15 Pollinator Plants For Southwest Gardens

Are you looking for some pollinator-friendly plants to add to your southwestern garden? In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares her favorite plants that can survive the dry and arid climates of many southwestern states.

Pollinator plant growing in southwestern garden.


Pollinator gardening has long been a passion of mine, but Southwest pollinator plants can be difficult to find due to the extreme heat and dryness of the region. The primary goal of pollinator planting is to draw as many different species of butterflies, moths, bumblebees, and honeybees as possible. 

In my pursuit of making my yard a hospitable place for pollinators, I have come to understand that there are three essential parts of a pollinator garden:

Nectar Plants

Nectar plants are flowering plants that produce plenty of nectar, which is the primary energy source for bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. These are the reason the pollinators visit.

Host Plants

If your objective is to invite butterflies into your garden, the best way to keep them coming back is to provide them with their host plants. These are the plants on which they lay their eggs. When the eggs hatch, their larvae feed on the foliage of these plants until they are ready to undergo metamorphosis.

Water Source

This is an often overlooked part of a pollinator garden. Pollinators will still come to your garden without a water source, but they will keep coming back if they know that there is a water source.

Pollinators are essential for more than one-third of human food crops and 90% of flower reproduction. Bees are responsible for the pollination of about 80% of flowering plants. With honeybee populations dwindling, maintaining a pollinator garden is a great way to help bolster the bee population.

Whether you are building a pollinator garden for the love of pollinators or you’re looking for pollinator-attracting plants to increase the yield of your vegetable garden, these 15 plants will bring an abundance of bees to your Southwestern yard.

Baldwin’s Ironweed

A close-up of Baldwin's Ironweed reveals stunning flowers that are vibrant purple in color, with delicate petals and a rich, velvety texture. Lush green leaves create a blurred backdrop, accentuating their beauty.
It exhibits vibrant purple flowers that catch the eye and are particularly alluring to bees.
botanical-name botanical name Vernonia baldwinii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 2’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

Baldwin’s Ironweed, also known as Western Ironweed, is a robust Aster family member. With its flashy, bright purple flowers, this plant is especially attractive to bees. Bees see color in terms of ultraviolet light, so blues and purples are the most appealing. 

An exceptionally drought-tolerant plant, Baldwin’s Ironweed is loved by bees and butterflies alike. It is a very valuable late-season nectar source.

Flowering in late summer and into the fall means this plant is in bloom long after most others have exhausted their nectar supply. It likes full sun early in the day with some protection from harsher afternoon light.


A close-up of Beardtongue plants showcases their captivating flowers, which come in pink colors. The flowers have intricate patterns and elegant shapes, attracting bees and butterflies. The leaves are broad and lance-shaped, creating a lush foliage that complements the vibrant blooms. The sturdy stems support the flowers with grace and strength.
The tubular flowers come in red, white, purple, yellow, and pink.
botanical-name botanical name Penstemon
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 3’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

Pretty Penstemon, also known as Beardtongue, is a beautiful addition to the pollinator garden. Blooming in early summer, this nectar-rich plant bridges the gap between the spring nectar flow and the summer maturing flowers. Penstemon is perennial, making this a great foundational choice. 

Some varieties can grow quite large, up to 8’ tall, while others are more diminutive, topping out at a mere 6”. The flowers are tubular and come in red, white, purple, yellow, and pink. They like to have space to spread out and do not compete well, so don’t plant them next to other plants that like to take over.

Black Samson Echinacea

A close-up of Black Samson Echinacea plants with flowers that are light purple in color. Each flower boasts numerous petals, forming a mesmerizing cone-shaped structure. Amongst the floral display, a small fly can be seen, delicately perched on one of the flowers.
This plant requires minimal upkeep and tolerates various soil types, such as alkaline and clay-based soils.
botanical-name botanical name Echinacea angustifolia
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 1’-2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Like all flowers in the coneflower family, Black Samson is wonderfully drought tolerant and beloved by pollinators for the wealth of nectar it provides. The flowers are showy, with narrow pink petals surrounding a large, dark center. The flowers strongly resemble its cousin, Echinacea purpurea.

This plant is relatively low maintenance and tolerant of a wide variety of soil types, including alkaline and clay-based soils. It stays low to the ground, not growing above 2’ tall, and thrives best in cultivation, whereas, in the wild, it can be underwhelming. Bees and butterflies are both attracted to this ample nectar producer.

