Grow Massachusetts!

What should I plant for pollinators?

asters for pollinatorsWhich plants are best for pollinators seems like it should be a very easy question to answer…

There are lots of lists that are available and a group of experts should be able to just choose one. As it turns out very little actual research has been done on which plants are actually attractive to which pollinators. Most lists end up tracing back to anecdotes from someone’s grandmother who saw a bee on a particular plant way back when. As an industry we have just funded research to try to understand this much better. Each different pollinator has different preferences in terms of flower color, time of day, temperature and other issues.

Phlox for pollinatorsRecently, a Plant Something member attended an international symposium on native bees. There was a huge amount of discussion on this exact question. The consensus at this point in time, until definitive answers are reached, is that any flower is a great addition to the “pollinator buffet table.” They were far less concerned with exactly which flower was planted, and much more concerned that the public actually planted more flowers of any kind.

Talk to your landscaper or local garden center.

They can point you in the right direction and give you tips for success. You can find them here.


To get you started, here is a very short “top ten” list of easy-to-grow plants that that are pollinator-friendly and suitable for attracting bees, birds, flies, moths and butterflies.

Perennial plants

  • Salvia
  • Phlox
  • Rudbeckia hirta, ‘Indian Summer’ black-eyed Susan
  • Aster
  • Monarda – bee balm
  • Lobelia
  • Helianthus – sunflowers

Eastern redbud for pollinatorsShrubs and trees

  • Buddleia – butterfly bush
  • Blueberry bushes
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern redbud

Other resources

Our thanks to Bemis Farms Nursery, Ahronian Landscape & Design, Inc. and Mahoney’s Garden Center.

Plant Something MA