There are many native flowers that attract bees and other pollinators. Includes a list of native plants for North America.
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The post Native Flowering Plants that Attract Bees and Other Pollinators appeared first on Big Blog Of Gardening.Read MoreFeedzyNew York Aster is native to Eastern North America and is a favorite of native bees.

By now, every gardener is aware – and hopefully non-gardeners too – that bees are essential for pollinating flowers and other plants, including many food crops. Besides bees, plants are also pollinated by wind, gravity, water, flies, butterflies, birds, bats, moths, beetles, and wasps. Here, we’ll focus on insects and bees and the flowers that attract them (native trees and shrubs are also sources of pollen and nectar for pollinators).

How are plants pollinated by insects and bees?

During a plant’s reproductive phase, a pollinator rubs against the pollen-rich male part of a flower called the anther. The pollinator carries the pollen on its body within the same flower or to a nearby flower of the same species. There it rubs against the female part of the flower, known as the stigma. This fertilizes the flower, which later produces fruit and seeds. Without robust colonies of pollinators – and especially bees who outwork every other pollinator – we’d see far fewer flowers in spring and summer and have far less food to eat. In fact, one-third of all our food is the direct result of pollination by insects. 

When does pollination occur?

Pollination occurs during spring, summer, and fall. Plants evolved with differing flower times, so they require pollination at different times of the year. Pollinators evolved alongside these plants over millennia, so they rely on a wide variety of blooms in your garden year-round for their food. Some bees and insects have even developed specific body shapes and traits to pollinate certain flowers. 

While pollination doesn’t typically occur in winter, many species of pollinators overwinter in your garden. Don’t be in a rush to clear decaying plants in the fall, as they provide habitat for pollinators during winter.

In a single day, one worker bee makes 12 or more trips from the hive, visiting several thousand flowers. On these foraging trips, the bee can travel as far as two to five miles from the hive. Although honey bees collect pollen from a variety of flowers, a bee limits itself to one plant species per trip, gathering one kind of pollen.

Helping Agriculture’s Helpful Honey Bees, US Food and Drug Adminisration

Coneflowers, which produce the herb echinacea, attract many native bees and other pollinators.

7 facts about bees:

Native bees pollinate 80 percent of flowering plants worldwide.
Honeybees are key to the pollination of certain agricultural plants like almonds and lemons.
Some native bees only visit the specific plants they have evolved with.
Many native bees are solitary bees, meaning they don’t live in a hive. They nest in the ground or cavities in trees or rocks.
Some bees use only one or a small number of plant species for food.
There are more than 20,000 known species of bees worldwide and 4,000 are native to the U.S.
Some bees are smaller than a grain of rice and some are as long as 1.5 inches.

Why bees are important

Bees are considered the most important pollinators because they are uniquely adapted to gather and transport pollen. Bees rely on flowers for food to feed their young, so they actively seek out and visit flowers… Bees also forage for food close to their nesting sites, a practice called central place foraging. Bees visit one or only a few flowering species during each foraging trip, even when other flowers are available. This behavior, called flower fidelity or flower constancy, makes bees especially reliable couriers to move pollen to receptive flowers.

Ohio State University Extension, Attracting Pollinators to the Garden

All native bees are plant pollinators. Honey bees, native to Europe, are essential pollinators and are arguably the most important, especially for food crops. They actively seek flowers with pollen, unlike other pollinators who are only interested in the flower’s nectar.

Bees store pollen in their hive – it’s their primary source of protein that provides them with many nutrients. Pollen is also necessary for hive growth and young bee development. Bees also harvest flower nectar and convert it to honey, their primary source of carbohydrates (sugar) for energy. Many bees make honey, but only honeybees make enough for humans to use.

A bee collects nectar from a native geranium.

How bees are threatened

Honeybees, bumblebees, and many native bee populations are disappearing. Some estimates put the decline at as many as 23% of native species. One of the greatest threats to bumblebees and native bees is a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These pesticides sometimes kill bees directly, decrease their ability to fight infections or find food, and interfere with their reproductive cycle. Bees exposed to “neonics” become weak and disoriented and have problems finding flowers and returning to their nests. When they feed on plants treated with neonicotinoids, bees end up feeding pesticide-laden pollen to their young, increasing the speed of decline.

Also contributing to the decline of bees is a loss of habitat. Agriculture and land development alters the landscape substantially. For pollinators that are “habitat-specific” (meaning they only nest in one area), the loss of sites for foraging, nesting, and overwintering can be detrimental. 

Habitat quality is a contributor as well. While developed land areas may offer many trees and flowers to feed on, the loose soil required for ground-nesting bees may be hard-packed by heavy foot traffic or off-road vehicles or paved over with concrete.

