10 Native Pollinator-Friendly Plants to Add to Your Garden

When it comes to our food systems, pollinators such as bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, bats and hummingbirds are true heroes. About 35% of our planet's food crops depend on insects and animals and 75% of the world's flowering plants rely on natural pollinators for their survival. That makes pollinators extremely important. Selecting native, pollinator-friendly plants not only helps increase the diversity of your garden, it adds a new splash of color and livelihood by attracting these important pollinators! Check out this list of 10 western North Carolina native plants that we recommend.

Spring Bloom

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

New Jersey Tea attracts butterflies with its flowers and birds with its seeds. It is a nitrogen-fixing shrub with small, white flower clusters that bloom in March and April. It prefers shade to part shade, and dry to moist sandy or loamy soils. New Jersey Tea has a high drought tolerance and easily adapts to inhospitable conditions.


White wild indigo (Baptisia alba)

White wild indigo attracts butterflies, native bees, and bumble bees. It is a legume with small pea-like white flowers that bloom in April and May. It can tolerate full sun to partial shade, and dry or moist acidic soil. B. alba can tolerate heat, seasonal flooding, and clay soils.


Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower is a great nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Coneflowers start blooming in early to mid-summer and repeat bloom through frost. They may take a break after their initial bloom period, but they will quickly set more flower buds. They will tolerate partial shade, but plants may flop or strain to reach the sun. Purple coneflower prefers dry, well-drained sandy or richer soils.


Scarlet Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds with a cluster of red, tubular flowers that can bloom from May to October, depending on elevation. It prefers full sun to part shade and rich, moist, acidic soils. Bee balm is cold tolerant and moderately deer tolerant.


Summer Bloom

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay eggs on because caterpillars will only consume milkweed leaves. It grows 3-5 feet, has fragrant pink to purplish umbels, and can have up to 100 flowers per umbel. Milkweed blooms from June-August. It prefers full sun and moist soil.


Narrow leaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

Narrow leaf mountain mint attracts butterflies and bees with its flowers, and birds and other animals eat the seeds. It has silvery foliage and its small, white flowers bloom from July to September. Mountain mint prefers full sun to part shade, dry or moist soils, and is tolerant of drought, erosion, clay, and shallow rocky soil.


Fall Bloom

Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Boneset is a nectar source for butterflies and will grow to 2-4 feet with showy, bright white inflorescences from mid-summer into mid-fall. Boneset prefers partial shade to full sun, though it is tolerant of both. Moist, rich soil will provide the best medium, although Boneset is somewhat drought tolerant during the summer months.


Purple Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Joe-pye weed is an important source for bees, attracting them with fragrant, pink to purple flowers that bloom from July to September. It prefers full sun to partial shade and likes to be kept somewhat moist in average to rich soil. Joe-pye weed will even tolerate wet soil conditions, but not overly dry sites. Due to its large size, it makes a great background plant but also needs plenty of room to grow.


Common ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Common ironweed attracts butterflies, including monarchs, with its nectar and is the larval host for the American painted lady butterfly. It has perennial purple flowers that bloom from July to September. Ironweed can grow in full sun, part shade, and full shade, and grows in moist to wet areas. Ironweed has an excellent vertical presentation in the garden.


Goldenrod (Solidago altissima / S. rugosa)

Goldenrod attracts butterflies with its yellow flowers that bloom from September to November. It prefers full sun and tolerates various soil types as long as it’s well-draining. Goldenrod care is minimal once established in the landscape, with plants returning each year. They require little, if any watering, and are drought tolerant. Goldenrod is usually blamed for seasonal allergies, but allergies are actually caused by ragweed, which has a similar bloom time.

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