15 Plants to Grow This Pollinator Week

Are you wondering what you can do this Pollinator Week to help sustain and protect integral pollinator populations? In this article, gardening expert and beekeeper Melissa Strauss shares some of her favorite pollinator plants for your garden.

A blue and yellow Swallowtail butterfly perches on the golden center of a violet-hued zinnia.


Pollinators are an integral part of our ecosystem. Bees alone are responsible for pollinating 75% of the world’s flowers and a significant percentage of food crops. Quite simply, we can’t live without them.

Sadly, the populations of all pollinators are rapidly declining due to the use of pesticides, rising global temperatures, and the destruction of their habitats.

How can you help? Check out this list of plants that will bring beauty to the garden while sustaining vital pollinator populations!

It’s easy to feel like just one gardener can’t make a big enough difference to the populations of these insects and birds. Still, if each of us grows just one or two flowering plants that help support the lifecycle of pollinators, the impact will be game-changing.

What better time to work on building pollinator habitat than during Pollinator Week? Pollinator Week was established in 2007 by Pollinator Partnership to inform the public about ways they can help sustain pollinator populations. 

In honor of Pollinator Week, here are 15 flowering plants to add to your garden to help pollinator populations in your yard. Adding them to your garden creates a refuge for the flying and buzzing creatures that make the world go round!  

African Blue Basil

Close up of clusters of green leaves with purple veining and tall, tiny, purple flower clusters at the top.
African blue basil attracts different endangered bumble bee species.
botanical-name botanical name Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 2-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

The spicy-sweet fragrance of African Blue Basil is exceptionally appealing to pollinators. I find that the Bumblebees especially like it, and with more than one species of bumble on the endangered species list, it is more important than ever to create little sanctuaries for these fascinating and fuzzy friends. 

African Blue Basil is edible if you pinch it back and don’t allow it to flower. Once it flowers, it focuses more energy on the flowers, and the leaves begin to lose their flavor.

It’s a small price to pay to see pollinator visitors, but no rule says you can’t have one for you and one for the bees. African Blue has purple-veined leaves along tall, slender stems. It will grow into a lovely small shrub in a very short time. 

Plant this herb as a perennial in warmer climates. In Zones 8-9, it will die back to the ground after a freeze but will come back in the late spring and begin to flower in the summer. In cooler climates, think of it as an annual. Provide a spot in full sun for the best flowering.

Anise Hyssop

Tall flower stalks with tiny purple flowers lining them and a black butterfly perched on one of the flowers.
Anise Hyssop attracts honey bees and is known to produce some of the sweetest honey.
botanical-name botanical name Agastache foeniculum
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Partial Shade
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-8

This is a honey bee favorite in my garden. The pale purple, aromatic flowers are a magnet for our tiny striped worker bees.

For beekeepers, this is an ideal plant to grow in large amounts. It makes delicious honey and provides nectar during a long blooming period. All types of bees are attracted to anise hyssop, named for its licorice-like scent.

The aromatic leaves of anise hyssop help draw pollinators and throw a lot of scent, making them great to have near an outdoor living space. You will love watching all the pollinators flock to the pretty, lavender flower spikes that bloom from summer through fall.

It does well in full sun, except in hot climates where some afternoon shade will keep it looking perky. 


Tall flower stalk with tiny tube shaped flowers lining the stem, with a black and yellow bumble bee drinking from one of the flowers.
Beardtongue comes in a variety of colors.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height up to 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

These pretty perennials bloom in shades of blue, orange, red, pink, white, purple, and yellow, so if you have the full spectrum of colors to make a rainbow of Beardtongues!

Penstemon is a diverse group with remarkable hardiness. They can grow quite tall and make a beautiful privacy screen. 

Beardtongues attract a wide array of pollinators, with red and pink varieties most appealing to hummingbirds. Flowers in the cool color family will appeal most to all types of bees, native and honey bees alike. Try ‘Rocky Mountain Blue’ penstemon for a cool blue-violet tone that bees love.

Black-Eyed Susan

Close up of a bright yellow flower that has a black, blue and orange butterfly perched on top of it.
These bright yellow flowers are long bloomers and are a favorite with Monarch butterflies.
botanical-name botanical name Rudbeckia hirta
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 3-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Very few flowers draw the number of bees that black-eyed Susans do. The cheerful, yellow relatives of the common sunflower are pollinator magnets.

Black-eyed Susans are very hardy and produce an exceptional number of flowers for a perennial. With every stem bearing at least one bloom, the small bobbing heads look like a chorus of happy faces dancing in the breeze and springing under the weight of the bees. 

Black-eyed Susan is also popular with Monarch butterflies. They provide a wealth of nectar and pollen to our garden friends. They bloom for a long period of time, making them a valuable pollinator food source. If you allow the seed heads to age on the plant, you can provide food for birds in the cooler months.


Close-up of blooming Asters in a sunny garden. The plant produces daisy-like composite flowers with vibrant petals surrounding a central disc. These flowers come in purple color.
Beautiful and useful, asters are popular with pollinating insects.
botanical-name botanical name Aster
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Partial Shade
height height 1-6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Favored by butterflies, these delicate, daisy-like flowers come in a multitude of sizes and flower formations. In my garden, these grow wonderfully in the morning sun with afternoon shade, providing a resting place for butterflies during the scorching summer temperatures.

