10 Natives for Pollinators in Prairie-Style Gardens
Pollinators are in decline, but the right selection of plants can draw bees, butterflies, and humming birds to your yard in search of food and shelter
A prairie-style garden is just the thing to attract butterflies and bees. Pollinators appreciate the untamed nature of a prairie—or a meadow—especially where flowering perennials offer nectar. Some, like the monarch butterfly, find important sources of food and shelter for their larvae in these landscapes, even in winter. Here are 10 natives that encourage pollinators to visit your garden.
Butterflies love this plant's tufted spires of purplish-pink. A polite clumper, blazing star, or gayfeather, also multiplies fairly quickly, and its bulb-like roots are easy to divide. Grows up to 4 feet high and 18 inches wide in Zones 3 to 8.
Cheerful candelabra lit with lavender-blue top off this tall verbena late in the growing season, a treat for pollinators in the hottest days of summer. Blue vervain is tough but prefers soil on the damp side, making wet meadows an ideal spot. Grows up to 6 feet high and 30 inches wide in Zones 3 to 8.
The name says it all—butterfly weed is a small milkweed species (shown) and a favorite of monarch butterflies. Its cheery orange flowers evoke their coloring, too. 'Hello Yellow,' a cultivar that comes in canary, grows up to 30 inches high and 18 inches wide in Zones 3 to 9.
(Panicum virgatum 'Cape Breeze')
Pollinators seek out plants for more than just food—the bugs live there, too. Many butterflies' larvae overwinter in switch grass, in addition to snacking on it during the season. 'Cape Breeze' is a compact variety that maintains its green color into late October and grows up to 30 inches high and 24 inches wide in Zones 4 to 9.
Blooming as late as September, this pale-blue aster's flowers are a perfect foil to turning fall foliage, and a boon to butterflies in search of a late meal. This tough plant thrives in sun to dry shade. Grows up to 5 feet high and 2 feet wide in Zones 3 to 8.
(Monarda didyma 'Jacob Cline')
This plant dons funky, spikey flowers of the deepest red in mid- to late summer, attracting all manner of pollinators. 'Jacob Cline' is more resistant to powdery mildew than many varieties, and grows up to 3 feet high and 2 feet wide in Zones 4 to 8.
For fine texture and bold foliage, this queen rules. Frothy, feathery flowers appear in summer, in white to pale pink, supported by maple-shaped leaves. Queen of the prairie grows wild in wet meadows, so plant it in a damper spot in the garden. Grows up to 8 feet high and 4 feet wide in Zones 3 to 8.
A giant in the meadow garden, prairie dock sends up tall flower stalks topped in late summer to fall with huge yellow daisy-like blooms that attract bees. Grows up to 10 feet high and 3 feet wide in Zones 4 to 8.
(Echinacea tennesseensis 'Rocky Top')
If you're looking for pretty pink daisies in midsummer, this coneflower is for you, and for pollinators, too. Echinacea needs a season to settle in and dislikes winter wet, so plant in spring in well-drained soil. The petals on 'Rocky Top' (shown) turn upward, distinguishing it from the species. It grows up to 30 inches high and 2 feet wide in Zones 5 to 8.
Goldenrod is a late-season boon to bees and butterflies, and contrary to popular belief, it's not the cause of allergies—its pollen is too heavy to be airborne. This easy-to-grow perennial has small, bright-yellow flowers that cluster on the ends of stiff reddish stems. Grows up to 3 feet high and wide in Zones 3 to 8.