Planting The Year-Round Pollinator Garden

Pollination, bee on bee balm photo by Karen BussoliniThere is a growing awareness that pollinators are important, and that they’re in trouble. We know that pollinators need flowers and that they are responsible for much of the food we eat, but we’re maybe a little vague on the details. Pollinators, particularly insect pollinators, do need flowers – lots of flowers, and the right kinds of flowers – so diversity and quantity are big factors. But let’s back up a bit. Why are there flowers in the first place? And for that matter, why are there fruits and berries? Surely they didn’t evolve just for human pleasure and sustenance. There’s more to it, and it’s a fascinating story of interrelationships.

Some pollinators are better at the job than others, just as some flowers are more valuable food sources. Bees and other insects are key – they give a snapshot of the health of the entire ecosystem. Like all living things, they need good habitat – nesting places, resting places, hibernation sites, mating opportunities, food and water, in a non-toxic environment.

This is not a bee i.d. presentation, its about best plants and practices. Gardeners are uniquely able to support the entire life cycle of beneficial insects and other pollinators. Good plant choices and land care, coupled with simple awareness of the living world buzzing all around us make all the difference. After all, we’re not just cultivating flowers, we’re cultivating habitat.


Best for Bees


  • Lavender
  • Thyme
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Borage
  • Dill
  • Basil

Perennials, Biennials and Annuals

  • Salvia
  • Penstemons
  • Alliums
  • Patrinia
  • Catmints – Calamintha and Nepeta species
  • Sedums
  • Yarrow (Achillea)
  • California poppies
  • Cleome
  • Alyssum
  • Spring-blooming trees – ornamental    cherries, crabapples
  • Early spring bulbs
  • Late-blooming dendranthemums

Native Plants

  • Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species)
  • Agastache species
  • Physostegia virginiana
  • (Mountain mint) Pycnanthemum species
  • Liatris
  • Eryngium yuccifolium
  • Phlox species, esp. P. paniculata ‘Jeana’
  • Milkweeds
  • Zizia
  • Cimicifuga/Actaea
  • Clethera
  • Maple trees
  • Packera aurea
  • Eupatorium/Conoclinum/Eutrochium
  • Bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora)
  • Hollies (Ilex species –male and female)
  • Amelanchier

Best of the Best

  • Long season, plentiful bloom, support generalist and specialist species
  • (Kim Stoner, CAES research)
  • Willows
  • Blueberries
  • Monarda
  • Sunflowers
  • Goldenrods
  • Asterspostcard-cover-webversion-year-round-pollinator-garden-v1