Save The Pollinators: 5 Must-Have Pollinator Friendly Plants

One of the first signs that springtime is here is the arrival of pollinators, those wonderful little creatures that are not only beautiful but essential to the garden. Pollinators are animals/insects that assist over 80% of the world flowering plants (USDA). Without them, we (along with wildlife) really would not have much to eat. When you say the word “pollinator” people immediately think of bees and butterflies, but the group is so much bigger and include species of ants, bats, bees, beetles, birds, butterflies, flies, moths, wasps, as well as other unusual animals.

When I moved to Minnesota almost 4 years ago, one of the first things I noticed in spring was the lack of pollinators, which was strange considering we live in the country. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense since we live right next to farming fields (not ours) that are sprayed with Lord knows what during planting season. So I made it my mission to help these little guys by creating an environment (as much as possible) that they would thrive in. And I did this by planting pollinator-friendly plants. Four years later, we have pollinators visiting our plants during the growing season, especially bees and monarch butterflies.

Key thing to remember about pollinators is to choose plants that will support a diversity of pollinators through the season— from shapes (the closer to their physical traits the better). not just in early spring, mid-summer or late summer/fall. In the spring they need food for the newly emerged creatures and in late fall they need energy for winter. There are a wide variety of pollinator-friendly plants but these five (5) are the ones that I have grown and have worked for me beautifully. They are rated on order of pollinator-attraction (as I have seen):

No. 1 “New England Aster” {Symphyotrichum Novae-Angliae}


Of all the plants in my garden and around the house, none attracts pollinators like this aster, especially bees and monarchs. We have planted them in clusters, which gives pollinators more area to gather and collect pollen. At times we have had about 6 monarchs and countless bees gathering at one time, especially around the asters close to our front mailbox. It truly is a magnet.

No. 2 Cosmos {Cosmos Bipinnatus}

Not only are Cosmos beautiful but their flowers provide easy access for pollinators to collect nectar and pollen. And this variety seems like a magnet for pollinators especially monarchs and honey bees. In addition they are great for attracting beneficial insects that feed on those pesky pests.

No. 3 Bee’s Friend {Phacelia Tanacetifolia}

This annual bears subtle lavender-blue flowers with curved spikes that not only put on a show in your garden but also attract and support many species of bees. Often used as a cover crop, this plant’s common name is a translation of Bienen-freund, German for “bee’s friend”. I grew this plant for the first time last year and it was very prolific and not only attracted small bees but also lady bugs which was a welcome sight.

No. 4 Borage {Borago Officinali}


Borage is one of the plants that I have never grown, but I am adding to my garden this year, after I fell in love with it at a restaurant garden. This is an edible flower and they were growing it for salads and garnishes. And I loved it because I noticed that it really attracted pollinators, in addition to having showy purple flowers.

No. 5 Calendula {Calendula Officinalis}

Calendula, is another flower that I am growing this year for the first time, but I have always been amazed by how they attract pollinators— not only to pollinate but to eat. First the pollinators are attracted to the showy color, the nectar and pollen. For pests, this is a “trap” since the nectar traps little suckers like aphids and thrips. This is a double attraction for good in insects like ladybugs and lacewings. Furthermore, the beneficial insects stay to mate, which increases their numbers. It’s a win-win for everyone!

And there you have it— my favorite pollinator-friendly plants. What are some of your favorites?

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