31 Nectar-Rich Flowers for Pollinators

Nurture declining pollinator populations with a garden display of nectar-rich flowers that bloom throughout the entire season. In this article, former organic farmer Logan Hailey highlights 31 incredible species of native and ornamental blossoms to attract bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and beneficial insects.

A small, brown and white butterfly alights on a pink and white striped zinnia bloom.


If you want more butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds in your garden, you must lure them in with their favorite sweet snacks. Nectar-rich flowers can be ornamental and add abundant beauty while aiding our declining pollinator populations. 

Nectar is essentially sugar water that flowers produce to attract the insect allies that help them reproduce. When the insect reaches into the flower with its proboscis (the long straw-like mouthpart) to suck out the sugary drink, its furry body simultaneously gets covered with the flower’s sticky pollen. Then, the pollinator flies to another flower, rubbing the pollen into a new blossom and facilitating fertilization of the flower’s ovary. This symbiotic relationship is the backbone of over 80% of the world’s plant reproduction.  

Some flowers are richer in nectar, the main source of insect energy. Other flowers are more rich in pollen, which supplies insects with protein and other nutrients. Most species on this list offer both, but they are particularly high in sweet nectar, which attracts pollinators near and far to feast on your garden’s colorful dessert buffet.

What Plants Have Nectar for Butterflies and Bees?

Butterflies and bees love milkweed, monarda (bee balm), lavender, salvia, fuschia, torch lily, cosmos, borage, coneflower, and hundreds of other bright-blooming species that supply nectar in their blooms. Almost any wildflower or native flowering plant can provide nectar resources for your local pollinators. If you want to attract these beautiful insects to your garden throughout the year, plant a diversity of species that bloom at different times in the season to provide ongoing nectar resources.

Top 31 Nectar-Rich Plant Species

Bolster your pollinator garden, vegetable borders, and ornamental beds with these sugary sweet blossoms that draw in butterflies, bees, hummingbirds, and beneficial wasps from near and far. For the best results, choose native species that thrive in your region and are specifically adapted to the needs of indigenous pollinators.

Milkweed (Asclepias spp.)

Close-up of flowering Milkweed plants in a garden. This perennial plant has opposite and simple leaves with eye-catching flowers. The plant forms clusters of small, star-shaped blossoms with five petals of bright orange color.
Milkweed is a top choice for monarch butterflies and provides nectar for various pollinators.

Known as the most famous host plant for the monarch butterfly caterpillars, milkweed flowers also offer an abundance of nectar for adult butterflies and bees. The uniquely spherical umbel clusters are made up of dozens of tiny blossoms.

There are many varieties of milkweed native to the United States. I highly recommend selecting a species indigenous to your region, as this will benefit local pollinator species most. Notable options include:

  • Eastern United States: Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), swamp milkweed (A. incarnata), and butterfly weed (A. tuberosa)
  • Midwest: Whorled milkweed (A. verticillata), purple milkweed (A. purpurascens), and Sullivant’s milkweed (A. sullivantii)
  • Western Region: Showy milkweed (A. speciosa), narrowleaf milkweed (A. fascicularis), and antelope horns milkweed (A. asperula)
  • South: Green milkweed (A. viridiflora) and poke milkweed (A. exaltata)
  • Southwest: Arizona milkweed (A. angustifolia)

Many experts recommend avoiding tropical milkweed (A. curassavica) because it is non-native to the United States and attracts many floral visitors who don’t want to leave. This plant can inadvertently hurt monarch migration and spread diseases to native varieties.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Close-up of blooming Taraxacum officinale in the garden. Taraxacum officinale, commonly known as dandelion, is a distinctive perennial herbaceous plant. It features bright yellow, composite flowers with numerous ray-like petals that form a sunny and recognizable bloom. These flowers are held on hollow, leafless stems. The basal leaves of the dandelion are deeply lobed.
This well-known weed offers early spring nectar, benefiting butterflies, bumblebees, and emerging bees.

This infamous weed provides some of the best early spring nectar resources. The extra early flowers appear before many other species start blooming. At this time, butterflies and bumblebees are often seeking nourishment after overwintering. The dandelion pollen is also an essential food source for bees as they emerge from winter hibernation and start foraging for resources to feed a new generation of larvae.

The bright yellow color and long bloom time make dandelions an excellent addition to any garden. They produce nectar throughout the frost-free season. You can even seed native dandelion species that are indigenous to North America.

There is no harm in letting dandelions flower in your lawn or garden. If you want to prevent their spread, pinch off the withered heads after blooming, and they won’t go to seed. It is quite sad that our society has become so obsessed with spraying and killing dandelions. Ironically, this weed is incredibly useful for both insects and people! The entire plant is edible (flowers, leaves, and roots) and so resilient that it requires no maintenance. 

