The Best Perennials for a Pollinator Garden
September 2, 2021
There’s nothing better than the sound of bees buzzing and the glimpse of butterfly wings around your garden. Not only do these creatures add liveliness to your yard, but they’re also critical members of our ecosystem that need our support. Pollinators like native honey bees, butterflies, and birds are crucial to plant reproduction; according to pollinator.org, pollinators are responsible for producing one third of the food we consume. Unfortunately, populations of pollinators like honeybees and butterflies have been steadily declining due to habitat loss, pollution, and climate change. Thankfully, the situation is not beyond help. Organizations like the USDA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provide suggestions for how individuals can make a positive impact. The easiest – and most enjoyable – method to support pollinators is to plant a sustainable pollinator garden.
What makes a pollinator garden distinct from a regular garden? While many gardens showcase flowering perennials, trees, and shrubs for ornamental purposes, a pollinator garden contains flowers specifically chosen to support bees, butterflies, and birds with habitat and food. Cross Creek recognizes the importance of pollinators and seeks to educate our customers on the best plants to include in a pollinator garden; we’ve compiled a few of our favorites below.
- Native Milkweed
Perhaps the most important plant to include in a pollinator garden is native Milkweed, which is the only plant Monarch butterflies use to lay eggs. Asclepias incarnata, also known as Swamp Milkweed, and Butterflyweed, Asclepias tuberosa, are crucial to support the lifecycle of Monarchs in Virginia. Once butterflies lay their eggs on the leaves, caterpillars hatch and feed on the plant for the first several weeks of life. Milkweed blooms beautifully in shades of orange, pink, or purple so helping the Monarch population will also add vibrancy to your garden!
Echinacea, commonly called Coneflower, is a popular perennial known to attract bees and butterflies. Blooming in a spectrum of colors, these cheerful flowers will add height and color to any garden bed. Echinacea Purpurea sports light purple blooms and it’s native to the Eastern U.S.
The most common variety of Rudbeckia is Black Eyed Susan, which can be seen growing wildly along roads throughout Virginia. Like milkweed, Rudbeckia plays a role in sustaining butterfly populations by becoming a larval host plant. Many species of butterfly, like the Silvery Checkerspot, begin their lives by hatching on a Rudbeckia leaf and feeding on the plant until maturity.
If you’re looking to attract stunning Swallowtail butterflies to your pollinator garden, plant Dill. Not only can you use this versatile spice in your cooking, but it also acts as a host plant for Eastern Tiger Swallowtails among many other butterfly species. Although the small green caterpillars commonly seen on Dill are often reported as pests, these are actually young Swallowtails. If you’d like to try your hand at raising Swallowtail butterflies, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens provides an excellent guide.
Lantana adds dimension to your garden with its multi-colored blooms. While many varieties of Lantana are annuals, Miss Huff Lantana is a hardy variety that comes back year after year. When walking through the perennial section at Cross Creek, you can be sure to find bees and butterflies enjoying Lantana.
We can all play our part in providing habitat and food sources for pollinators. While these are our favorite perennials for pollinators, there are many more that will add color, vibrancy, and life to your garden. As your pollinator garden grows and matures, your yard will come alive with fluttering, buzzing, and humming creatures.