How to Start a Pollinator Garden

To boost productivity in your garden and support local pollinator populations at the same time, you need a pollinator patch in your backyard. No matter your garden size, you can make a big impact by following these easy steps.

A meadow full of colorful blooms beckons diverse pollinators.


It’s difficult to overstate the importance of pollinators not just in our gardens but for all of humanity. Over 80% of our flowering plants require a pollinator to reproduce, including much of the food we grow and eat. Without them, our lives would be significantly harder, and few of the things we enjoy doing in our gardens would be possible.

Unfortunately, as many of us know, several pollinator species are in decline. Fewer green spaces, particularly in urban areas, have resulted in struggling pollinator populations around the globe. Luckily, there are several ways gardeners can help.

Keeping a patch of garden space just for the pollinators, no matter how small, supports many of the thousands of pollinator species that may be active in your region. This also helps your garden at the same time, improving growth and making your plants as productive as they can possibly be. If you’ve struggled with shriveled fruits and blossom drop, increasing the pollinator population in your backyard may be the answer.

There are a few ways to make your garden irresistible to pollinators, starting with the plants you grow.

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The Best Plants For Pollinator Gardens

A close-up of Gailarda flowers blending delicate pink and yellow hues. The green leaves provide a soft, blurred backdrop, enhancing the floral focal point. A bee delicately perches on top of one flower, adding a touch of nature's dynamic interaction.
Various pollinator species exhibit preferences for different plants.

When choosing plants for a pollinator garden, diversity should be your main focus. Different pollinator species have preferences for different plants in everything from color to flower shape and size. Growing as many different species as possible will support a wider range of pollinators rather than one or two species in your area.

A combination of native flowering plants, host plants for butterflies, and non-native popular annuals will increase diversity in your garden and ensure it is buzzing with life from as many pollinators as possible.

One easy way to guarantee diversity is by purchasing seed collections, like the Butterfly Banquet or Bee Happy collections from Botanical Interests. These collections come with several different species perfect for supporting pollinators.

Native Perennials

A close-up of a Yarrow plant showcases delicate, feathery flowers with white hues. The slender branches extend gracefully, forming a textured backdrop. Atop the flower clusters, a bee diligently collects nectar, adding vibrant movement to the scene.
Check local resources to identify the right native plants for your region.

Native perennials are the backbone of pollinator gardens, coming back year after year and requiring little maintenance to thrive. Accustomed to your climate and soil, even beginners will have no trouble keeping these plants (and, by extension, pollinators) happy.

Some non-native plant species also don’t meet the pollination needs of local pollinator populations, which is why starting with native plants is so important.

The right native plants for your garden will vary depending on the region you’re in, so check your local resources to decide which native species will best attract the pollinators in your area. You can also look out for general North American native plants, such as:

  • Yarrow
  • Echinacea
  • Anise Hyssop
  • Feverfew
  • Coreopsis
  • Bee Balm
  • Salvia

Choose a few different native species to attract different pollinators. For example, bee balm is obviously beloved by bees, while native salvia species attract local hummingbirds.

Host Plants

A close-up of Yarrow branches adorned with clusters of purple flowers creating a captivating display. The intricate branches weave a natural tapestry, providing support for the blooming clusters. A lively scene unfolds with white butterflies and bumblebees fluttering gracefully above the exquisite flower formations.
These plants play a role in sustaining migrating monarch butterfly populations.

Bees are usually the first thing to come to mind when we think of pollinators, but other species, like butterflies or wasps, are just as important in our gardens. And if you want more butterflies in your garden in particular, you need a few host plants.

Host plants are species that beneficial insects and butterflies rely on to reproduce, as they are the only plants that their young can eat. Without these host plants, their larval forms cannot survive, impacting population numbers. As many butterfly species are declining, planting host plants can go a long way to supporting butterflies in your area.

Milkweed is one of the most common host plants, supporting migrating monarch butterfly populations as they move through our gardens. Dill and parsley are great host plants for swallowtails that are also useful in the kitchen – just remember to leave some flowers to mature for the butterflies while you’re harvesting.