Blue Wild Indigo

A close-up of Blue Wild Indigo plants reveals exquisite flowers that are a striking shade of vibrant blue. The flowers have a unique shape, resembling delicate, elongated cones with petals that curve gracefully. The leaves are compound and elongated, forming an attractive backdrop to the eye-catching blooms.
Blue Wild Indigo prefers full to part sun exposure and is toxic to eat.
botanical-name botanical name Baptista australis
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Sun
height height 2’-4’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-9

This Pea family member is a tough, resilient plant that can tolerate a wide variety of soil and weather conditions. It is very drought-tolerant and doesn’t mind poor soil. It likes full to part sun and is toxic to humans. 

Blue Wild Indigo’s purple and blue flowers attract many pollinators, especially bumblebees. Most importantly, it is a host plant for a variety of butterflies, including the Eastern Tailed-Blue, Silver-Spotted Skipper, Wild Indigo Duskwing, and Sulphurs. This plant will draw the butterflies in and keep them coming back.

Carolina Larkspur

A close-up of Carolina Larkspur flowers showcasing their enchanting beauty against a vibrant green background. Their  white petals are delicate and intricately designed, forming intricate shapes. The green background accentuates the elegance of the flowers, creating a visually pleasing composition.
Carolina Larkspur is an elegant plant with tall spires of attractive blue flowers that attract bees.
botanical-name botanical name Delphinium carolinianum
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 1’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-11

Also known as Prairie Larkspur, Carolina Larkspur is a delicate plant that produces tall spires of pretty, blue flowers that bees love. The flowers can range from nearly white to pink to deep violet. Ruby-throated hummingbirds and many butterflies are also attracted to varieties of Larkspur.

This drought-tolerant plant appreciates drier soil. Though it is native to the Southeastern United States, its constitution makes it an excellent choice for Southwestern gardens as well. It is heat tolerant but will drop its flowers in mid-summer. Don’t fret! They are very likely to bloom again when the weather cools down a bit.

Coral Vine

A close-up of Coral Vine showcases its vibrant flowers that bloom in pink colors, adding a burst of color to the scene. The delicate branches intertwine gracefully, while the lush green leaves provide a striking backdrop, enhancing the overall beauty of the plant.
Antigonon leptopus thrives as a perennial in zones 9-11 but can be grown as an annual in other areas.
botanical-name botanical name Antigonon leptopus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Shade
height height 30’-40’ 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

If you’re not yet acquainted with Coral Vine, allow me the pleasure of introducing you to one of the most popular pollinator plants in the garden.

It grows as a perennial only in zones 9-11, but can be grown as an annual elsewhere. It is a fast grower, so it covers a lot of space and feeds a ton of pollinators throughout the summer months.

The delicate vines grow up to 40’ long and attach easily to any support it is given. Clusters of bright pink, lacy flowers magnetize bees and other pollinators throughout the blooming season. Give Coral Vine some space and you won’t regret it. This stunning vine is always a crowd-pleaser.

Desert Senna

A close-up of Desert Senna reveals a captivating flower with bright yellow petals that form a radiant focal point. The intricate leaves, rich in color and texture, create an intricate pattern below the flower. Thin branches extend outward, creating a visually appealing composition.
The bumble bees are undoubtedly the most frequent visitors of Desert Senna.
botanical-name botanical name Senna covesii
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 2’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-7

This lovely and cheerful member of the pea family is also a bee favorite. It is a plant that is pollinated by “buzz pollination,” meaning that it needs bees to pollinate it. However, it is also a host plant to both the Sleepy Orange and Cloudless Sulphur butterflies. The most frequent visitors of Desert Senna will unquestionably be the bumble bees.

This is a smaller variety of Senna, with some larger types growing to small tree heights. More of a small shrub, this plant produces sweet, yellow, star-shaped flowers. It is native to the desert southwest and has an attractive shape as a low hedge.

Dotted Blazing Star

A close-up of Dotted Blazing Star with exquisite flowers that have striking purple hue, punctuated by white dots that add a touch of whimsy. The long, slender, green leaves form an elegant arrangement, complementing the vibrant blooms. Branches stretch outward, creating a delicate and balanced structure.
It is a vital resource for pollinators when there is a scarcity of blooming plants in late summer and fall.
botanical-name botanical name Liatris punctata
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 12”-18”
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Dotted Blazing Star commonly plays a starring role as a cut flower. This late bloomer fills a major void for pollinators during the late summer dearth and into the fall months when few plants bloom. It likes full sun and dry soil. It tolerates sandy soil and has a long taproot for moderate drought tolerance.

Very large flower heads sit atop tall, narrow stems covered in fine, green leaves. The tops of the stems are bursting with these bright purple flowers, which retain their color even when dried. Liatris punctata will attract butterflies as well as birds to your yard.


