When we use native plants in our gardens, they require less maintenance and protection than other selections. While we’re busy making our landscapes beautiful, pollinators are thanking us! They depend on naturally occurring plants for their health and survival. Each plant on this page helps many pollinators to thrive. By incorporating even one or two native plants you’ll be making an impact!
Vernonia (New York Ironweed)
3-foot stems with purple flowers atop, ‘Iron Butterfly’ was discovered in the flood plains of Arkansas (tolerates brief flooding). Butterflies and other insects love it for its nectar. You will love it too if you have an area of full sun and poor, dry, and rocky soil because this tough perennial will tolerate the situation after it’s established! Hardy in zones 4-9.
Blue Cardinal Flower (Lobelia siphilitica)
This is one of the favorite flowers of the bumblebee! In summer you’ll see blue flower spires rising to 2 or 3 feet from July to fall. Supremely hardy – it can withstand our coldest winters and will also tolerate wet and flood-prone spots. This is a very long-lived perennial sometimes surviving for many decades. Plant in full sun to part shade. Deer resistant!
Black-Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia fulgida)
Native to the U.S. and familiar to all as the ‘black-eyed Susan’, possibly the most easily identified wildflower. Rudbeckia fulgida is well-known to gardeners because of the success of the cultivar ‘Goldsturm’. The flowers of ‘Goldsturm’ present a brassier yellow than others and a totally reliable plant that will naturalize an area. Plant in full sun. 2-3′ tall. Zones 3-9.
Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
Butterfly weed hardly needs a public relations campaign judging from the requests we get for this bright orange perennial. Asclepias tuberosa is a very long blooming flower (from early spring and on into fall) for good reason. The Monarch butterflies’ lifecycle depends on it. Zones 3-9. Other butterflies and hummingbirds rely on it as well which makes it a hugely important plant in our view.
Swamp Milkweed or Asclepias incarnata is no less valuable to the world of winged creatures. It blooms a vivid pink in summer rising to 3 and 4 ft tall. Zones 3-8.
Both grow in full sun to light shade.
Joe Pye Weed ‘Chocolate’ (Eupatorium dubium)
A dark-leaved variety of Eupatorium standing at 3 to 4 ft tall. The brilliant white flowers of ‘Chocolate’ tend to be covered with butterflies, especially hairstreaks and monarchs, once the blooms emerge in summer and continue into fall making sure pollinators aren’t left without nectar. You’ll get the benefits of a long blooming perennial with sweetly scented flowers and a great butterfly show! ‘Chocolate’ thrives in part sun or part shade. The soil should be evenly moist and well-draining. Zones 4-9.
Summer Sweet (Clethra alnifolia)
In late summer Clethras provide a mass of scented flowers, a magnet for bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies. Most Clethras bloom white (‘Ruby Spice’ is a pink native variety) with flowers that provide the energy needed for migrations as fall comes to the Northcountry. Birds love the seeds left behind whether they will spend the winter with us or not. Clethra is an easy shrub to invite into the garden since it tolerates a wide range of soil and light conditions. It will add to your fall color show with golden yellow leaves. Zones 4-9.
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea )
Coneflowers are a garden favorite for their big happy faces! In recent years many new hybrids have come on the market and they are gorgeous. But don’t forget to work in some of the original pink prairie flowers! ‘Magnus’ will draw butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden in numbers! Finches love the seed heads in the fall. Plant in full sun and watch them bloom in July and well beyond. If you love white flowers ‘White Swan’ is also native to our area. Zones 4-8.