7 Pollinator Friendly Perennials Shrubs for your Garden Landscape

7 Pollinator Friendly Perennials Shrubs for your Garden Landscape

As homeowners and gardeners become more aware of the declining populations of butterflies and native bees, many of us are creating gardens designed to attract and support these important insects. There are many types of pollinators that appreciate nectar and pollen-rich plants including bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, hover flies, and even some species of beetles.

When planting for pollinators, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, include a diverse range of plants with different flower shapes, sizes, and colours to encourage the widest range of species to visit your garden. Secondly, plan to have something in bloom from early spring through late autumn. While there are no individual plants that bloom for that long, you can include a mix of spring flowering, summer flowering and autumn flowering plants to provide that non-stop parade of blossoms.

You’ll find countless native and non-native trees, shrubs, perennials, and annuals that can be planted in a pollinator garden (ask for suggestions from your local garden center), but here are a few of my favourite bee and butterfly-friendly plants to get you started.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

While there are dozens and dozens of cultivars of coneflowers available to gardeners, if you wish to provide for pollinators opt for the species purple coneflower. Unlike many cultivated varieties, purple coneflowers have easily accessible nectar and pollen, and plenty of it! Plus, this native perennial is very hardy, long-blooming, drought, insect and disease resistant, and excellent at attracting a wide variety of pollinators to the garden. The large central cone is made up of hundreds of very small flowers called disc florets which then, at the end of the season, provide seeds for the birds.

Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Most gardeners now know that milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies lay their eggs on to provide food for their caterpillars. And because of that, milkweed sales have gone sky-high at garden centers! There are several species of milkweed (Asclepias) that can be grown in gardens but my go-to is butterfly weed. It has gorgeous flat-topped orange flowers that bloom through July and August and provides nectar for the adults and plenty of foliage for the caterpillars.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-anglia)

When it comes to providing nectar for bumble bees and other native bees in late summer and autumn, you just can’t beat New England Asters. This native perennial comes in a wide range of bright and bold colours with the flowers resembling small daisies. They have a central disk surrounded by delicate looking petals that can be purple, lilac, pink, and white. The plant size can vary from just a foot tall to over six-feet high. To make plants bushier and produce more flowers, pinch the plants back in early summer.

Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)

This summer superstar is a favourite of swallowtail and monarch butterflies and blooms throughout July and August. Each plant grows two to four feet tall with unique flower stalks covered in fluffy purple blooms. It grows best in full sun and is drought tolerant and disease resistant.

Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum)

Like New England Asters, Joe Pye Weed is also a late flowering perennial that is important to pollinator populations. The tall-growing plant can reach heights up to seven-feet and blooms from late July through September. It grows well in full sun to partial shade and can tolerate dry to moist soils. The reddish-pink, dome-shaped flower clusters are extremely attractive to butterflies and bees.

Highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum)

While it may seem odd to include highbush blueberry in a list of pollinator plants, it’s actually a very important spring-flowering plant for the native bees. Plus, the pinkish-white, bell-shaped flowers are very attractive in the garden and they’re soon followed by delicious berries. Highbush blueberry plants make an excellent hedge with glossy green foliage that turns a bright red hue in autumn but they can be tucked amongst other shrubs and perennials too. Just be sure to include at least two different cultivars for cross-pollination.

Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)

Buttonbush is a native shrub with unique globe-shaped flowers that have long styles sticking out giving the impression of a pincushion. The plants grow up to twelve feet tall and bloom profusely in early summer, attracting bees and early butterflies. Because they’re native, the plants are adaptable to a wide range of growing conditions - from full sun to part shade and dry to moist soils.