A close-up of Goldenrod with its golden-yellow flowers that form dense clusters, exuding warmth and vibrancy. The elongated leaves, tinged with green, create a lush backdrop, contrasting beautifully against the bright blooms. The branches intertwine gracefully, adding depth and dimension to the composition.
By incorporating Goldenrod into your garden, you can attract a diverse array of pollinators from far and wide.
botanical-name botanical name Solidago
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 2’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 2-8

To the casual observer, Goldenrod may be just a roadside weed. But to the pollinator enthusiast, it is a wonderful addition to the pollinator garden.

This pretty perennial is a vital food source for bees, butterflies, and other flying insects, as well as birds that feast on it’s ample seedheads in late fall. If you plant this in your garden, it will attract pollinators far and wide

Goldenrod, or Solidago, is very easy to grow and prefers full sun. It likes soil that is well drained and dry to moderately moist. In times of abundant moisture, Goldenrod will provide plentiful nectar and abundant pollen.


A close-up of Leadplants with delicate purple flowers that attract a white butterfly. The slender leaves, tinged with silver, provide an ethereal touch to the scene. The branches extend outward, creating a natural habitat for the butterfly and adding a sense of tranquility to the overall setting.
Leadplant is highly drought-tolerant and has a long taproot, ensuring its longevity.
botanical-name botanical name Amorpha canescens
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Sun
height height 2’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

If you want to add some interesting texture to your pollinator paradise, look no further than Leadplant. The silvery green leaves are densely packed together to form what resembles fern, or a fringe-like texture. It has a long taproot, making it very drought-tolerant and long-lived. Leadplant can tolerate full sun but prefers partial shade.

The ample sprays of purple flowers attract many pollinators to the garden. In addition to bees, Leadplant plays host to several moths and butterflies. On the list are its namesake,

Leadplant Flower Moth, as well as Southern Dogface Sulphur, Eastern-Tailed Blue, Silver-Spotted Skipper, and Magdalen Underwing. As both an abundant nectar source and a host to many, you can’t go wrong planting Leadplant in your garden.


A close-up of Lupines reveals vibrant and delicate flowers in purple color. The petals form a distinctive shape resembling an elongated funnel. Surrounding the flowers are deeply lobed, green leaves that provide a contrasting backdrop, adding to the overall beauty of the Lupines.
Their exquisite beauty makes them an exceptional choice for enhancing any garden landscape.
botanical-name botanical name Lupinus
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Part Sun
height height 1’-3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 4-9

Lupines are more than just good pollinator plants. They are absolutely stunning additions to any garden landscape. These Pea family members produce large spikes of fragrant flowers in blue, purple, red, yellow, and white. In addition to their beauty, they are nitrogen fixers, so they give nitrogen back to the garden for other plants to use!

Many pollinators are fans of colorful Lupine flowers. Plant these in your garden for abundant honeybees, bumblebees, mason bees, and hummingbirds. Fortunately, they are not particularly attractive to deer or rabbits and have very few pests.

Pineneedle Milkweed

A close-up of Pineneedle Milkweed showcases a unique flower nestled within a sturdy stem. The flower consists of several white petals arranged in a circular pattern, creating an eye-catching display. The stem, covered in tiny needle-like structures, supports the flower gracefully, providing both strength and elegance.
By planting one or a few of these plants, you can regularly attract Monarchs to your yard.
botanical-name botanical name Asclepias linaria
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun 
height height 2’-5’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 9-11

Dubbed the “monarch magnet,” Pineneedle Milkweed is an important food source in any Southwestern pollinator garden. If you want to attract butterflies, plant one or a few of these, and Monarchs will become regulars in your yard.

Milkweed species are host plants for Monarch and Queen butterflies, meaning they are their larval food. Butterflies lay eggs on milkweed so their caterpillars can feast on the plant foliage during development.

This milkweed looks a bit different from what Southeastern gardeners are accustomed to. Rather than long, ovate, flat leaves and flashy orange and red blooms, this species has many, small, pine-needle-like leaves topped with small clusters of white flowers. It is easy to grow and nearly as drought-tolerant as succulents and cacti.

Prairie Acacia

A close-up of Prairie Acacia exposes charming thin, white flowers blooming from the stem. The stem of the Prairie Acacia features a smooth texture and slender form. The stem supports multiple clusters of feathery green leaves, enhancing the plant's visual appeal.
In warm climates, Prairie Acacia can reach greater heights and resemble trees.
botanical-name botanical name Acaciella aungustissima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun to Shade
height height 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 7-10

Here is another plant to add to your garden if you’re hoping to attract more butterflies. Prairie Acacia is not just attractive to bees and butterflies for its ample nectar supply, but it is also the larval food (host plant) for a surprising number of moths and butterflies.

