How to Create a Beautiful Pollinator Garden for Butterflies and Bees

Planting plenty of colorful flowers not only helps out pollinating insects, but also will provide you with a gorgeous landscape. Plus, these tips will help you to keep all kinds of beneficial wildlife coming back through the seasons.

One of the best things about gardening is bringing beneficial wildlife to your yard, especially pollinators. Bees and butterflies may first come to mind, but many other insects such as moths, wasps, and beetles also help plants make fruits and seeds by transferring pollen from flower to flower. Most of these creatures don't sting, so you don't need to worry about that when welcoming nature into your garden (if you are allergic to stings, then you need to be more careful). However, not just any plant will attract pollinators to your yard; you need to include species with plenty of nectar-rich flowers. The more you know about how to make a pollinator garden, the more you'll be able to enjoy butterflies and other fascinating insects.

Butterfly Painted Lady On Verbena Bonarienses
Jay Wilde

Best Types of Plants for Pollinators

Besides perennials and annuals, many vines, shrubs, and trees produce flowers that draw pollinators. Plants with brightly colored flowers, usually oranges, reds, and yellows, seem to be the most attractive to bees and other flying insects. Some of the best types of flowers for pollinators have an open or flat shape, allowing for easier access to pollen and nectar.

To start learning how to make a pollinator garden, look for these plants to add to your landscaping. They're known for being extremely attractive to all kinds of pollinators.

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Black-Eyed Susan

Black-Eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Perry Struse

Plant a pool of bright yellow in your garden with black-eyed Susan. The beautiful blooms on these flowers bring plenty of pollinators to your garden. These native plants are also drought-resistant, making them super easy to care for. There are several varieties of black-eyed Susan, so you'll have plenty of choices when looking for the perfect ones to fit into your landscape.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in well-drained soil

Size: Up to 4 feet tall, depending on variety

Zones: 3-11

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Butterfly Bush

flowering butterfly bush with butterfly on flowers
Marty Baldwin

As the name indicates, this pollinator plant is visited by butterflies of all kinds, and hummingbirds love this plant, too. Butterfly bush has a sweet scent that attracts pollinators near and far. However, this plant can be weedy in warmer parts of the country, so check if it's a problem plant in your area before planting it. Some newer varieties such as 'Amethyst' also don't reseed and stay compact.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in well-drained soil

Size: Up to 6 feet tall

Zones: 5-10

03 of 04

Coneflower

Purple Coneflower
David Speer

Purple coneflower is a prairie native that attracts bees and other insects that pollinate. These shuttlecock-shaped flowers tend to be purplish pink, but newer varieties have expanded the color palette to yellow, orange, burgundy, and cream. Make sure not to choose double varieties because these aren't as useful to pollinators.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-9

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Yarrow

'Paprika' yarrow
Marty Baldwin

Yarrow is an easy-to-grow favorite that will add a wildflower look to your pollinator garden. Use yarrow as a groundcover or along borders to bring pollinating bees to your space. It's important to deadhead spent flowers for the plant rebloom, but if you don't want to deadhead yarrow, the dried blooms can be left on the plant for winter interest.

Light: Full sun

Water: Plant in well-drained soil

Size: Up to 3 feet tall

Zones: 3-10

Pollinator Garden Planting Tips

Helping out your local pollinators is about more than just the plants you choose. Follow these tips to maximize your garden's support of these essential insects.

Arrange Pollinator Plants in Groups

Plant at least three to five types of pollinator plants together, layering them throughout the garden. You'll get beautiful drifts of color, plus insects will more easily be able to gather the food they need from them.

Keep Blooms Deadheaded

Freshly opened flowers have the most nectar and pollen. If you remove withered, faded blooms, the plants often will produce even more new flowers to keep the pollinators coming.

Try a Container

Another way to create a pollinator garden is to plant one in a container. Be sure the plants you're putting together in pots have similar care needs.

Don't Use Pesticides

Skip using insecticides because though they often kill pests, they can also kill insects you want to have around. If you need to control plant-eating bugs, try using a strong jet of water from your hose to knock them off or hand-picking them off instead.

Add Water

Another thing that pollinators need is a water source, such as a birdbath. Put a small pebble or stone in your birdbath to give insects a spot to safely perch and sip.

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