Borage (Borago officinalis)

Close-up of a blooming Borage in a garden against a blurred background. Borago officinalis, commonly known as borage, is a herbaceous annual plant. It boasts vibrant, star-shaped flowers in a shade of bright blue with contrasting black stamens at the center. The plant's leaves are large, rough-textured, and covered in fine hairs. They are a deep green color and have an elongated oval shape.
Featuring vibrant blue star-shaped blooms, borage attracts various pollinators and predatory insects.

With its bright blue star-shaped flowers, this garden favorite is a valuable companion plant and nectar resource. It attracts bees, butterflies, hoverflies, and other predatory insects that feast on garden pests like aphids. 

The bristly, fuzzy leaves add to the borage’s charm and shelter insects needing refuge from rain or storms. This versatile flower is edible and used in many culinary dishes, including delicious borage lemonade. I love interplanting borage near tomato or squash beds to feed my pollinators and improve yields simultaneously.

Honeysuckle (Lonicera sp.)

Close-up of a blooming Honeysuckle in a garden. It features lush green leaves and fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers of a reddish-beige color with protruding stamens.
Honeysuckle vines and shrubs with fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers offer abundant nectar and attract pollinators.

With a name like honeysuckle, it’s no surprise that these flowering vines and shrubs provide abundant nectar. The fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers are aesthetically pleasing and cover your garden in a delightful perfume. 

If you adore hummingbirds, you don’t want to miss out on this plant. Their long bills are perfectly adapted to sip nectar from the tubular blossoms as they rapidly flutter their wings in mid-air. Swallowtails and painted lady butterflies are also frequent visitors to honeysuckle vines. 

Both common honeysuckle (L. periclymenum) and Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica) are suitable choices for a pollinator garden. Just beware that Japanese honeysuckle vines can be aggressive and invasive in some regions, notably the eastern U.S. and parts of the southwest.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Close-up of blooming Achillea millefolium in a sunny garden. Achillea millefolium, commonly known as yarrow, is a native wildflower with feathery, fern-like leaves and broad-topped clusters of aromatic flowers.The plant boasts clusters of tiny, magnetically attractive florets of delicate pink color.
Yarrow is a native wildflower with fern-like leaves, and its colorful aromatic clusters attract various pollinators.

This humble native wildflower has feathery fern-like leaves and beautiful broad-topped clusters of aromatic flowers. Yarrow is available in many cultivated colors, from vibrant pink to bright red to pastel yellow and bright white. The numerous tiny florets in each cluster of blooms are magnetic to honeybees, bumblebees, native solitary bees, swallowtails, and painted ladies. 

Yarrow is also a highly desirable companion plant. It is a hardy and robust herbaceous perennial that dies back to the ground in the winter and regenerates every spring. When planted near your vegetable crops, it draws in beneficial predators to reduce pest pressure. 

Achillea provides late spring and summer nectar and often flowers well into fall. The drought-tolerant plant is perfect for xeriscaping or low-water gardens where you still want to fuel the pollinators. Deadhead the blossoms regularly to encourage continuous blooms. The foliage and flowers have a delicious smell reminiscent of honey. 

Hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.)

Close-up of a blooming Hibiscus in a sunny garden. The plant has dark green leaves and large flowers. Hibiscus bloom is large, colorful, and trumpet-shaped, with a prominent central stamen and stigma. The flower is coral in color.
Hibiscus is a group of flowering plants with vibrant trumpet-shaped blooms attracting pollinators.

This group of flowering plants has showy, nectar-rich flowers that attract a wide diversity of pollinators. The colorful, trumpet-shaped blooms are magnetic to humans and pollinators alike. Hummingbirds, native bees, and many butterflies eagerly sip nectar from the tubular vases all summer. 

The Hibiscus genus is incredibly diverse and includes options for any region and landscape aesthetic. There are countless varieties, from shrubs to trees to vines, including H. rosa-sinensis (tropical hibiscus) and H. syriacus (rose of Sharon). Tropical varieties are often grown in containers you bring indoors in the winter. Still, potted hibiscus blooms are important resources for summer pollinators on your patio or deck. 

Snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus)

Close-up of multi-colored Antirrhinum majus blooming in the garden. Antirrhinum majus, commonly known as snapdragon, is a distinctive plant with erect stems covered in lance-shaped, toothed leaves. The plant produces tubular-shaped flowers that resemble dragon mouths, arranged in colorful spikes along the stem. These blossoms come in a variety of colors including red, white, pink and yellow.
Snapdragon blooms, resembling dragon mouths, offer nectar-rich flowers on tall stalks that attract bumblebees and butterflies.

Named for their uniquely shaped flowers, snapdragon blooms resemble dragon mouths. The striking 3-4 foot tall stalks of colorful flowers are highly coveted by florists for cut flower arrangements but are best left in the garden for pollinator aficionados. 

