles, flies, bees, wasps and moths.

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