Animal ForageFood Plants - PerennialInsectsPlant Systems

If You Plant It, They Will Come – Friendly Pollination Practices

Blazing Star and Little Sulphur (source)

Encouraging pollinators into our gardens is one of the biggest contributions we can make to ensure a healthy polyculture of plants and insects on our land. About ninety percent of all plant species need pollinating insects. Planting natives is an essential step in increasing habitat for our little friends. You should avoid hybrids — they generally have less pollen and are more subtly scented, which makes them less attractive to butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

When selecting plants to grow, a diversity of plants that bloom — from spring ephemerals to mountain asters — will create a habitat that gives consistent food. Bees do not migrate in the winter — they instead hoard resources to live until spring. Indeed, the first and last bloomers of the year can be the most important, offering food at marginal times, when the insects need it most.

Creating habitats with dead logs and shallow water dishes for our friends increases their probability of sticking around. If you have a lawn landscape, consider growing clover or roman chamomile as an alternative. Grass lawns are basically barren scapes for pollinators.

Below is a list of plants geared towards our climate (mountainous zone 7a, here in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina). There are additonal resources below to help you find plants adapted for other areas.


Viola in Spring (source)

Herbaceous Plants:

  • Phlox divaricata (Wild Blue Phlox)
  • Phlox pilosa (Prairie Phlox)
  • Viola spp. (Violets)
  • Zizia spp. (Golden Alexanders)
  • Hydrophyllum virginianum (Eastern Waterleaf)
  • Geranium bicknelli (Bicknell’s Canesbill)
  • Geranium maculatum (Spotted Geranium)
  • Lupinus perennis (Wild Lupine)
  • Tradescantia occidentalis (Priarie Spiderwort)
  • Baptisia alba (White Wild Indigo)

Trees and Shrubs:

Tulip Poplar in Spring (source)

  • Amelanchier spp. (Serviceberries)
  • Vaccinium spp. (Blueberries)
  • Salix discolor (Pussy Willow)
  • Prunus spp. (Cherries, Plums)
  • Robinia spp. (Locusts)
  • Acer spp. (Maples)
  • Aesculus spp. (Horsechestnuts)
  • Sassafras albidum (Sassafras)
  • Liriodendron tulipifera (Tulip Poplar)
  • Betula nigra (River Birch)
  • Calycanthus floridus (Sweet Shrub)
  • Cornus florida (Flowering Dogwood)


Coreopsis in bloom (source)

Herbaceous Plants:

  • Monarda fistulosa (Wild Bergamont)
  • Monarda punctata (Spotted Bee Balm)
  • Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop)
  • Veronicastrum Virginicum (Culver’s Root)
  • Veronica gigantea (Giant Ironweed)
  • Liatris pycnostachya (Prairie Blazing Star)
  • Liatris spicata (Marsh Blazing Star)
  • Liatris spp. (Blazing Stars)
  • Asclepias spp. (Milkweeds)
  • Penstemon digitalis (Smooth penstemon)
  • Penstemon multiflorus (Eastern Smooth Beard Tongue)
  • Penstemon virginiianum (Mayflower Beard Tongue)
  • Dalea pinnata (Summer Farewell)
  • Gaillardia pulchella (Annual Blanketflower)
  • Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower)
  • Echinacea spp. (Coneflowers)
  • Alliums spp. (Onion family)
  • Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf Coreopsis)
  • Coreopsis palmate (Prairie Coreopsis)
  • Eupatorium maculatum (Joe Pye Weed)
  • Eupatorium perfoliatium (Boneset)
  • Eupatorium purpureum (Sweet Joe Pye)
  • Helianthus spp. (Sunflowers)
  • Petalostemum spp. (Prairie Clovers)
  • Phlox spp. (Phlox Species)
  • Pycnanthemum spp. (Mountain Mints)
  • Rudbeckia spp. (Coneflowers/Black-Eyed Susans)
  • Ratibida spp. (Coneflowers)
  • Silphium spp. (Compass Plants)
  • Tradescantia spp. (Spiderworts)
  • Verbena spp. (Vervains)

Elderberry in bloom (source)

Trees and Shrubs:

  • Tilia spp. (Basswoods)
  • Oxydendrum arboreum (Sourwood)
  • Rosa spp. (Roses)
  • Amorpha canescens (Lead Plant)
  • Rubus spp. (Blackberries, Raspberries)
  • Sambucus (Elderberry)
  • Hypericum densiflorum (Bushy St. John’s Wort)


Aster (source)

Herbaceous Plants:

  • Agastache scrophulariifolia (Purple Giant Hyssop)
  • Aster ericoides (Heath Aster)
  • Aster furcatus (Forked Aster)
  • Aster spp. (Asters)
  • Campanula Americana (Tall Bellflower)
  • Coreopsis tripteris (Tall Coreopsis)
  • Eupatorium altissimum (Tall Boneset)
  • Eupatorium coelestinum (Mistflower)
  • Helianthus grosseserratus (Saw-tooth Sunflower)
  • Helenium autumnale (Sneezeweed)
  • Rudbeckia spp. (Black-Eyed Susans)
  • Solidago spp. (Goldenrods)
  • Symphyotrichum spp. (Asters)
  • Vernonia spp. (Ironweeds)


Xerces Society – Plant lists are available to download below in PDF format. North America oriented.

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