July 22, 2024

Plant Native Plants for Pollinator Success

  • July 3, 2024
  • 4 min read
Plant Native Plants for Pollinator Success

The populations of butterflies and other pollinators are declining worldwide due to habitat loss and pesticide poisoning. Beyond their beauty, these winged insects are integral to our survival. Nature groups and organizations can contribute to pollinator restoration efforts by buying native plants and trees from a native tree nursery.

How Does Pollination Work?

Pollination can occur by wind or water, but the efforts of pollinators are the main method. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, birds, bats, and other animals. Pollination is needed for 95 percent of all flowering plants and one-third of all crops grown for humans. That includes citrus fruits, almonds, berries, cotton, milk, and even chocolate.

Pollination is the part of a plant’s life cycle required to make seeds so new plants can grow. To create seeds, the plant must have pollen transported from the anther (male) to the stigma (female). You can help pollinators in your area by planting a diverse palette of pollinator-friendly native plants in any landscape of any size. The more pollinator-friendly native plants available to them, the more pollinators will appear. The combined efforts of humans and pollinators contribute to environmental restoration.

Why Do Pollinators Need Native Plants?

Pollinators need native plants because when they feed on the nectar in the native flowers, they come into contact with pollen. The pollen will stick to their body and they will carry it to the next flower they land on. Over time, flowers have evolved to be more appealing to certain pollinators. The pollinators, butterflies, bees, and birds, also adapted to more easily feed on the flowers. Certain pollinator-plant relationships are exclusive. One such example is the monarch butterfly — they will only lay eggs on milkweed plants.

Plants that are not native to the area may be inedible to pollinators. They may also not fully meet the pollination needs of the area. Native plants are already well-adapted to the region’s soil, climate, and growing seasons. Those within a specific natural community like a forest or wetland have special adaptations. By using native plants that thrive in a location most like your landscape, you will find they grow better and even help solve landscape challenges like droughty or soggy soils. 

How Do Native Plants Attract Pollinators?

Plants attract pollinators with color, shape, and fragrance to their food, called nectar. Nectar is a significant source of food to fuel pollinators. When you plant specifically for pollinators, choose a variety of species that bloom at different times of the year. This helps provide dependable sources of nectar as pollinators breed and migrate. 


Bees like bright blue and violet colors, which are found in plants like asters, agastache, and blue sage. Hummingbirds prefer the warm reds and pinks of plants like hollyhocks and red columbine. Butterflies like plants that are yellow, orange, pink, and red, including milkweed and marigolds.


For some pollinators, shapes are key. Hummingbirds like tubular flowers; cardinal flowers and butterfly weeds allow them to dip their tongues in for nectar. Butterflies appreciate a flat landing pad shape. Coneflowers, viburnum, and blazing star flowers allow butterflies to rest and spread their wings.


Certain fragrances attract the attention of night pollinators like moths and bats. They seek white and pale-colored flowers that glow in the moonlight. Examples include evening primrose, garden phlox, wild hydrangea, summersweet, and sweetspire. A native tree nursery grows hundreds of native trees, shrubs, and perennial species that support pollinators throughout the year. Add one or more of these native species for pollinators to your next landscape project:

  • Asters
  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Blue sage
  • Cardinal flower
  • Butterfly weed
  • Blazing star
  • Coneflower
  • Evening primrose
  • Penstemon
  • Wild hydrangea
  • Viburnum
  • Serviceberry
  • Sumacs
  • Sweetspire

Visit a Native Tree Nursery for Native Plants

Native tree nurseries help customers find the right native plants for their projects. Native plants can help pollinators, add environmental diversity, and provide green solutions for a landscape that works for you. Visit a native tree nursery for recommendations and information on RPM native plant availability for your next project.

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