Every bloom along a stalk is nectar-rich and addicting to bumblebees and butterflies. Scientists have found that the snapdragon petals contain many tiny cone-shaped cells, making it easier for bees to “hold on” while feeding on the nectar. Several insects can feed on the multi-flowered stalks at the same time. Moreover, the unique structure makes it an attractive focal point in any ornamental garden.

These cool-season flowers bloom profusely all summer and usually self-seed to bring forth another generation next year. They are short-lived perennials typically grown as annuals in most zones. If you deadhead regularly, they will reward you with a longer dazzling show.

Phlox (Phlox sp.)

Close-up of blooming Phlox on a blurred green background. It boasts lance-shaped leaves that form dense, bushy clumps. The plant produces abundant clusters of fragrant, five-petaled, tubular flowers of bright pink color.
These hardy perennials bloom consistently throughout the warm months, offering resources for butterflies all summer and fall.

Are you noticing a trend here? Fragrant, tubular-shaped flowers make pollinators go wild. The Phlox genus contains a diversity of unique blooms that magnetize honeybees, bumblebees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. These hardy perennial plants thrive in many soil types and include several varieties native to the United States, like P. paniculata (garden phlox) and P. subulata (creeping phlox).

These flowers bloom consistently throughout the warm months. Some varieties are categorized as early-season, mid-season, and late-season bloomers. I recommend intermingling several varieties to provide resources for butterflies all summer and fall. The bloom clusters come in purple, pink, white, and even bi-colors, with a contrasting “eye” in the center of each flower. They have a sweet, enticing fragrance that enhances their attractiveness to insects.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Close-up of blooming Echinacea purpurea in a sunny garden. Echinacea purpurea, commonly known as purple coneflower, is a visually striking plant with a robust appearance. It features coarse, lance-shaped leaves arranged alternately on sturdy, upright stems. Atop these stems, it produces striking daisy-like flowers with a prominent copper-colored central cone. The petals are pink-purple in color, radiating outward from the central cone.
Echinacea, known for its striking magenta daisy-like blooms, attracts honeybees, bumblebees, native bees, and butterflies.

This iconic native wildflower is a popular perennial cherished for its gorgeous magenta daisy-like flowers with prominent orangish-brown central cones. Honeybees, bumblebees, and native bees are all drawn to this valuable source of nectar and pollen. Butterflies like the eastern tiger swallowtail and monarch cannot resist the nectar-filled echinacea blossoms. 

The tubular cone structure provides easy access for pollinators, and the central disk flowers offer accessible pollen for them to gather. Coneflowers usually bloom from midsummer to early autumn. Deadheading extends the blooming period and encourages new flowers to emerge.

The flower is highly coveted for wildflower plantings, cottage gardens, and manicured ornamental beds. The burst of color reliably returns year after year and goes dormant in the winter. 

Blazing Star (Liatris spicata)

Close-up of flowering Liatris spicata plants in a sunny garden. Liatris spicata, also known as blazing star or gayfeather, boasts a distinctive appearance characterized by its tall, slender stems adorned with dense spikes of vibrant, purplish-pink feathery blooms. The plant's linear leaves, which grow along the lower part of the stem, offer a lush green backdrop to the eye-catching flowers.
With purplish-pink feathery spikes of nectar-rich blooms, blazing star attracts bees and endangered butterflies.

Another striking wildflower, blazing star is known for its purplish-pink tall, feathery spikes of nectar-rich blooms. Bees frequent this flower for nectar to bring back to their hives. Endangered butterflies like monarchs and painted ladies love the bright flowers! Did you know that butterflies have tetrachromatic vision that draws them to high-frequency colors of green, blue, and violet?

The feathery flowers of this herbaceous perennial are available in several shades of purple and magenta. Some species have tufted blossoms, while others have longer, widely-branched flowers. The grass-like clumps of leaves are attractive even when not in bloom and provide hiding places for beneficial beetles and bugs. 

You can find a Liatris native to your region or choose a popular cultivar like ‘Kobold’ or ‘Floristan White.’ Also known as gayfeather, blazing stars are undeniably joyful and unique. They adapt to many conditions and withstand drought, making them perfect for summer pollinator plantings.

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

Close-up of Agastache foeniculum flowering plants in a garden. Agastache foeniculum, commonly known as anise hyssop, presents a charming appearance with its feathery, mint-like leaves and tall, spiky clusters of tubular-shaped flowers. The flowers form dense spikes and come in shades of purple, lavender, and blue. These fragrant blooms are composed of tiny tubular-shaped flowers.
With its licorice scent, anise hyssop offers a long blooming season and attracts pollinators with pastel spiky blooms.

Oh, the lovely licorice smell of hyssop! This native herb boasts a long blooming season from mid-summer to early fall and provides a consistent source of nectar-rich spike-shaped flowers. It is also a valuable source of pollen. The pastel purple or pink spiky blooms are made of tiny tubular-shaped flowers that naturally attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and all types of bees. 