The Syssphinx Raspa moth is one of the rarer and more interesting pollinators that this plant plays host to. Prairie Acacia can grow taller and more treelike in warm climates.

In zone 8 and colder, it will grow to small shrub proportions, then likely die back in the winter and return in the spring. The leaves are small and fernlike. At the end of branches are clusters of white or pink, spherical flowers that look a bit like dandelion fluff.

Soapweed Yucca

A close-up of Soapweed Yucca unveils an array of exquisite features. The flowers, positioned on sturdy stem, flaunt creamy white petals with a hint of green near the base. The buds, still closed tightly, hint at the imminent blooming process, promising a burst of beauty.
For an immediate enhancement in character and texture, incorporate a Yucca plant into your pollinator garden.
botanical-name botanical name Yucca glauca
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 3’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-10

Add a Yucca plant to your pollinator garden for an instant boost in personality and texture. Soapweed Yucca is a large, spiny, succulent plant that grows well in hot, dry climates and sandy soil. The spiky leaves grow in a tight rosette, and its large inflorescence appears in the center of the rosette. 

Humans have used different parts of the Yucca plant for various purposes. Its fruits are edible and quite tasty when prepared by someone who knows what they are doing. But humans aren’t the only ones who share a culinary interest in this plant.

This plant has a very unique partner in the pollinator world. There is only one insect that can pollinate Yucca plants, and that is the Yucca moth. The two are so closely dependent upon one another that neither would survive without the other!


A close-up of Whitebrush showcases an abundance of delicate white flowers adorning the branches. The branches, extending gracefully from the main stem, serve as a sturdy foundation for the flowers. The stem itself appears slender and textured, complementing the ethereal beauty of the Whitebrush's white blooms.
Whitebrush blooms for an extended period from summer to fall, making it highly valuable for attracting nectar-collecting insects.
botanical-name botanical name Aloysia gratissima
sun-requirements sun requirements Full Sun
height height 10’
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 8-11

The Aloysia genus, commonly called Beebrushes among other regional names, is a wonderful source of nectar for honeybees. Fragrant Beebrush falls into this genus and is a must-have for the pollinator garden. Known best for their sweet-smelling flowers, these plants are very appealing to all types of bees.

Whitebrush is very resilient and tolerant of heat and drought. These plants can grow quite tall and even be trained into small trees. Moreover, it has woody stems and toothy leaves, but the distinguishing characteristic is the fragrant flowers. Whitebrush has a very long blooming period, lasting through the entire summer and fall, making them a valuable plant for nectar collectors

Final Thoughts

Building a pollinator garden can be a joyful experience, as well as a significant contribution to the local pollinator population. Pollinators tend to spend their time and return to spaces where they can collect a lot of nectar while conserving energy, so plant pollinator species close to each other.

Oh, and one more thing, avoid pesticides in or near your pollinator garden! You want the bugs to eat these plants, as they’ll then make more of those beneficial pollinators we want.

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


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


Top 21 Shrubs for Pollinators

There are many ways to attract pollinators to the garden. One of the best ways is by planting flowering shrubs! In this article, gardening expert and beekeeper Melissa Strauss shares 21 shrubs that will keep the bees returning to your garden for more.

An arrangement of shrubs showcasing a variety of styles and colors. Among them, green, yellow, and red shrubs create a vivid and captivating visual display. In the background, a rich tapestry of towering trees completes the picturesque setting.


27 Low-Maintenance Shrubs That Thrive on Neglect

Are you looking for a great foundational or focal point in the garden that doesn’t need much attention to look its best? There are a number of different options to choose from, depending on your hardiness zone. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss has 27 great, low-maintenance shrubs to share.

Honey Bee on Pink Ice plant

Cacti & Succulents

15 Succulents That Attract Bees and Other Pollinators

Looking for some succulent plants that will attract bees and other pollinators? There are plenty o f different options depending on your growing climate. In this article, gardening expert Melissa Strauss shares her favorite succulents that will welcome bees and other pollinators to your garden.

Orange Texas Lantana Native Plant Blooming in Garden

Ornamental Gardens

35 Beautiful Native Plants for Texas Gardens

Are you looking for a few native plants to add to your Texas garden this season? Native plants can be beneficial for a variety of reasons, and the state of Texas spans across many different hardiness zones, giving you plenty of different native plants to pick from. In this article, gardening expert Liessa Bowen shares her favorite native plants for Texas gardens!