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5 Landscape Recipes for Pollinators

5 Landscape Recipes for Pollinators

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners

If one of your garden goals this season is to grow more plants for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, you’ll find pollinator-friendly landscape recipe ideas here that’ll have your garden in bloom from late spring through early fall. You could plant your garden just like you see here or take a small portion of a recipe and duplicate it in a way that fits your space. Any little bit you can do to make your garden more hospitable to these important creatures is a positive step in the right direction.

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Fall in Love™ ‘Sweetly’ anemones provide a late season food source for pollinating bees. Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

Two Important Attributes of Pollinator Gardens

You’ll notice that all five of the landscape recipes pictured here are for full sun locations. One of the reasons why this is important is because pollinating bees and butterflies are cold-blooded. That means they need the warmth of the sun to raise their body temperature so they can get moving for the day and start foraging. Pollinators will wander into cooler shade gardens once they are warmed up, but they’ll eventually seek the sun again, especially when the weather is cool.

Another important attribute is that there is more than one plant that pollinators can feed from in each design. Planting a single type of bee-friendly flower en masse or several types close together will have a greater draw for pollinators. These creatures need to gather as much food as possible every day, and it is more efficient for them to stop in a single location where many nutritious flowers are present at once.

Let’s take a closer look at five landscape recipes that will draw in pollinating bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

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Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens, Inc.

Late Spring Perennial Border

Attracts: Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds

Pollinator Plant List:

  • Color Spires® ‘Back to the Fuchsia’ Salvia (large pink) – zone 3-8
  • ‘Pink Profusion’, ‘Snow Kiss’ and ‘Indiglo Girl’ Salvia – zone 3-8
  • Decadence® ‘Lemon Meringue’ Baptisia (large yellow) – zone 4-9
  • Fruit Punch® ‘Sweetie Pie’ and ‘Paint the Town Red’ Dianthus – zone 4-9

Multiple varieties of perennial salvia blooming all at once, including ‘Back to the Fuchsia’, standing proud front and center, creates a strong draw for pollinators to this garden in late spring (late May in zone 6a). While bees that prefer to forage near the ground find the perennial dianthus tasty, larger bumblebees are frequent visitors of the 4’ tall baptisia pictured here in the background.

All of these perennial salvia varieties will continue to rebloom intermittently throughout the summer. Tall garden phlox and rose mallow, which are not as noticeable in this garden in late spring, will take center stage in July and August and continue to provide sustenance to pollinators.

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Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

Early Summer Mixed Border

Attracts: Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds

Pollinator Plant List:

  • Rockin’® Playin’ the Blues® Salvia – zone 7-10
  • Luscious® Marmalade Lantana – annual in most zones
  • Blue My Mind® Evolvulus – annual in most zones
  • Lemon Coral® Sedum – zone 7-11
  • Lakota™ Fire Echinacea – zone 4-8
  • Red dahlia – annual in most zones
  • Espalier pear trees

This newly planted border which runs along the south side of a garage is already providing food for pollinating bees even in its first year. Several types of annuals provide a continuous supply of flowers from planting time until frost. Perennials fill in the gaps and will take on a larger presence as they grow and mature through the years.  

You can see here how pollinator gardens can contain a wide variety of plant types—annuals to trees and everything in between. Altogether, they form a long border filled with many kinds of flowers that will continually attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds throughout the season.

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Photo courtesy of Proven Winners.

Heat Tolerant Entrance Garden in Midsummer

Attracts: Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds

Pollinator Plant List:

  • Suncredible® Yellow sunflower – annual in most zones
  • ‘Happy Returns’ daylily – zone 3-9
  • Purple coneflower – zone 3-8
  • ‘Firefly Amethyst’ Achillea – zone 3-8
  • ‘Cat’s Meow’ Nepeta – zone 3-9
  • Sweet Caroline Red Hawk™ sweet potato vine – annual in most zones
  • Mojave® Red Portulaca – annual in most zones
  • Goldilocks Rocks® Bidens – annual in most zones
  • Heat it Up® Scarlet Gaillardia – zone 8-11
  • Toucan® Scarlet Canna – zone 8-11

Could your front entryway use some sprucing up? Fill the border along your walkway with plants that attract butterflies and they’ll be happy to welcome you home. In this hot, sunny space where heat is constantly reflected off of the cement and brick surfaces, we filled in a sparse border with colorful, pollinator-friendly annuals and perennials. Drip irrigation keeps the plants watered just enough, though many of them can tolerate drier soils well.

If you have an existing evergreen hedge bordering your walkway, maybe there is room to tuck in a few Mojave Portulaca or Goldilocks Rocks Bidens plants in between. Even better, enlarge your bed to be 12” to 18” wider to fit a whole row of flowers in front.

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Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.

Late Summer Pollinator Buffet

Attracts: Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds

Pollinator Plant List:

  • ‘Serendipity’ Allium – zone 4-8
  • Prairie Winds® ‘Lemon Squeeze’ Pennisetum – zone 5-9
  • ‘Drops of Jupiter’ ornamental oregano – zone 4-9
  • ‘Pink Profusion’ Salvia – zone 3-8

This small but brilliant vignette was absolutely abuzz on the warm August evening it was photographed. A dozen or more pollinating bees and tiny moths were busy examining every inch of the ‘Serendipity’ Allium flowers. Honeybees were poking in and out of the ornamental oregano blooms before heading over to feed on the remaining salvia flowers. While the ornamental grass does not provide food for pollinators, it does provide a place for them to seek shelter and rest.  

Ornamental and edible herbs like the Allium and oregano shown here are always a favorite of pollinating bees or butterflies. Plants that pull double duty like this are especially good for gardens where space is limited and you want to make good use of every nook and cranny. You can feed the pollinators and yourself all at once!

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Photo courtesy of Susan Martin.

Early Fall’s Bounty

Attracts: Bees, butterflies

Pollinator Plant List:

  • Fall in Love™ ‘Sweetly’ Japanese anemone – zone 4-8
  • Rock ‘n Grow® ‘Lemonjade’ autumn stonecrop – zone 3-9

Food sources are often most plentiful during the summer but begin to become sparser as the season’s end draws near. When considering what kinds of pollinator-friendly plants to add to your landscape, include at least a few that will flower once the days become shorter and the nights are cooler. Stonecrop and Japanese anemones typically bloom until frost and are an important late season food source for bees and migrating butterflies.

Other pollinator plants that continue late into the season include Rockin’® and Profusion salvias, ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ Russian sage, Sweet Romance® English lavender, Pugster® butterfly bush, Ringo® rose and Paraplu® rose of Sharon. Planting them in groups will help pollinators spot them when passing by.

Want to learn more about gardening for pollinators?

Patent Information: Many of the plants in this article are protected by plant patents, breeders’ rights and trademarks. Please visit provenwinners.com/patents for details.

Susan Martin is an avid zone 6 gardener, garden writer and speaker who enjoys spreading her passion for plants to her fellow gardeners across North America.


All articles are copyrighted and remain the property of the author.

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