The distinctly aromatic leaves and flowers are edible and delicious. They have a sweet anise-like scent often used in teas. When the bloom cycle is complete, the seeds of anise hyssop are favored by birds and look nice standing in a dormant winter garden.

Thanks to its native prairie roots, this herb is well-adapted to drought and great for low-irrigation pollinator planting. Provide a little room to spread to grow to its full glory. Once established, this mint-family plant needs very little maintenance aside from occasional pruning and deadheading if desired.

Salvia (Salvia spp.)

Close-up of a flowering Salvia plant in the garden. The leaves of Salvia are deep green, lance-shaped. The flowers of Salvia are purple, trumpet-shaped.
The Salvia genus offers drought-tolerant and low-maintenance ornamental and edible sage varieties with tubular blooms.

The Salvia genus is rich in ornamental and edible sage varieties that don’t mind drought or neglect. The tubular blooms are perfectly suited for hummingbirds, which play a crucial role in pollination. Native bees, honeybees, swallowtails, and painted ladies love the nectar-rich blossoms in purple, blue, red, orange, yellow, and more. 

Most species are shrubby and herbaceous, with perennial hardy options for nearly every zone. This is a popular ornamental and even roadside plant because it retains a nice shape and doesn’t require much maintenance.

It’s also a great companion plant for vegetable garden borders where you’d like to attract pollinators and beneficial insects. Salvia’s aromatic leaves repel pests and are rich in essential oils to attract pollinators to their blooms.

Fuchsia (Fuchsia spp.)

Close-up of a blooming Fuchsia plant in the garden. Fuchsia plants are known for their striking appearance, featuring pendulous, tubular flowers and elegant foliage. The leaves are dark green and lance-shaped. The flowers are bright, bicolor, pink-purple. These colorful flowers hang delicately from the stems like teardrops. These flowers have a unique shape, with elongated tubes and flared petals.
Teardrop-shaped, multicolored fuschia blooms attract hummingbirds, while insects also visit for nectar.

The dangling teardrop-shaped blooms of fuschia are striking in any garden. The multicolored options, including purple, red, pink, orange, white, or pale green, add a stunning display to any garden or landscape. 

Unsurprisingly, this is another tubular-shaped flower that hummingbirds love to stick their beaks in. The nectar is an important energy source for these tiny little birds to fuel their rapid wing beats and fast-flying lifestyle. While hummingbirds are the primary pollinators, many insects visit the plants and use their straw-like proboscis to suck the sweet nectar out of fuchsia flowers.

You can grow fuchsia in pots or hanging baskets, making them a great option for balcony or patio pollinator gardens. The plants are very low maintenance and don’t mind partial shade. They aren’t finicky about soil and offer a long blooming season if they are provided with adequate moisture. 

Beardtongue (Penstemon spp.)

Close-up of blooming Penstemon in the garden. Penstemon, commonly known as beardtongue, is a diverse genus of perennial plants known for its distinct bell-shaped flowers. These plants feature lance-shaped leaves of green color. The plant produces showy, tubular flowers with flaring lips. These flowers are bright pink.
Beardtongues are unique ornamental perennials with bell-shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds and certain bee species.

Also known as Penstemon, beardtongues are unique ornamental perennials with bell-shaped, pink, red, blue, or purple flowers. They bloom in late spring or early summer and continue flowering into the fall if they receive enough water. Beardtongues are native plants that produce generous amounts of nectars. The deep tube of the flower magnetizes hummingbirds and certain bee species with long proboscises.

There is a wide diversity of species and cultivars, but I especially love Foxglove penstemon (P. digitalis ‘Husker’s Red’) and Rocky Mountain beardtongue (P. strictus). As herbaceous perennials, these plants die back to the ground in the winter and reemerge with fresh growth each spring. They can reach up to 3 feet tall and fit perfectly into a xeriscape or water-wise garden.

Torch Lily (Kniphofia spp.)

Close-up of flowering Kniphofia in the garden. Kniphofia, commonly known as red hot poker or torch lily, is a striking perennial plant with tall, upright stems. Its long, strap-like leaves form a clump of basal foliage that is green. Atop these sturdy stems, Kniphofia produces dense spikes of tubular, brightly colored flowers that resemble fiery torches. The flower spikes come in two colors, including yellow and orange.
Torch lily, a drought-tolerant species, features bright tubular flowers in various hues, primarily attracting hummingbirds.

Also known as “red hot poker” or “poker plant,” this unique drought-tolerant species produces bright, tubular flowers in orange, yellow, or red. They are particularly appealing to hummingbirds and may not be the first choice for other pollinators. Still, their blossoms are rich, and their extended bloom period is desirable. 

They are suited to dry climates and xeriscapes. Moreover, the tall flower spikes of torch lily add structural interest to the garden and complement other heavily visited flowers like yarrow, rudbeckias, and heleniums.

Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii)

Close-up of a flowering Buddleja davidii plant in a sunny garden. Buddleja davidii, commonly known as butterfly bush, is a deciduous shrub with an open and arching growth habit. The plant produces elongated and tapering clusters of tubular flowers of purple color.
Butterfly bush is a top choice for pollinators and showcases elegant long trusses of flowers.

This fast-growing perennial shrub produces masses of flowers in elegant long trusses. The bushy habit, arching stems, and fragrant flowers make this one of the most desirable pollinator shrubs. It grows 6-12’ tall and blooms all summer long, magnetizing hoards of butterflies. With its sweet fragrance and colorful displays, this is the most popular plant for swallowtails, monarchs, painted ladies, sulphurs, and fritillary butterflies. 

You can find butterfly bushes in pink, white, purple, and bi-colored flowers. For smaller gardens, patios, or containers, there are dwarf varieties that still offer the same gorgeous nectar-rich flowers. This easy-to-grow shrub is highly coveted by landscapers and beginner gardeners because it is so easy to care for yet rewards you with the most stunning floral display. 

Be sure to plant in full sun and prune in late winter before budding to encourage dense growth and more blooms. If you don’t cut back the butterfly bush, it can become leggy and produce fewer flowers. Fortunately, the shrub is very forgiving and easy to manipulate to your desired shape and size. This shrub can be invasive, so purchasing sterile cultivars is best.

Ironweed (Vernonia sp.

Close-up of blooming Vernonia in the garden. Vernonia, also known as ironweed, is a striking native perennial plant with a tall and upright growth habit. Its lance-shaped leaves are deep green and have a slightly serrated edge. At the top of sturdy stems, ironweed produces clusters of vibrant purple-pink to magenta flowers. These flowers are arranged in dense, rounded clusters that resemble fluffy domes.
Named for its sturdy stems, ironweed offers intense purple blooms attractive to butterflies, bees, and skippers.

Named for its tough-as-iron stems, ironweed is a very upright flower with intense purple blooms. Recall that butterflies have tetrachromatic vision and prefer purple and blue hues! This American native plant offers just that, plus it looks dazzling amongst fall-blooming goldenrods. 

There are many native regional species, including V. noveboracensis (New York ironweed) and V. fasciculata (prairie ironweed). In addition to the butterflies, bees, and skippers feeding on the nectar and pollen, the foliage of this plant is important for herbivorous insects. 

Ironweed spreads through self-seeding and can take over if you aren’t careful. For naturalized areas or meadows, leave it to proliferate. For managed garden settings, It’s best to snip off the flower heads in the fall and cut the plants back almost to the ground in the spring. Otherwise, it asks for little to no care and doesn’t need any supplemental water. This plant can grow in virtually any soil and truly is tough as nails!

Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Close-up of a flowering Eutrochium purpureum plant in a garden. Eutrochium purpureum, commonly known as Joe Pye weed, is a striking perennial plant. Its leaves are large, lance-shaped, and arranged in whorls along sturdy stems. The leaves have a deep green color and serrated edges.Atop these tall stems, Joe Pye weed produces clusters of fluffy, mauve to purplish-pink flowers in a dome-like shape.
Thriving in wet soils, Joe Pye weed requires no maintenance and offers late-season nectar.

The large purplish-pink flower clusters of this native perennial are irresistible to pollinators. Growing over 8 feet tall and wide, this giant wildflower is a perfect statement piece in gardens from zones 3 through 10.

The deep green foliage contrasts airy purple blooms that bloom throughout the summer and autumn, attracting a wide diversity of birds and insects, including monarchs. The dried seed heads are beneficial for overwintering birds.

I love this plant for its ability to thrive in soggy soil. It doesn’t mind wet soils like rain gardens or clay areas. It doesn’t need any maintenance and provides nectar after many other plants have fizzled out. Honeybees who feed on Joe Pye weed produce fruity-tasting honey that is dark in color.

Zinnia (Zinnia elegans)

Close-up of blooming Zinnia elegant in a sunny garden. Zinnia elegans, commonly known as zinnia, is a vibrant and eye-catching plant. It features lance-shaped leaves arranged opposite each other along the stem. The plant produces large and colorful flowers in colors such as pink, white and orange. Zinnia flowers have a daisy-like appearance with a central disk surrounded by overlapping petals.
Zinnia, a cut flower favorite, attracts painted ladies, monarchs, and native bees with its prolonged blooming season and vibrant colors.

This cut flower classic is surprisingly important for pollinators. Painted ladies, monarchs, and native bees frequently visit zinnia flowers for nectar and pollen. Zinnias have a prolonged blooming season and vibrant colors that act like visual beacons to draw insects into your garden.