Adding to the habitat quality problem is a lack of connected habitats. Pollinator habitats must be connected so that migratory pollinators can move between them (see Professor Doug Tallamy’s book, Nature’s Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard).  Suppose a large habitat (like a forest) is broken up by highways, buildings, roads, and other development. Now the habitat is broken into many smaller habitats that aren’t connected. This leaves weaker pollinators unable to travel to adjoining habitats, and many will die.

Note: Keeping a beehive is a great hobby, but is not a way to conserve bees. A beehive is home only to European honeybees, not native bees that must live and feed in your local habitat.

How to encourage native bees and pollinators

Many native bees nest in soil, holes in wood (which they may or may not have drilled themselves), or inside certain plant stems. To encourage their nesting, don’t use landscape fabric in your gardens or cover every square inch with mulch. Leave some bare areas in your garden soil and, if possible, your lawn, especially along wood lines or near the bases of shrubs. This encourages nesting for native bees and a safe place to lay eggs. Also, let some dandelions grow in your lawn (you won’t be shamed by your neighbors). Native bees and honeybees use dandelions as an early-season food source, as well as dead nettle, ground ivy, and violets. And never spray plants in flower with insecticides or pesticides.

Which flowers attract bees?

Bees require sugar (flower nectar) to fly. They visit many varieties of flowers to get nectar, but prefer certain species, most often those that are native to your area. To preserve bee and pollinator habitat, plant native flowers, shrubs, and trees in your landscape. For a list of native plants that support pollinators in your area, see the lists from the Xerces Society here.

