Pollinator Gardening

You are loved.   You are amazing.   You can find joy. 
You are loved.   You are amazing.   You can find joy. 
You are loved.   You are amazing.   You can find joy. 
You are loved.   You are amazing.   You can find joy. 
You are loved.   You are amazing.   You can find joy. 
You are loved.   You are amazing.   You can find joy. 

Create a beautiful garden that will bring a variety of pollinators to your yard. Even one plant in a pot can make all the difference.

  • Spending peaceful time in nature
  • Have something to nurture
  • Can be a remembrance garden
  • No electronic devices required
  • Helpful to the planet
Tools Required
  • Dirt
  • Pots/Ground
  • Hands (gloves?)
  • Shovel or something diggy
  • Plants!
Buy Plants From
  • Easy Peasy!
  • You can chose your amount of continued involvement after everything is planted.
I have always loved gardening, however it took on a different meaning after Gigi passed away.  I had this sudden need to see butterflies everywhere since they were the symbol that we chose to remember her by.

Gardening is so much like grief in that it grows and changes over time.  Some of the plants that you thought were going to be amazing, don’t do so well.  Some of the plants you thought might not make it end up being fighters and surprise you with their beauty.

Every year I move plants around to find their optimum place.  Every 3 years perennials need to be divided (in most cases) because they get so large.

Each year I add to my collection of annuals that I chose to bring in to the garden.

Realizing that a garden continues to change and grow (just like grief) is the beauty in it. It will never be perfect. However, it will always be beautiful because you are cultivating it.

The joy that I have when I walk out my front door and see butterflies far surpasses the annoyance that I haven’t weeded anything in the last month.  I give myself grace to do what I can.  I mean, the weeds need representation too, right?
Here you see pictures of my ever evolving garden.  It is not perfectly manicured, but it is mine, my family’s and Gigi’s.  I have every intention of being ‘real’ on this site so there it is!
Even if you just put one pot of Lantana by your front door it can bring you joy.  This does not have to be an overwhelming project.  It can be whatever you want it to be.

I put details about my favorite plants below. I'll add more *How to* tips in the future. I'd love to hear your story or help you choose plants for your garden.

My Favorite Plants!

Echinacea purpurea

Purple Coneflower

This is one of the Monarch’s most favorite plants.  After the nectar is long gone many birds love to come and eat the seeds so I don’t deadhead mine!  This hardy plant is must for anyone wanting butterflies in their yard.  It is very easy to grow and reseeds nicely!

  • Perennial
  • Full Sun
  • Well Drained Soil
  • 2′ – 4′ tall
  • Blooms midsummer to fall frost (purple blooms with orange center)
  • Plant 1 to 3 feet apart
  • Cut back in late winter/early spring
  • Mainly plant in the ground, but can be grown in 2-3 gallon pots
Tithonia rotundifolia

Mexican Torch Sunflower

Mexican Sunflowers are amazing.  I grew mine from seed this year and they are literally like a Jack and the Beanstalk “magic bean” plant.  Before I knew it they were 7 feet tall!  The Monarchs love them and I have also spotted hummingbirds feeding as well!

  • Annual
  • Full Sun – for real… as much sun as is possible!
  • Well Drained Soil
  • 3′ – 7′ tall (not joking)
  • Bloom July through fall frost (large dark orange blooms)
  • Plant in the ground or pots
  • I plant mine using seeds from Seed Needs

Butterfly Bush

Butterfly Bush is beautiful and is a favorite of all butterflies and hummingbirds.  It can get rather large and this year I cut mine to the ground at the beginning of the season and it came back just fine!  It comes in many colors, but I have two of the pink/purple variety and I love them!

  • Perennial
  • Full Sun to partial shade
  • Well drained soil
  • Depending on cultivar they can be 6′ to 12′ tall (read your label!)
  • Blooms all summer and to fall frost (many colors available!)
  • Plant with plenty of space around them (read your label!)
  • Deadhead flowers as soon as they are spent
Zinnia elegans


Zinnias are so beautiful!  They make lovely cut flowers in addition to attracting all of the pollinators.  It is best to buy the types that have the large center of nectar with the least amount of petals around.  Single/double blooms are best.  The really compact and more circular Zinnias are not as attractive to the pollinators. I grow mine from seed!  “State Fair” and “California Giants” are favorites of the butterflies.

