10 Great Annuals for Pollinators
Butterflies, hummingbirds, songbirds and bees add wonderful movement and great interest to our gardens. Attracting these winged friends to your garden is a fairly simple matter. Provide them with food, water and shelter and they are happy to come and stay awhile. There is a wide palette of plants that will work for both your garden and pollinators.
One of the best things about gardening with annuals is that your plants can change every year. You can go red, orange and yellow one year and decide that pink and purple suits you best the next. Since you are replanting each year anyway, annuals are a great way to get creative and try new things. Over time as you try out different plants, you’ll learn which annuals both you and the winged critters love. You’ll get a great range of colors, flower shapes, sizes and types to consider and see what appeals most to you.
1. LARGE FIRECRACKER PLANT
If your porch, patio or window boxes are located in full blazing sun, this is the plant for you. This vigorous annual thrives in heat and doesn’t mind if the soil dries out a bit now and then. Its cigar-shaped flowers keep right on coming from spring into fall atop the bushy, green foliage. Try pairing it with the Luscious® Goldengate™ Lantana which thrives in the same conditions. Hummingbirds adore it.
18-28” tall x 12-24” spread. Full sun
2. BLANKET FLOWER
Heat it Up blanket flowers are great options for your spring containers and gardens. If you’ve grown blanket flowers in the past, you will be thrilled with the clear yellow flowers, self-cleaning tendency and the throngs of bees and butterflies you’ll find flocking to it. This is a flower that you can count on to bloom from spring straight into fall. All season long the flowers just keep right on coming. Try pairing it with Luscious® Royale Red Zone™ Lantana and Whirlwind® Blue Scaevola for an extremely heat tolerant, tough trio of gorgeous plants.
12-24” tall x 18-36” spread. Full sun.
3. BUTTERFLY FLOWER
You’ll love the vigorous growth of this improved Gaura. Though it is petite by Gaura standards, it holds its own as a flowering thriller for mixed containers and in landscapes where its plentiful pink blooms will appear all season long. Gaura is heat and drought tolerant and requires little maintenance to thrive all season. It is attractive to butterflies. This variety is perennial in zones 6-10.
14-20” tall x 12-18” spread. Full sun.
4. GLOBE AMARANTH
Truffula® Pink Gomphrena
This is such a fun plant! It is loaded with small, fluffy pink flowers with yellow-orange stamens and it blooms like crazy in the heat. The blossoms attract pollinating bees and butterflies which add color and movement to your garden. This is a fairly large plant that shines best in landscapes, but you could also use it as a filler in large container recipes.
22-28” tall x 22-26” Spread. Full Sun. Perennial in zones 9-11, grown as an annual elsewhere.
Sunflowers are great cut flowers and Suncredible Yellow is perfect for the home cut flower garden. The plant has multiple stems and will bloom for weeks on end. The flowers are 3 to 4 inches in diameter and are the perfect size to use in cut flower arrangements. If I had to pick a flower emblematic of summer, I’d choose the sunflower. Who doesn’t love cheery yellow sunflowers? These heat loving plants are quite appealing to both bees and butterflies.
Luscious® Royale Red Zone™ Lantana
12-26” tall x 12-24” spread. Full sun.
7. SWEET ALYSSUM
The pale yellow flowers of this beautiful new sweet alyssum are the perfect color for Easter, fairy gardens and moon gardens. It is a great component in combination recipes and works wonderfully in the landscape as well. While you may be used to sweet alyssum blooming mostly during cooler spring weather, Proven Winners’ varieties all have good heat tolerance and will bloom all summer in most climates. They attract both butterflies and bees.
8-12” tall x 18-24” spread. Part sun to sun. easy, this is the plant for you.
8. EGYPTIAN STAR FLOWER
Pentas flowers are umbels created by a multitude of small flowers. Because the flowers are massed together, they create a big splash of color, while giving hummingbirds many tiny flowers to sip from. These richly colored, tough plants love the summer heat and will bloom all summer long. They are great when planted in landscapes as well as when used in containers. Pentas attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
We’ve taken this popular super-sized salvia and made its awesome flower power even better. Bright violet blue flowers emerge from purple calyxes which hold their color after the flowers are spent, giving the illusion of being in bloom over a longer period. New flower spikes continue to emerge all season long above the bushy, bright green foliage, even in the hot, humid conditions of the deep south. This plant is the perfect thriller for large containers and a fantastic vertical element for landscapes. Pollinating bees, butterflies and hummingbirds will delight in its flowers from spring through fall.
2-4’ tall x 2-3’ spread. Part sun to sun.
If you want to see pollinators in your garden, plant a salvia. This new selection is a nice large blue salvia, forming a dense, bushy clump of silver green foliage topped with true blue flowers all season. Butterflies, hummingbirds and bees delight in their sweet nectar. Planting this medium-sized annual is a quick way to get a lot of color in your landscape in a short amount of time. It works great as a thriller in medium and small container combinations too.
14-24” tall x 12-16” spread. Part sun to sun.
Want to learn more about pollinator plants for the garden? Check out these links:
- Explore Plant for Birds and Butterfly Bushes on Pinterest.
- Learn more about pollinators. Instead of this page, which is used mainly to address controversy, I’d link to your idea boards that relate to pollinators.
- Browse plants in our plant library that attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.