One of the most widespread butterfly species is painted ladies, who use the cottage garden staple hollyhocks as a host plant, while gulf fritillaries are supported by passion vines, hence the common name passion butterfly.

Non-native Favorites

A vibrant close-up captures a garden blooming with an array of zinnia flowers. Pink, white, and red zinnias paint a colorful canvas, their petals intricately textured. Lush green leaves provide a backdrop, glistening in the direct sunlight that nourishes these flourishing blooms.
Experiment with some popular species in your raised beds for a refreshing touch.

While native plants are essential, you should also throw in some non-native favorites that beautify your backyard while attracting pollinators. Whether you’re growing for cut flowers or to keep outdoors, these are ideal for planting amongst your veggies to boost pollination, bring a pop of color, and add some variety to your beds.

Many of these plants are annuals and can be swapped out season after season. Try a few of these popular species in your raised beds:

  • Zinnias
  • Cosmos
  • Dahlias
  • Marigolds
  • Tulips
  • Daffodils
  • Sunflowers

How To Attract Pollinators To Your Garden

To attract pollinators to your backyard and reap all the benefits, you need to make the environment as inviting as you can while providing the support that encourages them to stay.

Choosing A Location

A close-up reveals a bright flower meadow adorned with a diverse palette of summer blossoms. Various flowers, each boasting distinct colors, forms, and sizes, create a visually captivating scene. In the background, structural designs add depth to the garden, all bathed in the warm embrace of the sun.
Optimal location is crucial for a thriving pollinator garden.

Whether you want to start a dedicated pollinator garden or interplant pollinator-attracting flowers around your beds, choosing the ideal location is vital to success.

Most pollinator plants need a full day of sun to thrive, so aim for an area that receives at least six to eight hours of sunlight per day. The plants should be relatively close to your vegetable garden to ensure the pollinators hop to your veggies, too, increasing productivity.

To enjoy the activity in your garden and masses of flowers, it’s also good to choose a spot close to your windows, allowing you to see the benefits of your hard work from inside as well as outside.


A cluster of sunflower seeds, arranged vertically in rich, dark soil. Each seed exhibits a distinct pattern, promising the emergence of vibrant sunflowers. The fertile ground provides a nurturing environment for their growth.
Be aware that the germination requirements vary for each species.

Once you’ve selected your native species, host plants, and showy annuals, it’s time to get planting.

It’s easiest to grow from seed, either sowing in trays or directly in the ground. The requirements for each species will differ. Some may need a period of cold to germinate, while others prefer warm soil, so check your planting times before sowing.

If you’ve cleared a section of your garden, you can also mix your seeds together and sprinkle them onto the soil rather than sowing in trays. This will give you a wilder look, but if you want something a little more structured or plan to interplant, stick with trays.

Shelter and Water

A close-up of bees gathered on a delicate daisy blossom. The yellow petals of the daisy display intricate details, serving as a canvas for the industrious bees collecting nectar. In the background, a lush greenery adds a serene blur to the scene.
Encourage pollinators to stay in your garden by providing shelter and water sources.

Flowering plants are the main elements to choose when you start a pollinator garden, but they’re not the only thing to consider. Once you’ve attracted pollinators, encourage them to stay by providing shelter and water sources so they don’t have to look elsewhere.

You have a few options for shelter, most importantly over the fall and winter months when many pollinators are looking for protection.

You can purchase a beneficial insect ‘hotel’ or make your own to hang in the trees in your backyard, providing homes for small insects like bees. Waiting to complete your garden cleanup, like raking leaves or pruning plants, will also help burrowing insects and small animals, as well as birds who feed on the seed pods left behind.

When it comes to water sources, a shallow bird bath will be used not only by birds but also by bees and butterflies. If you want the water to be accessible by smaller insects, add a layer of pebbles at the bottom for them to land on when drinking.

Final Thoughts

Considering the benefits for your garden and the environment, there are few reasons not to start a pollinator garden. Even a small patch can make a big difference to local pollinators.

Sunlit pink cherry blossoms, a sight of ethereal beauty. Their delicate petals catch the sunlight, casting a soft pink hue. In the backdrop, a blurred canvas of more flowers against the serene expanse of a clear, blue sky.


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