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • Well Drained Soil
  • 2′ to 4′ tall
  • 3″-5″ inch flowers bloom midsummer to fall frost (allll of the colors!)
  • Can be grown in the ground or in pots
  • I grow mine from Seed: *California Giants* and *State Fair* from Seed Needs online
  • Make lovely cut flowers
Lobelia cardnalis

Cardinal Flower

I have loved this flower for many years.  We had a very wet area in our yard growing up and I was always looking for plants that could tolerate the wetness.  This is it!  It reseeds readily, but is not invasive.  It is easy to pick up and transplant the ‘volunteers’!

  • Perennial
  • Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Moist to Wet Soil (can handle normal soil if watered often)
  • 3′ – 5′ tall
  • Bloom midsummer to fall frost (red blooms along vertical stem)
Asclepias incarnata

Swamp Milkweed

Milkweed is the only plant that Monarch caterpillars will eat.  Therefore it is a MUST if you want to save the Monarchs!  My *favorite* type of milkweed is Swamp Milkweed.  It is NOT invasive like the Common Milkweed that you see on the side of the road.  It also regrows where you cut it.  So when I cut large chunks off for my caterpillars to eat, it grows right back (common milkweed doesn’t grow back).  It is also a preferred milkweed for the Monarch females to lay eggs.  (They love laying eggs in the buds – evidence in the picture to the left where a caterpillar is hiding!)  Of course, it is also a wonderful nectar flower for all butterflies.

  • Perennial
  • Full Sun
  • Well Drained to Moist soil
  • 3′ – 5′ tall
  • Blooms late summer to fall frost (pinkish blooms)
  • Can be used to feed Monarch caterpillars
  • The white sap is toxic so wash your hands after handling.


These flowers are the cutest!  There are so many varieties and colors and it is super hardy!  Each summer I forget to water it and think its dead.  As soon as I show it a little love it comes right back!  Butterflies and hummingbirds love it!

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • Well Drained Soil
  • 1′ – 3′ tall
  • Blooms all summer until fall frost (many colors available!)
  • Works well in pots and in the ground (will get much bigger in the ground!)
  • Deadhead spent flowers immediately for best results
  • The color changing varieties are so neat! (pink/white/yellow or yellow/orange/red)


I first bought Ironweed at a Native Plant sale through The Wild Ones (look them up!).  I had no idea what to expect.  Well, they weren’t kidding about how big they get.  Honestly, they aren’t the prettiest plant, but they are a crazy favorites of the pollinators.  On any given day there are at least 4 species of bee on them (never a threat to me because they are so busy!) I’ve also seen hummingbirds and every kind of butterfly go to the Ironweed.  The other *plus* is that it is a late bloomer so when other flowers have closed up shop these guys are still there helping out!

  • Perennial
  • Full Sun
  • Well Drained Soil – but not too picky
  • 5′ – 7′ tall
  • Bloom late summer to fall (purple feathery flowers at the top of stalks)
  • Cut to the ground at the end of the season
Verbena bonariensis

Purpletop Vervain

I stumbled upon this flower as I was looking through The Joyful Butterfly website.  It is so cute!  Very tall stalks with flowers at the top are wispy and airy.  There’s not much foliage and not very compact.  It looks great up above my zinnias.  Pollinator’s LOVE it!

  • Annual
  • Full Sun
  • Well Drained Soil
  • 3′ – 5′ tall – but very wispy and not compact at all
  • Blooms all summer to fall frost (small clusters of purple flowers)


While I only raise Monarchs inside my house I’m still an “all opportunity” butterfly helper.  Caterpillars of the swallowtail variety love their herbs!  Fennel, dill and parsley are their favorites.  I always keep a large bronze fennel plant in the yard for them to use.  It’s fun to hunt for the tiny caterpillars in the midst of all of the fern-like foliage.

  • Technically an annual but reseeds so much that I’ve never had to replant
  • Full Sun to part Shade
  • Well Drained Soil – but not picky
  • 4′ – 6′ tall
  • Swallowtail caterpillar eggs are perfect tiny spheres and are an opaque yellow color
Coreopsis lanceolata

Lanceleaf coreopsis

I’ve always had coreopsis in  my gardens, but they never attracted butterflies.  Then I learned that this particular coreopsis is one that they really like.  It took a few years, but I found some at an online nursery.

