Supporting pollinators ranks high among gardeners’ concerns and we agree—we all need to do what we can to provide a beneficial habitat, food and shelter for these critical creatures. Let’s take a look at ten perennials you can grow to provide beauty and sustenance for pollinators in your garden.
SPRING TO EARLY SUMMER BLOOMING PERENNIALS
COLOR SPIRES® ‘Azure Snow’ Perennial Salvia (Salvia)
Salvias of all kinds are highly attractive to bees, so expect to hear the consistent humm of these happy pollinators when yours are in bloom. They will be completely consumed with gathering pollen and won’t even look your way when you pass by. Expect to see butterflies and hummingbirds, too, but not deer since they don’t like salvia’s scented foliage. ‘Azure Snow’ salvia is a unique bicolor variety that features plump wands of deep violet blue and pure white flowers from late spring to early summer. Find more colors in this series here.
Perennial in zones 3-8. Height: 18-20”. Full sun. Average to somewhat dry soil.
FRUIT PUNCH® ‘Classic Coral’ Pinks (Dianthus)
One way to support native bees that forage near the ground is to grow ‘Classic Coral’. Its foliage hugs the ground in a low mound while wiry stems carry bouquets of dreamy coral pink, sweetly fragrant, double flowers in late spring. If you trim the spent flower stalks off when they are all done blooming, you’ll likely see another round of flowers in early fall. Butterflies also feed on this pretty perennial. Deer typically don’t bother to bend so far down to take a bite but rabbits will, so use a repellent if they become an issue in your garden. Find more colors in this series here.
Perennial in zones 4-9. Height: 8-10”. Full sun to part sun. Average to somewhat dry soil.
DECADENCE® Deluxe ‘Pink Lemonade’ False Indigo (Baptisia)
Bees and butterflies have foraged for centuries on native false indigos. Several Baptisia species can be found across North America growing wild in dry prairies, open woods and rocky glades. The Decadence series includes refined, smaller-scale plants in a broad array of colors that fit easily into suburban landscapes. The bicolor ‘Pink Lemonade’ is proving to be extremely popular due to its unusual pink and yellow flower spikes in late spring to early summer. Puffy seed pods extend its interest into fall. See all the exciting colors in this series here.
Perennial in zones 4-9, but requires a cold winter period to bloom. Height: 42-48”. Full sun to light shade. Average to dry soil.
‘Stand By Me’ Bush Clematis (Clematis)
You may have grown vining clematis before, but this selection grows more like a perennial. You may still want to give it some support from a cage or neighboring plants, but its stems grow upright to form a bushy clump. Bright blue, bell-shaped flowers appear on nodding stems in late spring to early summer followed by silky cream seed heads. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a few more flowers in late summer, too. Butterflies and hummingbirds have no problem dipping their long “tongues” into the heart of the pendulous flowers to drink their sweet nectar.
Perennial in zones 3-7. Height: 3’. Full sun to part sun. Average, alkaline soil.
MIDSUMMER TO FALL BLOOMING PERENNIALS
‘Cloudburst’ Tall Cushion Phlox (Phlox)
A new kind of phlox is becoming popular in gardens across North America because of its exceptional disease resistance and long bloom time. They are hybrid phlox like ‘Cloudburst’, shown here. It is taller than creeping phlox but shorter than tall garden phlox and blooms all summer. It takes a year or two to mature in the landscape, but you’ll be blown away by its flower power. A blanket of brilliant pinkish purple flowers completely cover the billowy, dark green foliage. If you look closely at a phlox flower, you’ll notice it has a long, tubular throat. That’s where the nectar lies. Butterflies and hummingbirds are great at using their long “tongues” to drink this sugary, nutritious food. See more of our perennial phlox here.
Perennial in zones 4-8. Height: 28”. Full sun. Average soil.
LAKOTA™ Fire Coneflower (Echinacea)
Cultivars of our native coneflowers are a mainstay in sunny perennial borders where they bloom for months beginning in early to midsummer. You’ll see all kinds of bees, butterflies and songbirds enjoying this perennial’s blossoms. Large, copper cones provide the perfect landing pads for pollinators coming for a snack or just for a rest. This new variety produces a striking array of hot colored flowers ranging from red to orange to magenta. Its smaller size makes it suitable for containers or near the front of the border. Deer typically leave coneflowers alone but they are a favorite of rabbits, so use a repellent if they become an issue in your garden.
