Happy National Pollinator Week! Bees, butterflies and other animals pollinate most wild plants, as well as at least a third of our food. Pollinators have been declining though due to habitat loss and the lack of nectar and pollen resources.
You can make a difference in your own garden. No matter how large, pollinator gardens with native plants can have a huge impact! There are a lot of great choices for different seasons and conditions – see “What to Plant” on our Plant For Pollinators page. Here are our Top Five choices:
Photo: Monarch on swamp milkweed, Dr. Tara Harris
Besides being one of the most important caterpillar host plants for Monarchs, swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, aka rose milkweed) is a great nectar source for many pollinators. Reaching 3-4 feet tall in sunny locations, it grows well in wetter soils, making it a great choice for rain gardens.
Narrow-leaved purple coneflower:
Photo: Narrow-leaved coneflower and an American painted lady
A vibrant garden accent and a Minnesota prairie native, narrow-leaved purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) is a rich nectar and pollen source for butterflies and bees. Goldfinches love the seeds in autumn. Also popular with pollinators, the most commonly sold coneflower is eastern purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), but it is not actually native to Minnesota.
Photo: Black-eyed susan and an acadian hairstreak, Erik Runquist PhD/MN Zoo
Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta) is an iconic plant and an important pollen and nectar source for many bees and butterflies. The long-lived bright yellow flowers thrive in a variety of conditions, and it does not require re-planting each year.
Photo: Meadow blazingstar with Monarchs and a hummingbird, MN Zoo
Meadow blazingstar (Liatris ligulistylis) is the preferred plant for Monarch butterflies in late August and September as they load up on energy before migrating to Mexico for the winter. It is beloved by many other butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds as well.
New England Aster:
Photo: New England Aster and a hoverfly, Cale Nordmeyer
Bright purple flowers make New England Asters one of the most striking plants of fall. It is a vital resource for pollinators before winter, and is a host plant for Crescent butterflies.