  • Perennial
  • Full Sun
  • Medium-Dry, Dry
  • 2′ tall
  • Blooms May to August
Asclepias tuberosa

Butterfly Weed

Milkweed is the only plant that Monarch caterpillars will eat.  Therefore it is a MUST if you want to save the Monarchs!  Butterfly Weed is great because it is short!  It is also not invasive like the Common Milkweed that you see on the side of the road.  The Monarchs definitely laid eggs on it this year (I was skeptical.)  It is also a wonderful nectar flower for all butterflies.

  • Perennial
  • Full or Partial Sun
  • Medium to Dry soil
  • 2′ – tall
  • Blooms June to August
  • Can be used to feed Monarch caterpillars
  • The white sap is toxic so wash your hands after handling.

Bee balm

You might have guessed it – bees love bee balm!  ha!  They don’t swarm or get out of control, but they come and hang out.  The pictures to the left were taken before the plant was even in the ground.  I had just purchased it and a Hummingbird Moth decided to come and take a taste.  It is undoubtedly the Hummingbird Moth’s favorite plant in my garden.  I have Monarda in purple and red!

  • Perennial
  • Full or Partial Sun
  • Medium to Medium-Dry soil
  • 2′ tall
  • Blooms June – July
  • Comes in a variety of colors!

Click the tabs if you want to know more!

I like to prepare the soil by using 3 bags of topsoil mixed with 1 bag of mushroom compost. This organic matter really helps!
I always dig a bigger hole than the potted plant itself and fill in with loose soil. It is also a good idea to loosen up the roots before putting in the hole. Mound soil just a bit at the top because it will settle.
Mulch can really help to keep the soil cool and cut down on weeds!
Perennials will come back every year depending on your zone. For example, Tropical Milkweed is a perennial in very hot regions, but is an Annual in cold regions. Know your ZONE and you'll be able to find out how the plant will work in your area.
In general most perennials need to be dug up and divided every 3 years because they get very large. This can be fun because you can disperse more plants around your yard or give them away to friends. It's best to divide in the spring or fall, but look up your specific plant to find out what's best for it.
I used to only want to plant perennials. Annuals are beautiful and fun should NOT be missed! They are also great because you can put them in your yard to see how they do. If they don't work then try them somewhere else next year! They also do well in pots!
  • Smooth Blue Aster (any asters)
  • Goldenrod
  • Golden Alexander
  • Liatris (any)
  • Cosmos
  • Phlox
  • Buttonbush
  • Snapdragon
  • Black-eyed Susan
I highly recommend taking notes each season. I have a lovely little spiral where I keep track of my garden. It helps immensely because I never remember as much as I think I'm going to!
I draw a little "garden plot" and mark the plants on the plot with different numbers. Then on a separate page I write the number and the plant that corresponds. I add lots of detail: Scientific name, Common name, plant attributes, where purchased, when planted, etc.
I also keep track of how the plants do in their various locations. I make notes if a plant needs to be moved or if it did well in a certain location. Lastly, I love to write down the pollinator activity. When I started building the garden it was helpful to know what plants worked best to attract pollinators.
Bees are on many of my plants. They love the nectar flowers just as much as the hummingbirds and butterflies!
Some of my plants have four species of bee on them at a time. However, I never see the bees except when they are on the flower. They never pay any attention to me when I'm near the plant.
If you are allergic to bee stings you should be careful, but you probably already know that! In my experience, no one in my family (including the dog) has been stung by a bee in our yard.
Bunnies are EVERYWHERE in my area. They eat EVERYTHING. The only thing that keeps my plants safe is chicken wire fencing - it has to have openings of 1 inch or smaller. In the first year of my garden they literally ate ALL of my native plants!
Japanese Beetles: It's easiest to control them by just knocking them into a bucket of water and dish soap. Most other pests can be killed this way too. (Some people spray the dish soap/water mixture on the plants as well.)
Aphids: These little guys come in many colors - orange, white fuzz, green. They are slow moving and suck the life out of your plants. I leave them alone unless they are visably damaging the plant. I'm a believer in that all bugs are needed for a good garden ecosystem!

Go plant!
Let me know how I can help!