These flowers are easy to grow from seed and eagerly self-sow year after year. This annual plant is very frost-tender and dies in cold weather. Still, the flowers are resilient and heat tolerant during the summer months and don’t ask for much more than a once or twice-per-week watering to keep their flower display going. Be sure to deadhead to encourage continuous blooming.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

Close-up of a flowering Syringa vulgaris plant in a garden. Syringa vulgaris, commonly known as the lilac plant, boasts a distinctive appearance characterized by its deciduous shrub form with opposite, heart-shaped leaves that are bright green. The plant produces clusters of fragrant, tubular-shaped flowers that grow in elongated, cone-shaped clusters known as panicles. Lilac flowers have a purple tint.
Fragrant spring lilac blossoms with nectar attract butterflies and bees, while heart-shaped leaves add beauty to ornamental landscapes.

These fragrant spring blossoms have a sweet smell and an abundance of nectar. The early flowers are very important for insects emerging from winter dormancy. Butterflies like the eastern tiger swallowtail, painted lady, and red admiral are particularly fanatic about lilac flowers. Bees also adore the sweet fragrance and protein-dense pollen.

The elegant clusters of flowers and heart-shaped leaves provide outstanding beauty in ornamental landscapes. You can find white, mauve, lilac, and dark purple cultivars. Planting lilacs in long rows or clusters creates a striking garden center point to draw in the prettiest insects and birds. Pruning is necessary to maintain an attractive shape and promote vigorous blooming.

Most lilacs are hardy in zones 3-8, but there are some varieties like ‘Scentara,’ which can handle frigid zone 2, and ‘Lavender Lady,’ which can handle the heat of zone 9. Aside from this outlier variety, most lilacs need cold winters and frost to thrive. The deciduous shrub will drop its leaves in the fall, requiring a winter chill period to promote flower bud formation for the next season. 

Verbena (Verbena sp.)

Close-up shot of a flowering Verbena plant against a blurred green background. Verbena is known for its attractive appearance featuring slender, lance-shaped leaves that are dark green. The plant produces clusters of small, tubular flowers held on tall, slender stems. These flowers are purple.
Verbena features pretty flowers and serrated dark green leaves, attracting various insects and hummingbirds.

Also known as vervain, this plant has pretty little flowers and dark green, long leaves with serrated edges. They are hardy perennials in zones 8 to 11 or annuals in colder zones.

With vigorous growth and vibrant blooms all summer long, verbena is a coveted pollinator plant beloved by fritillaries, giant swallowtails, hairstreaks, red admirals, skippers, sulphurs, bumble bees, and hummingbirds. Who doesn’t love this purple-flowered plant?

The popular V. bonariensis (purpletop vervain) is native to South America and may be considered an invasive weed in some regions of the United States. It can be found naturalized in many parts of the southeast and California. However, Verbena hastata (blue vervain) is native to the United States and has smaller flowers that attract many beneficial insects.

Sedum (Sedum spp.)

Close-up of a blooming Sedum in a sunny garden. Sedum, a versatile and hardy succulent, presents a distinctive appearance characterized by fleshy, water-storing leaves that are spoon-shaped and clustered along the stems. Sedum's flowers grow in clusters atop sturdy, upright stems, forming flattened, star-like blooms with five or more petals. These flowers are pale pink.
Sedum is a drought-tolerant succulent with colorful star-like flowers irresistible to bees, butterflies, and insects.

Stonecrop, or sedum, is a succulent genus including ground cover and upright species. Most stonecrops are drought-tolerant and offer colorful clusters of star-like flowers that bees, butterflies, and buzzing insects cannot resist.

This is a great option for arid regions, xeriscapes, and cold growing zones where some popular flowers will not grow. Many sedums are hardy down to zone 3 and grow as herbaceous perennials with slightly spreading clumps. The erect flower stems emerge in early summer and stick around through fall, providing a long nectar season.

Aster (Symphyotrichum spp.)

Close-up of flowering Symphyotrichum plants in a garden. Their leaves are lance-shaped, with a deep green color, and they grow along the stems in an alternating fashion. Asters are known for their delicate, daisy-like flowers that form at the top of tall, slender stems. These flowers have a central yellow or golden disc surrounded by a fringe of thin, ray-like petals that come in a purple.
The daisy-family aster flowers are favored by bees and butterflies for their nectar.

These daisy-family flowers are popular for bees and butterflies, from New England aster to blue wood aster to bushy aster. The pretty little ray-petaled flowers provide ample nectar and bloom into the fall when pollinators like to take full advantage by stocking up on aster nectar and pollen for the long winter ahead. 

Most asters are drought-tolerant and hardy. Sky blue aster (S. oolentangiensis) is especially great for butterflies, skippers, and beneficial wasps. New England aster (S. novae-angliae) is native to the eastern U.S. and works well planted alongside goldenrod to attract loads of late-season pollinators. 

Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia diversifolia)

Close-up of Tithonia diversifolia flowering plants in a garden. Tithonia diversifolia, often referred to as the Mexican sunflower, is a robust and visually striking plant. It features large, coarse leaves with deeply lobed and toothed edges. The plant produces bright orange daisy-like flowers. These striking blooms are large, with a prominent central disc and radiating petals.
Mexican sunflower provides substantial nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in late summer and fall.

Known for its vibrant red and orange blooms, the Mexican sunflower has daisy-like flowers that provide substantial nectar for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. It blooms in late summer and fall, making it another crucial resource in the changing season.

This vigorous annual sunflower is drought-tolerant and tall in stature, adding eye-catching appeal to mixed borders, wildflower gardens, or heat-tolerant xeriscapes. It will keep blooming even in triple-digit temperatures!

Syrphid flies are particularly fond of this pretty vibrant flower, providing pest control benefits in the garden. I love Tithonia as a companion plant along the margins of my vegetable garden.

Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)

Close-up of flowering Monarda plants in the garden. It boasts lance-shaped leaves that are bright green and serrated along the edges. The bee balm produces showy flowers that resemble colorful, spiky crowns. These tubular flowers come in red with contrasting clusters of protruding stamens.
Bee balm has unique, fragrant, cushion-like blooms attracting bees and butterflies.

You can’t talk about bees without mentioning bee balm! Also known as bergamot, monarda is an iconic pollinator plant with the most precious cushion-like clustered blooms with mini tubular blossoms and elongated upper “lips” that create a highly unique floral display. There are many native and cultivated varieties of monarda, most with delightfully fragrant leaves reminiscent of bergamot orange.

Butterflies like fritillaries and swallowtails are also frequent visitors of colorful bee balm blossoms, sipping nectar from the floral tubes. The herbaceous perennial plants bloom for several weeks or months in most zones.

Better yet, the flowers and foliage are edible and make a delicious tea! You can plant it as a companion for repelling pests and attracting beneficial predatory insects.

Goldenrod (Solidago sp.)

Close-up of a flowering Solidago plant in the garden. Solidago, commonly known as goldenrod, is a perennial plant. It features lance-shaped leaves that are bright green and arranged alternately along tall, upright stems. The plant produces vibrant, plume-like clusters of tiny yellow flowers that form at the top of the stems.
Goldenrod, an iconic native wildflower with golden-yellow plumes, adds a unique touch to landscapes.

An iconic native wildflower with plumes of bright golden-yellow flowers, goldenrod is a pollinator favorite. This plant is commonly confused with the allergy-causing ragweed, but most experts assert that goldenrod is not the cause of allergic reactions. The upright growth habit and beautiful arching stems of gold add a unique element to meadows, cottage gardens, and landscapes of all types.

Goldenrod isn’t picky about its soil and tolerates periods of drought. It is remarkably resilient and doesn’t ask for much maintenance. It will self-seed, and I like to leave the seed heads for the abundance of birds who enjoy eating its seeds.

While vigorous and abundant, goldenrod is not always invasive. It is an opportunistic plant that spreads eagerly if you let it. The rhizomes help this plant build up dense stands where other plants can’t grow, so I prefer to keep goldenrods along the margins of my garden.

Marigold (Tagetes sp.)

Close-up of blooming Tagetes in the garden. Tagetes, commonly known as marigold, is a vibrant and visually appealing plant. It features finely divided, fern-like leaves that are bright green. Marigold plants are characterized by their bushy and compact growth habit, with sturdy stems that bear an abundance of colorful, daisy-like flowers. These flowers come in various shades of yellow, orange and red.
Marigold flowers are beloved by bees and butterflies for their nectar and serve as effective pest repellents.

The classic Dia de los Muertos flower is colorful and romantic, attracting bees of many types and providing nectar for butterflies. There are many species of marigold, including the classic stout French marigold (T. patula) and the giant Mexican marigold (T. erecta), which all produce nectar that pollinators love.

Mexican marigold is my favorite because of its big, scrumptious blooms and pretty toothed foliage. The plant can be used as a natural dye and an edible garnish for meals. 

Marigolds are known to repel garden pests like root-knot nematodes. They are one of the most well-researched and respected companion plants for the vegetable garden. I never plant tomatoes without them! However, you will want the stout French variety if you are interplanting. 

Catmint (Nepeta cataria)

Close-up of flowering Nepeta cataria plants in a sunny garden. Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip or catmint, is a herbaceous perennial. It features heart-shaped, toothed leaves that are gray-green and covered in fine, silvery hairs, giving them a soft and fuzzy texture. The plant produces clusters of small, tubular flowers that are purple.
Catmint, with its aromatic foliage, attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds while repelling rabbits, voles, and deer.

The highly aromatic mint-like foliage of catmint may attract cats, but it repels rabbits, voles, and deer. This plant is a magnet for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Its shrubby growth is perfect for perennial ornamental beds. The elongated and upright flower spikes come in shades of pink, lavender, blue, or white. They look excellent when you plant clusters of the shrub together for a blanket of bee-magnetizing blooms.