 The Pearl Crescent butterfly will visit asters, as they serve as a larval host. These butterflies lay their eggs on the plant and enjoy the sweet nectar it provides.

Butterflies aren’t the only pollinators that love asters. Because of their purple flowers, you can probably guess what else is a particular fan of these lavender lovelies. That’s right, bees! 


Several bright pink flowers that have purple centers and long pink stamen, hanging down from a branch.
Fuchsias are elegant and bright, making them irresistible to hummingbirds.
botanical-name botanical name Fuchsia
plant-type plant type Tender Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Partial Sun, Bright Indirect Light
height height 1-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

The bright pink and deep purple pendulous flowers of fuchsia are enticing to hummingbirds, making them perfect plants for pollinator week!

These flowering wonders can have a bushy or shrubby growth habit. They look stunning on a trellis or in a hanging basket. 

In sweltering climates, fuchsia can be tricky to sustain. It will need a fair amount of protection from the hot afternoon sun.

A bit of morning sun won’t hurt, but fuchsia prefers a spot in the garden that is cool and bright but indirectly lit. Pollinators are attracted to it because of its distinctive pollen.

Because it blooms in cooler spaces, bees enjoy the ability to gather pollen from this plant out of the beating summer sun.


Close up of a tall flower stalk that has a cluster of tiny purple flowers at the top of the stem, and a large black and yellow, fuzzy, bumble bee on it.
Lavender is a great food source for bees and doubles as a tasty kitchen herb.
botanical-name botanical name Lavandula
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Bees love lavender, but then, who doesn’t? The calming fragrance that comes from the flowers and foliage is a favorite for many, and the uses of this plant are plentiful.

Not only is lavender a great food source for bees, but it’s also a tasty herb to add to baked goods. It’s low maintenance and prefers to be planted in poor soil and limited supplemental water.  

Growing lavender can be tricky if you choose a type that doesn’t thrive in your climate. However, there are many popular varieties, and they all have one thing in common, they are pollinator magnets.

Plant your lavender in full sun and well-drained soil without adding compost or fertilizer. Prune off the flowers at the end of the season. In many climates, you will have a lovely evergreen shrub in wintertime.


Clusters of round spiky looking flowers that are a light creamy white color with some light pink petals.
This is the most critical flower for attracting the famous Monarch butterfly.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height up to 5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-12

Milkweed is the number one perennial for attracting Monarch butterflies. At least 30 milkweed species are larval hosts for the Monarch.

Milkweed is crucial to sustaining pollinator populations along with other native plants. Many types will grow in surprisingly inhospitable environments, and most are drought-tolerant. 

Bees and other butterflies will all benefit from milkweed in the garden, as it is an excellent nectar source, too. Most types are freely reseeding. If you want to control the spread, pluck off the seed pods before they split open.

Most gardeners will say you don’t plant milkweed because it’s pretty. Caterpillars will strip its leaves throughout the summer and fall, but the payoff of generations of Monarchs in the garden is worth the lost foliage.


Tall green, thick, spiky flower stalks with small clusters of bright purple flowers on them, with a little humming bird drinking nectar from the flowers.
Porterweed is most popular with hummingbirds but will attract several other pollinators, too.
botanical-name botanical name Stachytarpheta
plant-type plant type Perennial or Evergreen
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Partial Shade
height height 4-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-10

This flower is so irresistible to hummingbirds that the elusive creatures won’t even notice you standing nearby. This one is a favorite in my yard, as it attracts hummingbirds and bumblebees in droves. All day long, the long, flexible branches bend and spring back as pollinators travel from one flower spike to another. 

The purple variety is effective at attracting all types of pollinators, although the red version might be even more appealing to hummingbirds. After all, red is their favorite color.

However, the bumblebees love the purple, and I love the bumblebees. In Zones 9-10, porterweed will be evergreen. In Zone 8 and possibly 7, it is a tender perennial, dying back to the ground with freezing weather to re-emerge in spring. 


Field of tall flower stalks with bluish, purple flowers and stems. One of the flower stalks has a black bee flying towards it.
Part of the mint family, salvia is fragrant and enticing to a variety of different pollinators.
botanical-name botanical name Salvia
plant-type plant type Annual and Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Partial Shade
height height up to 6’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-10

Salvias are members of the Mint family, and they have similar characteristics. Grow salvia in a space where it can spread out a bit.

Salvias’ tubular flowers and fragrant foliage entice pollinators, especially hummingbirds, butterflies, and long-tongued bees. Some varieties of salvia are very cold tolerant, while others need tropical climates to survive the winter. Your local nursery is likely to carry at least one species.

Flowers come in shades of purple, blue, red, pink, and fuchsia. These make a perfect addition to a cut flower arrangement as well.

The long, arching stems and fragrant foliage appeal to humans and pollinators. Try ‘Blue Victory’ salvia for a beautiful, long-flowering variety in the cool violet tones bees favor.