Native Plants That Attract Bees, Butterflies and other Pollinators

Not all of these plants are native to your region of North America. To learn which plants are best for your area, please see the link above for the Xerces Society or your local university extension.
Scientific Name
Common Name/s
Agastache foeniculum
Anise hyssop
Can be easily grown in containers. Attractive to bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies.
Agastache nepetoides
Yellow Giant Hyssop
Outstanding for attracting bees and beneficial insects.
Allium cernuum
Nodding Onion
Attracts hairstreak butterfly and is a favorite of all pollinators.
Aquilegia canadensis
Attracts bees and hummingbrds.
Asclepias asperula spp. capricornu
Antelope horns milkweed
HIghly attractive to bees and beneficial insects. Supports many butterflies including Monarchs.
Asclepias fascicularis
Narrowleaf milkweed
Attractive to many pollinators including Wasps, Butterflies, Bees, Beetles, Ants, Aphids. Host plant for Monarch butterflies.
Asclepias incarnate
Swamp milkweed
A primary food source for monarch butterfly larvae.
Asclepias perennis
Aquatic milkweed
Attracts many pollinators. Host plant for Monarch, Queen, and Soldier butterflies.
Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly milkweed
Nectar source for many insects. Host for Monarch butterflies and Cycnia tiger moths.
Aster laevis
Smooth aster
Attracts birds, butterflies and moths.
Aster novae-angliae
New England aster
Attracts butterflies, native bees and many other pollinators. Nectar source for Monarch butterflies.
Aster novi-belgii
New York aster
Attracts butterflies, native bees and many other pollinators. Nectar source for Monarch butterflies.
Baptisia alba
White wild indigo
Attractive to bees and butterflies. Bumblebees are primary pollinators.
Baptisia bracteata
Cream wild indigo
A favorite of queen bumblebees and long-tongued bees. Host plant for many butterflies and moths.
Cacalia atriplicifolia
Pale Indian plantain
Attractive to flies, wasps and small bees.
Callirhoe involucrata
Purple poppy mallow
Attracts many native bees and beneficial flies.
Camassia quamash
Common camas
Attracts a wide variety of pollinators including European honeybees, bumblebees, mason bees, hoverflies, beetles, and lady beetles.
Canna glauca
Pollinated by bees, bats, hummingbirds, and other small wildlife species.
Clarkia gracilis
Slender clarkia
Clarkia Bee pollinates this plant exclusively. Attracts many pollinators.
Clarkia unguiculata
Elegant clarkia
Pollinated by specialist bees.
Coreopsis lanceolata
Lanceleaf coreopsis
Long bloom period makes this an excellent choice for attracting pollinators, especially butterflies, skippers, moths, bees, wasps and beetles.
Dalea candida
White prairie clover
Nectar and pollen attract many native bees, flies, and small butterflies.
Dalea purpurea
Purple prairie clover
Attractive to many bees, butterflies, flies, and beetles.
Dracopis amplexicaulis
Clasping coneflower
Attracts bees and butterflies.
Ionactis linariifolius
Stiff-leaved aster
A favorite of many insects, including bees, flies, butterflies, skippers and beetles. Foliage is a food source for the caterpillars of Silvery Checkerspot and Pearl Crescent butterflies.
Echinacea angustifolia
Narrowleaf coneflower
Attracts over 26 species of native bees.
Echinacea purpurea
Purple Coneflower
Attractive to many species of insects, including bees, butterflies and beetles. Finches are fond of the seeds, harvesting them in summer, fall and winter.
Eryngium leavenworthii
Leavenworth’s eryngo
Attracts many species of pollinators.
Eryngium yuccifolium
Rattlesnake master
Supports many pollinators including bees, butterflies, wasps, and more.
Eschscholzia californica
California poppy
Annual or Perennial depending on winter temps.
Attractive to many different pollinating insects including bumble bees, sweat bees, mining bees, honey bees, thrips, hoverflies, butterflies, minute pirate bugs and beetles.
Eupatorium altissimum
Tall boneset
Nectar is highly attractive to many insects including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, plant bugs and beetles.
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Attractive to butterflies, bees, flies, wasps and beetles. Moths of several caterpillars feed on the foliage.
Eutrochium purpureum
Joe Pye Weed
The nectar is highly attractive to bees, butterflies, skippers and moths.
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Common Boneset
Can tolerate short flooding periods, excellent for rain gardens. Attractive to many bees including sweat bees, small carpenter bees, digger bees, and bumblebees.
Gaillardia pulchella
Gaillardia, Indian Blanket, Blanketflower
Loved by butterflies.
Gentiana clausa
Bottle gentian
Bumblebees are Bottle gentian’s primary pollinators.
Geranium maculatum
Spotted Geranium, Wild Geranium, Cranesbill
Pollinated by bumblebees, mason bees, and carpenter bees.
Helianthus angustifolius
Narrowleaf sunflower
Supports many species of bees. Host plant for many butterflies and moths.
Helianthus annuus
Common sunflower
A favorite of many pollinators, especially honeybees, bumblebees and wild bees.
Helianthus maximiliani
Maximilian sunflower
An important source of nectar and pollen for many pollinators.
Helianthus strumosus
Pale-leaved sunflower
Outstanding for attracting bees and all pollinators, as are many sunflowers.
Hibiscus moscheutos
Eastern rosemallow
Nectar source for many pollinators including bees, butterflies and moths.
Layia platyglossa
Common tidytips
Outstanding for attracting and supporting native bees.
Liatris punctata
Dotted blazing star
Attractive to native bees, butterflies, and many other pollinators. A favorite of Monarch butterflies.
Liatris pycnostachya
Prairie blazing star
Supports many bees and butterflies including monarchs and swallowtails..
Liatris spicata
Marsh blazing star, Dense gayfeather
Attracts many types of bees and butterflies.
Limnanthes douglasii
Douglas meadowfoam
Attractive to mining bees, mason bees, and syrphid flies.
Lobelia cardinalis
Cardinal flower
Tube-shaped flowers rely on hummingbirds for pollination.
Lobelia siphilitica
Blue lobelia
Very attractive to birds and hummingbirds and all pollinators.
Lonicera sempervirens
Coral Honeysuckle (aka Trumpet Honeysuckle, Woodbine)
Loved by hummingbirds.
Lupinus perennis
Wild lupine
Attractive to honeybees, bumblebees, digger bees, mason bees, and other long-tongued bees.
Lupinus polyphyllus
Bigleaf lupine
Favorite of bumblebees and hummingbirds. Host plant for many butterflies.
Monarda citriodara
Lemon beebalm
Attractive to long-tongued bees, hummingbirds, moths.