Catmint is a long-lived perennial that is very reliable in the garden. Its gray-green foliage looks nice even when it’s not blooming, which isn’t very often since catmint produces abundant flowers from late spring through early summer. It stops momentarily in extra hot weather, then resumes flourishing in early fall. 

Summer pruning and deadheading benefit the plant tremendously if you want to encourage late-season blooms for your local beneficial insects to feast on before they go into hibernation.

Lavender (Lavandula sp.)

Close-up of a blooming Lavandula in a sunny garden. A small white butterfly pollinates the plant. Lavandula, commonly known as lavender, is a fragrant and visually appealing herbaceous plant. It features narrow, linear leaves that are gray-green in color. Lavender plants are characterized by their slender, upright stems that support spikes of small, tubular flowers arranged in dense, terminal clusters.
Beloved by bees, lavender’s purple spike flowers are equally enticing to pollinators and adaptable to various climates.

This Mediterranean classic is undeniably beloved by bees. The gorgeous purple spike flowers smell just as great to pollinators as they do to us. I love lavender because there is a species for nearly every climate, requiring almost no maintenance once established. Lavender tolerates and even prefers poor soils, specifically gravelly or sandy soil that is especially well-drained.

Plant lavender alongside rosemary and thyme for a low-water Mediterranean garden where pollinators can buzz around all summer. The plant will bloom most prolifically if you cut it back by about one-third in the spring. Pruning prevents legginess or woodiness at the base. 

The only thing to beware of with lavender is its susceptibility to root rot and overwatering. Never grow this herb in waterlogged soils, and always air on the side of dryness rather than giving it frequent drinks. Still, some supplemental summer water will encourage longer bloom cycles.

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Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Close-up of a flowering Daucus carota plant against a blurred green background. Daucus carota, commonly known as wild carrot or Queen Anne's lace, is a biennial plant. The plant forms a rosette of fern-like, finely divided leaves that are feathery and green. It produces sturdy stem topped with a flat-topped, umbrella-like cluster of small, white, lace-like flowers.
Queen Anne’s lace is a widespread wildflower in the U.S., attractive to bees, butterflies, and beneficial insects.

Also known as wild carrot, Queen Anne’s lace is a ubiquitous wildflower found growing alongside roads and in open pastures throughout the United States. Though technically native to Europe and Southwest Asia, the plant is widely naturalized. 

The flat-topped white umbels are extremely attractive to bees, butterflies, and many beneficial insects like parasitic wasps. If you prefer more colorful accents, you can find a variety of cultivated Queen Anne’s lace varieties with purple, burgundy, or pink blooms.

This tap-rooted plant tolerates poor soils and doesn’t need much water. It blooms prolifically in the frost-free months and provides both nectar and pollen to beneficial flies and beetles. It is a host plant for eastern black swallowtail caterpillars, which means you can welcome a new generation of butterflies into your garden each spring.

Spider Flower (Cleome sp.)

Close-up of flowering Cleome plants in the garden. Cleome plants are characterized by their unique and spidery-looking flowers that resemble fireworks in shades of pink, white, or purple. These vibrant blooms are held on tall, branching stems. The palmately compound leaves of Cleome are lush and green.
Cleome, known for its spidery blooms, serves as a nectar resource for various pollinators.

Cleome’s distinctive spidery, wispy blooms are the perfect place to end our list. This vibrant, unique flower is an amazing nectar resource for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and–perhaps best of all–bats! It is a tropical plant often grown as an annual ornamental. The genus includes a range of varieties, some with a musky, tropical fragrance and others with odorless and thornless options.

The exotic, self-seeding flowers are essential for any flower garden. They grow extremely quickly and produce their delicate pink, white, or purple flowers from early summer through frost. The stout taproots support growth up to 6 feet tall with lots of branches and pretty palmately compound leaves.

Final Thoughts

The best nectar-rich flowers are often those with a tubular shape and vibrant color. Planting native species or flowers with a strong fragrance provides an additional draw for many types of pollinators to take up residence in your garden. 

Don’t forget to prioritize those early bloomers like lilac and phlox to supply pollinators with nectar as they emerge from pollination. The buffer season of fall is also an important time to let late bloomers like goldenrod and yarrow blossom with resources for insects preparing for hibernation.

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In this perennial ornamental landscape, decorative grasses and plants are showcased, boasting an array of colors, including brown, white, and purple. These botanical wonders come in various sizes, adding depth and diversity to the garden design.

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Underneath a glass drinking bowl resting on a brown table, numerous bees gather to sip water. They are small, striped insects with delicate wings, their fuzzy bodies shimmering in the sunlight as they hydrate.

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A bee forages for nectar and pollen in a cluster of pink and white flowers.


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