Cherry Blossoms on tree

Pollinator gardens are all the rage in Massachusetts— and for good reason. These brightly-adorned floral beds are an excellent habitat for graceful butterflies, hummingbirds, and buzzing bees.

Not only do pollinator gardens offer yummy nectar for these hungry friends, but they also provide shelter and nesting grounds for many endangered or threatened species. Plus, they’re a lovely way to add a touch of color to any landscape.

But not all flowers are ideal for pollinators, and we’re here to share some of their favorite flora!

Check out the best flowers for attracting bees, butterflies and other nectar-loving creatures in your garden:

1. Summer Lilac (AKA: Butterfly Bush)

Buddleia davidii has earned the nickname “butterfly bush” for its uncanny ability to attract fluttering friends. Also referred to as Summer Lilac, this purple beauty emanates a sweet honey-like fragrance, making it a favorite for not just butterflies, but also bees during July through October.

We love this lilac plant for its hardiest. Although the flowers look soft and delicate, the plant can tolerate alkaline soils and drought quite well. These towering blooms prefer full sun and only require a simple spring pruning. Learn more about the Butterfly Bush here.

2. Sweet Alyssum

Add a soft blanket of white to your pollinator garden with the tiny blooms of the Sweet Alyssum. This carpet flower plant can spread to about nine inches wide and thrives happily from June through October in Massachusetts landscapes.

Although Sweet Alyssum is an annual, they may continue growing even in the presence of frost. The little floral can bask in full sun or partial shade, and require only one inch of water a week. Ditch the mulch and line low-growing Alyssum under taller flowers. Discover more about this flora from The Spruce.

3. Milkweed

Milkweed is hardly a weed at all— it’s a lovely wildflower and plays an important role in any pollinator garden. Asclepias is the only host plant for monarch butterflies to reproduce, acting as both a food source and a nesting area for the winged darlings to lay their eggs.

But don’t worry! While the larvae will hatch and feed on the plant’s leaves, the caterpillars often cause no permanent damage to the petite, star-shaped floral.

The nectar-filled flowers of the Milkweed plant not only attract butterflies but are too alluring to other pollinators like bumblebees and hummingbirds. Like other pollinator plants, Milkweed enjoys the sunshine and flourish over the summer months.

4. Coral Honeysuckle (AKA: Trumpet Honeysuckle)

Add a vibrant pinkish-orange hue to your pollinator garden with the help of Lonicera sempervirens. Did you know Coral was awarded “Color of the Year in 2019” by the notable Patone Color Institute? This trendy shade gives your landscape a playful, bright pop that you just can’t help but admire. Not only are the flowers themselves stunning, but bright-red berries often appear post-bloom.

The Trumpet Honeysuckle’s long shoots can make it difficult for butterflies or bees to access pollen, but it’s a delicious treat for the Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. The plant’s high-climbing vines, yellow interior, and wide green leaves will thrive well into the fall, offering beauty even as it gets cold.

5+6. Black-Eyed Susans & Russian Sage

We raved about Black-Eyed Susans and Russian Sage in another post. Check out our article on summer perennials to learn more about these two pollinator favorites!

When in the Garden Center

These are just a couple of pollinator flowers. It’s hard to mention them all, but we want to make sure that you know how to spot the best flowers and plants for your pollinator garden, so check out these tips.

At your local nursery:

  1. Look for flowers with big landings. Bees and butterflies need a safe place to rest while feeding. Seek single flora plants, with one ring of wide petals around their center.
  2. Spot that nectar. If you can see the nectar in the center of a flower, so can the bees and butterflies! While shoot-like flora is often great for hummingbirds with long beaks, daisy-like varieties with a visible center “eye” are easier for hungry flyers to access without wiggling or stressing.
  3. Stick to native varieties. While exotic plants can be quite brilliant, think about the comfort food on your dinner table vs. that strange dish that you’re not so sure you like. Bees gravitate towards plants they’ve fed on before, so stick to flora at a local shop instead of ordering special exports.
  4. Check if the flora likes sun. Because pollinator gardens are planted in clusters and the most pollinator plants like sunshine, seek other sun-happy species. While partial shade plants can thrive in a pollinator garden, be cautious of plants that require shade.
  5. Be diverse. Give your pollinators some options. Choose a variety of bright colors like purples, blues and reds and a few soft touches of white. Get a few big flowers and a few smaller blooms. It’s fun to find complementary pieces and arrange them in a unique way!

Make the Perfect Pollinator Garden

Now that you’ve started thinking about the best flowers for attracting bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds to your pollinator garden, it’s time to get planting!

Check out our article on designing a pollinator garden. It’s themed around bees, but the same concepts apply to all nectar-loving friends.