Perennial in zones 4-8. Height: 12-16”. Full sun to part sun. Average to somewhat dry soil.
RAINBOW RHYTHM® ‘Orange Smoothie’ Daylily (Hemerocallis)
Daylilies might not be the first plant you think of when it comes to pollinators, but these summer flowering perennials provide a nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. ‘Orange Smoothie’ points the way for these pollinators with its rose pink band which encircles the throat where the nectar lies. Its orange-mango colored, fragrant flowers appear abundantly in midsummer and rebloom reliably through the season. Each flower has a cookie cutter perfect form. Rainbow Rhythm daylilies are an excellent plant to use if you’re looking to fill a large space with low maintenance flowers. Plant them in groups of three or more for best effect in the landscape.
Perennial in zones 3-9. Height: 24”. Full sun to part sun. Average soil.
‘Midnight Masquerade’ Beardtongue (Penstemon)
Penstemons benefit from two different kinds of pollinators—bees and hummingbirds. Deep inside their tubular flowers lies the pollen bees need and sweet nectar for the hummers. Bees collect the pollen on their bodies. Hummingbirds collect pollen on their heads when they reach in for a drink of nectar, then transfer it to the next flower they visit. ‘Midnight Masquerade’ blooms prolifically with lavender purple flowers on strong stems in early to midsummer. You’ll be able to distinguish it from its native parents by its vibrant blooms and deep burgundy foliage.
Perennial in zones 3-8. Height: 36-40”. Full sun. Average to dry soil.
TUSCAN GOLD™ False Sunflower (Heliopsis)
Bring life to any dull space in your sunny landscape with this glowing yellow perennial. Its daisy-like blossoms make the perfect perch for butterflies and songbirds which come in for a landing around midsummer to late summer. This cultivar has native roots; the species can be found growing in the wild throughout central and eastern North America. It thrives in heavy soils, including clay, and prefers consistent moisture but will tolerate occasional periods of dryness once it is established. Be sure to plant more than one so you’ll have plenty of flowers to cut for fresh bouquets. If you like this plant, you might also like its cousin ‘Tuscan Sun’.
Perennial in zones 4-9. Height: 24-32”. Full sun to light shade. Average to moist soil.
ROCK ‘N GROW® ‘Popstar’ and ‘Superstar’ Stonecrop (Sedum)
Late summer to fall flowering stonecrops are amazing perennials for drawing in all kinds of bees and butterflies before the growing season ends. They provide a late season food source after many other plants in the garden have finished blooming. These two cultivars are low mounding plants with succulent foliage that hugs the ground. ‘Popstar’ blooms with bright salmon pink flowers, while its companion ‘Superstar’ produces hot pink flowers. Both form colorful seed heads which extend their interest into the fall months. Plant them in your rock garden or use them to edge a sunny pathway or border. See more Rock ‘n Grow stonecrop varieties here.
Perennial in zones 3-9. Height: 8-12”. Full sun. Average to dry soil.
Patent Information: Color Spires® 'Azure Snow' Salvia USPPAF CanPBRAF; Fruit Punch® 'Classic Coral' Dianthus USPPAF CanPBRAF; Decadence® Deluxe 'Pink Lemonade' Baptisia USPPAF CanPBRAF; 'Stand by Me' Clematis USPPAF CanPBRAF; 'Cloudburst' Phlox USPPAF CanPBRAF; Rainbow Rhythm® 'Orange Smoothie' Hemerocallis USPP28643 CanPBRAF; 'Midnight Masquerade' Penstemon USPPAF CanPBRAF; Tuscan Gold™ Heliopsis helianthoides USPPAF CanPBRAF; Rock 'N Grow® 'Popstar' Sedum USPPAF CanPBRAF; Rock 'N Grow® 'Superstar' Sedum USPPAF CanPBRAF