Which Plants Are Exceptionally Beneficial for Attracting Pollinators in Garden Designs?

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    Which Plants Are Exceptionally Beneficial for Attracting Pollinators in Garden Designs?

    Gardeners and landscape experts alike recognize the importance of pollinators in our ecosystems, so we've asked five professionals for their top plant picks. From the dramatic pull of Penstemons by a Professional Landscape Designer to the native allure of Pyramid Bush recommended by a Lead Horticulturist, discover how these selections can transform your garden into a pollinator paradise.

    • Penstemons: Dramatic Pollinator Magnets
    • Dill: Easy-Care Pollinator Attraction
    • Lavender Borders Enhance Pollinator Traffic
    • Echinacea: Colorful Bee and Butterfly Beacon
    • Pyramid Bush: Native Pollinator Powerhouse

    Penstemons: Dramatic Pollinator Magnets

    Penstemons! Phenomenal Perennial Pollinator Plant (PPPP)

    Attracts bumblebees and hummingbirds. They are mighty important and essential pollinators for our gardens and our food, with gorgeous colors and flowers. They create and give depth and texture to your garden. I try to use many of our native Penstemons, as well as other hybrid Penstemon varieties.

    When I'm looking to draw attention to an area of the landscape, a focal point, a 'WOW' factor, I use the tall, spiky varieties of Penstemons, which immediately draw your eyes to them. They are incredible for adding drama and excitement. They create a visual 'exclamation mark' in the garden or amongst boulders and rock gardens. I choose from the many bright-flowered Penstemons of deep pinks, reds, or purples to make a stunning statement. I use them in larger, odd-numbered quantities, creating a swath or drift of color to really emphasize their presence in the garden.

    Bumblebees are drawn to the Penstemons and are so fun to watch as they get inside the tubular flowers, their little bums sticking out. Flying out all covered in yellow pollen. Their attraction to different types of hummingbirds is more well-known. I love to place them in areas where my clients can view them, sitting outside enjoying a morning coffee or tea, or an evening cocktail on their patio, deck, or even inside their house, where they can watch all the hummingbirds. It's a glorious sight to behold, watching them drinking the nectar of these lovelies.

    My clients comment on how meditative it can be to just sit there and watch them for hours. I also like to use water features in my landscape designs to create a focal piece, a calming element to the garden, or as a way to address and reduce environmental noise pollution. It's a wonderful bonus for people, while being a big bonus and need for the hummingbirds and bumblebees to have access to water.

    There are wonderful, shorter Penstemon varieties in so many varied colors; it's easy to find ones that work with your plant color palette! With all the color choices, you can mix it up. I like using them for a 'softening' effect. I particularly like to use them in borders or in places in the landscape that butt up against hardscape, like a driveway, sidewalk, or pathway. They can be used in smaller groups along pathways as an accent or in larger quantities to really make a showy statement. I also enjoy using them in a mixed shrub border, amongst evergreens or dwarf evergreens, or using them to create a large-scale xeriscape.

    Vicke Batzner
    Vicke BatznerProfessional Landscape Designer, Vicke Batzner Sustainable Landscape Design

    Dill: Easy-Care Pollinator Attraction

    The dill plant is known to be a magnet for pollinators and is also easy to care for due to its robust nature. Here are some reasons why:

    1. It has a long flowering season, which means more time for pollinators to visit.

    2. The flowers are rich in nectar, attracting bees and butterflies.

    3. Dill requires minimal watering once established, making it low-maintenance.

    4. It thrives in well-drained soil and can tolerate both sun and partial shade.

    5. Pruning isn't frequently necessary; just occasional trimming to promote growth.

    6. It's not picky about soil types and doesn't need frequent fertilization.

    7. Dill's feathery leaves are also believed to be a habitat for beneficial insects.

    These factors contribute to its reputation as an excellent plant for attracting pollinators and requiring easy care.

    Leafy Lives
    Leafy LivesA gardening enthusiast, LeafyLives

    Lavender Borders Enhance Pollinator Traffic

    One plant I've found exceptionally beneficial for attracting pollinators is the lavender (Lavandula). Its vibrant flowers and enticing fragrance make it a favorite among bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. I used lavender as a border plant along walkways and garden edges in one garden design. This created a visually appealing, fragrant path for visitors to enjoy and strategically positioned the lavender to maximize pollinator visitation throughout the garden.

    The consistent buzz of activity around the lavender plants not only supported local ecosystems but also promoted cross-pollination, enhancing the overall health and vibrancy of the garden. This choice proved aesthetically pleasing and ecologically beneficial, making lavender a top recommendation for gardens that support pollinator populations.

    Dylan Heath
    Dylan HeathArborist, Apex Arborists

    Echinacea: Colorful Bee and Butterfly Beacon

    I've found Echinacea purpurea, Purple Coneflower, to be a standout choice for attracting pollinators. Its vibrant blooms are a magnet for bees and butterflies, while the seed heads, if left on the plant, continue to draw birds long after the flowering season ends. This hardy plant, native to most of the eastern U.S., not only adds a burst of color to landscapes but also plays a vital role in supporting biodiversity. It's a low-maintenance, high-impact addition that brings nature to our doorstep, making it a favorite in my designs, especially in mass plantings along walkways.

    Planting it alongside other perennials like Black-eyed Susans and Salvias, and pairing it with native grasses such as Bluestem and Switchgrass, creates a dynamic garden bed that not only captivates the eye but also supports local biodiversity, making it a winning combination in my book, enriching outdoor spaces with both beauty and ecological significance.

    Case Neal
    Case NealLandscape Architect, Destination by Design

    Pyramid Bush: Native Pollinator Powerhouse

    I like to start by selecting plants that are native to my area, since they are adapted to the climate and soil type. Often, plants and pollinators that are native to the same region have formed specialized relationships with each other over time, like larval host plants. Pyramid bush, Melochia tomentosa, is a stellar pollinator plant. Magenta flowers bloom from late spring through early fall. Pyramid bush is a small perennial shrub that is absolutely buzzing with pollinators, especially small native bees, when in bloom. Pyramid bush is a versatile plant that can provide structure with its naturally conical shape in a more formal design or fit right into a more naturalistic design.

    Amy Galloway Medley
    Amy Galloway MedleyLead Horticulturist, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center