Close up of a large, bright, yellow flower with a large brown center and a tall thick green flower stalk.
These big, beautiful flowers provide pollen for bees, and their seeds are a great food source for birds.
botanical-name botanical name Helianthus
plant-type plant type Annual
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height up to 25’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

No bee can resist a sunflower, and for good reason. Having an abundance of sunflowers near a honey bee hive significantly reduces the incidence of varroa mites.

Varroa is the primary cause of hive collapse in the United States, so helping to control them is integral to the survival of wild and domestically kept bees.

Sunflowers are a true marvel, with some giant species growing as tall as 20-25 feet with flowers as large as dinner plates. They come in classic golden yellow or striking shades of chocolatey-red.

Some sunflowers are perennials, but many of the larger cultivars are annuals. Growing these no-fuss flowers in your yard is a grand way to help out the pollinators, and the seed heads are great to leave for overwintering birds. 

Sweet Almond Bush

Tiny branch with a long, skinny, cluster of tiny white flowers and a honey bee sitting on it.
The Sweet Almond Bush has a strong afternoon scent that lures in bees.
botanical-name botanical name Aloysia virgata
plant-type plant type Perennial or Evergreen
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height up to 7’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

I have to sing the praises of this pollinator favorite! Bees cover sweet almond bush whenever it’s in bloom.

This shrub has a loose branch organization, although it can be trained to branch more when it is young. The foliage is dark green with serrated edges. 

Sweet almond bush gets its name from its lovely flowers. Long, thin clusters of small, creamy white flowers bloom at the ends of branches.

The flowers have a wonderful fragrance that smells like fine almond soap. The scent is enticing to bees and strongest in the afternoon, so it works well near outdoor living spaces. 

Torch Lily

Four tall flower stalks with clusters of tube shaped flowers that blend from a light pale yellow at the bas of the flower to a dark green orange leading up to the top.
Also known as ‘Red Hot Pokers’, these tube shaped flowers are the perfect vessels for hummingbirds to drink from all day long.
botanical-name botanical name Kniphofia
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 3-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Torch lily, or red hot poker, are not true lilies but share some characteristics. Whatever name you call them by, they are sure to bring hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden.

Their large flower spikes host several hundred blooms each, in shades of red to yellow ombre. These tube-shaped blooms hold plentiful nectar and are just the right shape for hummingbirds to drink from.

This rhizomatic perennial tends to spread, so it needs to be maintained or given the space to spread out. Dividing clumps in the spring will allow for better airflow and help prevent fungal disease caused by overcrowding.

There are about 73 species, with the dwarf varieties being especially popular. These brilliant blooms will add plenty of pizzazz to the pollinator garden. 

Trumpet Honeysuckle

A close-up of the 'Cedar Lane' Coral Honeysuckle plant reveals clusters of vibrant scarlet blooms. The lush green leaves provide a striking backdrop to the crimson blossoms.
This particular cultivar features stunning elongated red tubular flowers with yellow interiors.
botanical-name botanical name Lonicera sempervirens
plant-type plant type Perennial
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 8-15’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Flowering vines add a special something to the garden. Grown over an arch or used to dress up a wall, they create a cottage garden feel. Trumpet honeysuckle, or coral honeysuckle, is a beautiful flowering vine with gorgeous clusters of trumpet-shaped, coral-colored flowers.

While the flowers are not as fragrant as other types of honeysuckle, they are nectar-rich and attractive to hummingbirds. Trumpet Honeysuckle likes plenty of sun for best flowering, and well-drained soil is a must.

It can survive in partial shade. In warmer climates, afternoon shade will keep the flowers and foliage looking their best.

In cooler temperatures, give it sun all day long for the best results. Watch out for powdery mildew in humid climates. Keep the branches thinned out to prevent fungal infection.  


Six bright, fluffy, pink flowers that have layers and layers of oval shaped petals surrounding a bright yellow center.
Zinnias come in a variety of different colors and styles.
botanical-name botanical name Zinnia
plant-type plant type Annual
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height up to 4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Zinnias are almost too easy to grow. If you need to fill a space quickly and colorfully, zinnias will happily do that job, bringing lots of pollen and nectar with them!

I’m a big fan of these pretty annuals. Zinnias are fast growers and early to flower. They make excellent cut flowers with their extra-long vase life, as well. Try the ‘California Giants’ blend for long-lasting cut flowers that you and the bees will love.

If you’re wondering how pollinators feel about zinnias, it turns out they share my enthusiasm. In particular, the varieties with open centers are very appealing to all types of pollinating insects and birds.

Deadheading your zinnias will keep them blooming all summer and into the fall. They are not picky about soil and are very drought tolerant. These wonderful annuals are a must for the pollinator garden. 

Final Thoughts

If you are passionate about helping to sustain pollinator populations, there are things that you can do to help. Provide species that produce both pollen and nectar and favor the plants that are native to your region. While you’re at it, provide pollinators with a water source. Collecting all that pollen and nectar is exhausting work; they will return to gardens where they can rest and rehydrate. Happy Pollinator Week!

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