Monarda punctata
Horsemint, Spotted Beebalm, Dotted mint
Perennial, Annual, Biennial depending on region.
Excellent for attracting beneficial insects, butterflies, skippers, hummingbird moths, hummingbirds, honeybees, bumblebees and other native bees. Caterpillars of several moth species feed on the foliage.
Monarda fistulosa
Wild bergamot
The nectar is particularly attractive to bees, butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds. The caterpillars of several moth species feed on the foliage.
Nemophila menziesii
Baby blue eyes
Attracts large numbers of native bees
Penstemon cobaea
Prairie penstemon
Attracts butterflies, moths, and bees.
Penstemon digitalis
Smooth penstemon
Supports a wide diversity of butterflies, bees (Including honeybees), and moths.
Penstemon heterophyllus
Foothill penstemon
Attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other insect pollinators.
Penstemon hirsutus
Penstemon/hairy beardtongue
Very attractive to bees including carpenter bees and bumble bees.
Penstemon laevigatus
Eastern smooth penstemon
A favorite of bumblebees and mason bees.
Phacelia californica
California phacelia
Attracts native bees and many other pollinators with high-quality nectar and pollen. Also supports beneficial predators and parasitoids.
Phacelia tanacetifolia
Lacy phacelia
In the top 20 pollen-producing flowers for honeybees. Highly attractive to pollinators including bumblebees and hoverflies. High-quality source of nectar and pollen.
Pityopsis graminifolia
Narrowleaf silkgrass
Suppports many bees and other pollinators.
Pycnanthemum muticum
Clustered Mountain Mint
The nectar-rich flowers are highly attractive to many insects, including small and large bees, wasps, beneficial flies, butterflies and skippers.
Pycnanthemum tenuifolium
Narrowleaf Mountain Mint
Attracts native bees, bumblebees honey bees, and many other pollinators.
Pycnanthemum virginianum
Virginia mountain mint
Attracts honeybees and a wide variety of native bees, beetles, and Pearl Crescent butterflies.
Ratibida columnifera
Mexican hat
Attracts, bees, beneficial flies, beetles, and wasps
Ratibida pinnata
Yellow coneflower
Attracts a large number of bees and butterflies.
Rudbeckia hirta
Black-Eyed Susan
Perennial or annual, depending on zone.
Bees and butterflies love these flowers, which also can look great when cut and placed in vases.
Rudbeckia laciniata
Wild Golden Glow
Attracts bees, wasps, butterflies, skippers, and moths.
Salvia coccinea
Scarlet sage
Attracts hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees
Salvia clevelandii
Cleveland sage
Attractive to bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and birds
Scrophularia marilandica
The small flowers are best viewed with a magnifying lens, which reveals they are essentially nectar-laden buckets that are highly attractive to a wide range of bees and wasps. Ruby-throated hummingbirds find figwort irresistible, rewarding them with both abundant nectar for quick energy, and a plethora of tiny, winged insects that provide protein to build food reserves for their long migration to their wintering grounds.
Sidalcea campestris
Meadow checkerbloom, Meadow checkermallow
Attracts a wide variety of native bees, wasps, flies, beetles, and butterflies
Silphium perfoliatum
Cup Plant
excellent provider of both pollen or nectar to the many types of bees, butterflies, wasps and flies that visit the flowers. Various birds eat the seeds, particularly finches. Birds will often drink or bathe in the temporary pools of water that form in the cup-like leaves after rainfall or overhead irrigation.
Solidago nemoralis
Gray goldenrod
Many pollinators feed on goldenrod including bees, beetles, butterflies, moths, flies, and wasps. Caterpillars of many moths feed on the foliage and other parts of this plant.
Solidago rugosa
Wrinkleleaf goldenrod
All goldenrods are insect-pollinated and highly sought after by native bees and butterflies for pollen and nectar.
Solidago speciosa
Showy goldenrod
Attracts a wide variety of native bees, honeybees, butterflies, moths and beetles.
Solidago velutina
California goldenrod
Fall food source for butterflies, bees, wasps, beetles and others.
Sphaeralcea coccinea
Scarlet globemallow
Attractive to bees and butterflies
Spiraea alba
Low shrub
Excellent for attracting beneficial insects for your garden.
Symphyotrichum chilense
California aster
Late season blooms attract many pollinators. An important source for bumblebee queens.
Symphyotrichum laeve
Smooth Blue Aster
Attracts many bees, butterflies, native wasps, and flies.
Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
New England Aster
An important source of nectar for Monarch butterflies migrating south to their wintering grounds in Mexico, New England aster flowers also provide either nectar or pollen to many other butterflies and a variety of bee species.
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
Aromatic Aster
Nectar from the flowers of aromatic aster are an important late season food source for a variety of bees and butterflies. Some bees also collect pollen from these flowers.
Tradescantia occidentalis
Prairie Spiderwort
Attracts bumblebees, honeybees, and flies.
Tradescantia ohiensis
Ohio spiderwort
Attracts many bees, especially long-tongued bees, and beneficial flies.
Tradescantia virginiana
Bumblebees are the most important pollinators of the flowers. Other bee visitors include honeybees, Little Carpenter bees, and Halictine bees.
Verbesina alternifolia
Supports many bees, butterflies, and wasps.
Vernonia baldwinii
Baldwin’s ironweed
Attractive to long-tongued bees, butterflies, and skippers.
Vernonia gigantea
Giant ironweed
Supports many bees, butterflies, and moths.
Vernonia missurica
Missouri ironweed
Flowers are very attractive to butterflies
Vernonia noveboracensis
New York ironweed
Attracts many bees and butterflies.
Veronicastrum virginicum
Culver’s root
Outstanding for attracting bees.
Zinnia grandiflora
Wild Zinnia, Prairie Zinnia
Attracts butterflies, moths, flies, and bees.
Zizia aurea
Golden Alexander
Attract a variety of butterflies, native bees, bumble bees, and honeybees. Hosts caterpillars of butterflies and moths.


University of Florida Gardening Solutions, Perfect Plants for Pollinators

University of Connecticut Home & Garden Education Center

Missouri Botanical Garden, Native PLants to Attract Bees and Native Pollinators

Michigan State University Extension, Bee-friendly plants and pest management strategies – Part 1

U.S. Food & Drug Administartion: Helping Agriculture’s Helpful Honey Bees

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