Pollinators are nearly as vital in blooming plant reproduction and the development of most fruits and vegetables as the light, soil, and water. According to the USDA, animal pollinators are responsible for around 80% of all blooming plants and more than three-quarters of the primary agricultural plants that feed humanity. Ants, bees, beetles, butterflies, flies, birds, hummingbirds, and moths are primary animal pollinators. However, pollinator numbers are declining due to various factors, including habitat degradation, the introduction and spread of exotic plant species, pesticide abuse, and illness. The most important step you can do to help these important pollinators is to provide wildflower-rich habitat.  In this article, we will go over some of the best perennials for pollinators.

What Can You Do to Protect Pollinators?

  1. Plant native flowering plants – Native wildflowers, shrubs, and trees are typically the finest providers of nectar and pollen for native pollinators since they thrive in local soils and climates. Furthermore, most native plants require minimal water, blossom without fertilizer, and are unlikely to grow weedy.
  1. Plant perennials in the sun – Your pollinator-friendly plants should have direct sunlight for most of the day, primarily because adult butterflies eat solely in the sunlight. 
  2. Plant flowering perennials that are long-lasting – The most successful perennials for pollinating are long-lasting blooms. Long-lasting blooms help sustain pollinators throughout the seasons. Be sure to plant various flowers with different blooming cycles during the year, which will provide pollinators, nectar, and pollen supplies throughout the growing season.
  3. Plant in clusters – Clumps of flowering plants attract more pollinators than solitary plants spread over the area.
guide on pollinating perennials
  1. Do not use insecticides – Insecticides can be harmful and even kill pollinators. Our native plant experts recommend using eco-friendly methods. For instance, try solutions on your plants and skip the insecticides.

Perennials for Pollinators Native to Missouri

There are many perennials native to Missouri that attract pollinators.  Below are a few of our favorite perennial plants for bees and butterflies and more that work beautifully in almost any garden.

Pussytoes (Antennaria neglecta)

Antennaria neglecta, also known as pussytoes, is a lovely plant that grows well as a ground cover in full sun and medium to dry, well-drained soil. Additionally, it tolerates partial shade as well as clay soils with adequate drainage. Tufted white flower clusters emerge from mid to late spring and last approximately three weeks. Small bees, as well as syrphid and tachinid flies, collect pollen from the blooms. Furthermore, caterpillars of the American Painted Lady butterfly consume the leaves.

Devils Walking Stick (Aralia spinosa)

The Aralia Spinosa or devil’s walking stick is a large shrub with spiky stems and spreading behavior that should not deter adventurous gardeners looking to attract pollinators. Large clusters of fragrant, white flowers bloom in the middle to late summer and last for many weeks. Bees of all types enjoy the flowers because they provide pollen and nectar. During full bloom, it is not uncommon to see clouds of flying insects around the flowers. The limbs of the fruiting inflorescence become pinkish-red when the flowers fade, adding aesthetic appeal. Songbirds that migrate in the fall eat the clusters of dark purplish black berries that grow on the plant.

best native plants for pollinators

Stiff Leaved Aster (Ionactis linariifolius)

Purple to blue-violet to blooms with yellow disks bloom early to mid-fall on the Ionactis linariifolius and last approximately a month. Pollen and nectar are collected by various insects, including bees, flies, butterflies, skippers, and beetles, from the stiff-leaved aster. Furthermore, the leaves of this plant are a food source for the Silvery Checkerspot and Pearl Crescent butterfly larvae. Full light and acidic, well-drained soils are suitable for growth.

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

The purple coneflower, also known as Echinacea purpurea, is a long-blooming ornamental that tolerates a wide variety of growth conditions, making it one of the top part sun perennials for pollinators. Many insect species, including bees, butterflies, and beetles, are drawn to the blooms. Tiny crab spiders often hide on coneflowers, preparing to ambush their victims. The flowers are frequently somewhat scented. Finches are very fond of the seeds they gather in the summer, fall, and winter.

purple coneflower for pollinating

Tall boneset (Eupatorium altissimum)

Gardeners typically overlook this versatile perennial, which thrives in full sun to partial shade and mild to dry soils. The Eupatorium altissimum or Tall boneset can withstand drought as well as clay soils with a high pH. Its numerous tiny, white blooms bloom from late summer to early fall and persist for four to six weeks. Many insects, including bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, plant bugs, and beetles, are drawn to the nectar. Though it is difficult to get in the nursery trade, it is simple to cultivate from seed and makes an excellent pollinator in informal, “wild” gardens.

Common boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

The Eupatorium perfoliatum or common boneset is a perennial wildflower that blooms in late summer to early fall, spreading clusters of fragrant white flowers, lasting only a month. Many pollinators, including bees, butterflies, flies, wasps, and beetles, are drawn to nectar or pollen. In addition, the common boneset is tolerant of flood conditions for short periods, making it the perfect choice for a rain garden.

Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Wild Bergamot or Monarda fistulosa blooms in mid-summer with flowers lasting approximately a month. Bees, butterflies, and ruby-throated hummingbirds are particularly fond of its nectar. Furthermore, caterpillars of numerous moth species graze on the leaves. Other Missouri native monardas that attract pollinators include spotted bee balm (Monarda punctata) and Eastern bee balm (Monarda sylvestris) (Monarda bradburiana).

native pollinator plants

Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)

White or pink blossoms are the signature color for the ninebark or Physocarpus opulifolius, which blooms in May or June and last for around 2 to 3 weeks. Many pollinators such as bees, butterflies, flies, and wasps, consume the nectar or pollen of these lovely flowers.

Cup Plant (Silphium perfoliatum)

The cup plant or Silphium perfoliatum is not for every garden. Still, for gardeners that plant specifically with pollinators in mind, this perennial for pollinators is an excellent food source for the many different bees, flies, butterflies, and wasps. Furthermore, a variety of birds, notably finches, consume the seeds of this unique plant. Birds frequently drink or bathe in the water that pools in the cup-shaped leaves following rainfall. You can cut the stems of this plant after the first hard frost to use for mason bee hotels.

New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae)

New England aster blooms, or Symphyotrichum novae-angilae, are an excellent source of nectar for the Monarch butterfly. In addition, the lovely rose-colored blooms provide nectar or pollen to many other butterfly and bee species.  Best grown in full sun, this hearty perennial is very low maintenance and one of the best plants for pollinators. 

Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium)

Nectar from fragrant Symphyotrichum oblongifolium blooms, commonly known as aromatic aster, is an essential late-season source of food for various pollinators, including butterflies and bees. 

Additional Native Pollinator Plants

Below are some additional native pollinator plants that are an excellent food source for pollinators that we carry at Down to Earth Services.

The DTEKC Promise

At Down to Earth Services, we are passionate about what we do.  As Missouri native plant experts, we know what will work best for your landscape and will work with you on your project to get the best possible results for the design, installation, and maintenance of your native garden.  We especially love perennials for pollinators because they provide a rich food source for bees, butterflies, various insects, and birds.  For more information on our offerings, contact Down to Earth Services today to schedule a consultation!