The 8 Best Perennial Plants for Pollinator Gardens

Here’s our list of top flowers the butterflies and hummingbirds can’t resist!

 

Perennials are reliable and easy to care for, and not only do we love their beautiful blooms—the local pollinators do, too! If you want a lush, colorful garden that draws in plenty of bees, butterflies, and other lovely winged creatures, here are some of the best flowers to plant. 

 

What Are the Best Plants for Pollinators?

While pollinators won’t necessarily turn down a visit to your tropical flowers and exotic annuals, they do tend to prefer native plants that grow here in Iowa. Simply put, they like the flowers they recognize from home. There are so many colorful, distinctive varieties to choose from, and they’re surprisingly low-maintenance. After all, they’ve adapted to live here in the wild!

 

There are also some non-native perennials with specific features that catch the attention of pollinators. For example, hummingbirds love the color red and are attracted to flowers with a tubular shape. Plant those in your garden, and you can expect plenty of hummingbird sightings over the summer! 

Help support local populations of bees, butterflies, and birds by planting a colorful combination of these pollinator-friendly perennials. 

 

Gaillardia

Sunny yellow blooms flushed with rich crimson red brighten the landscape with a warm golden glow. These drought-tolerant native flowers are incredibly resilient to hot summer temperatures and bloom for several months through summer and fall. Bees and butterflies love the flat, daisy-like flower heads and cushiony centers—it provides a place to rest while they sample the nectar! 

The Best Perennials for Pollinators -Wallaces Garden Center-gaillardia and butterfly bushButterfly Bush

The long, jewel-toned flower panicles of the butterfly bush certainly live up to their name—they are absolute butterfly magnets! Pollinators can’t resist their sweet scent and brightly colored petals. They’re also great at drawing in beneficial insects like ladybugs, which help control populations of pests like aphids and mites.

 

Depending on your chosen variety, this perennial flowering shrub can reach as high as 12 feet high and 15 feet wide, but regular pruning can keep it much smaller if desired.  For most gardens, we like the Pugster series of dwarf butterfly bush that stay around three feet tall but retain the giant colorful flowers that this plant is known for. 

 

Agastache

The tall stalks of tubular blossoms on this native wildflower make it an obvious choice for a pollinator garden! Their upright nature makes them a perfect border plant for the back of your garden, where they won’t block the view of your shorter plants. Agastache is most commonly shades of blue and purple, but there are some lovely orange and pink varieties, as well as red Agastache to draw in those hummingbirds! 

The Best Perennials for Pollinators -Wallaces Garden Center-agastache and joe pye weedJoe Pye Weed

Delicate, rosy pink blooms form fluffy clouds that sit atop tall, singular stems, with a distinctive upright growth habit featuring few branches but plenty of leaves. The stems are a rich maroon contrasting beautifully against the cool blue-green foliage. Butterflies go wild for Joe Pye Weed—a native wildflower of Iowa—so adding some into your garden is guaranteed to attract these pretty pollinators. 

 

Bee Balm

With a name like Bee Balm, it’s no surprise that the honeybees love it! This herbaceous perennial has peculiar yet dazzling flowers, bursting with color and texture. If you look closely at their shaggy mops of petals, you’ll notice that each petal is actually a tube-shaped reservoir filled with nectar. Red varieties are especially effective at attracting hummingbirds, too!

The Best Perennials for Pollinators -Wallaces Garden Center-bee balm and echinaceaEchinacea

Also known as the “Coneflower,” this native wildflower is a must-have for low-maintenance gardens. It blooms for a long time, is surprisingly heat-tolerant, and pollinators adore it. The large, bulbous centers are so easy for bees and butterflies to access—they can just sit on the petals and snack away.  

 

Milkweed

Native Milkweed is one of the best pollinator plants because it is the exclusive food source for monarch butterfly larvae. These beautiful butterflies have been declining in numbers over the years, but initiatives to plant more Milkweed have helped the butterflies bounce back. Avoid using any insecticides if monarchs are present on the plant—you don’t want to hurt the delicate caterpillars! 

The Best Perennials for Pollinators -Wallaces Garden Center-milkweed and hibiscusHibiscus

This spellbinding perennial always makes a splash with larger-than-life blooms and supercharged color. Bees, birds, and hummingbirds love them, and they bring such a fun tropical flair to the scenery! Hibiscus tends to take longer to come back in spring than other shrubby perennials, so don’t panic if it hasn’t started to grow while your spring flowers are already in bloom. This cold-hardy tropical perennial will bring reliable color year after year!

 

Discover even more Iowa perennials for pollinators by visiting Wallace’s Garden Center! There are so many colorful varieties to explore for 2022. 

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