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Design

Pollinators’ Favorite Nectar Plants

Fine Gardening - Issue 194
The author works to clear the walkway. Errant stems of the pollinator plants occasionally tumble under the weight of their blooms and need to be trimmed back. John also pushes back some stems into the support of nearby sturdier companions. Photo: Danielle Sherry

The first spring in the pollinator garden we planted more than two thousand plugs and were itchy to see results. But not much insect activity happened at first. Plants were small and the insects just hatching. By August, however, we were starting to see action. Some plants constantly attracted pollinators, but many just attracted occasional customers. Here are some of the top insect magnets we’ve come to love over the succeeding years.


See more about designing for pollinators in Designing a Stylish Pollinator Garden


 

1. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)

Butterfly weed

Zones: 3–9

Size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; dry to well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern and southern United States

 

2. Blunt mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)

Blunt mountain mint

Zones: 4–8

Size: 1 to 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern and southern United States

 

3. Tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis)

Tall verbena

Zones: 7–11

Size: 2 to 4 feet tall and 1 to 3 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: South America

 

4. Slender mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

Slender mountain mint
Photo: Abigail Lupoff

Zones: 4–8

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

 

5. ‘Black Adder’ giant hyssop (Agastache ‘Black Adder’)

‘Black Adder’ giant hyssop
Photo: Jan Smith/gapphotos.com

Zones: 6–9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 18 to 24 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

 

6. ‘Chocolate’ Joe Pye weed (Ageratina altissima ‘Chocolate’)

‘Chocolate’ Joe Pye weed
Photo: Steve Aitken

Zones: 4–8

Size: 3 to 5 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern United States

 

7. New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae and cvs.)

New England aster

Zones: 4–8

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America (‘Alma Potschke’ pictured)

 

8. Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Common milkweed

Zones: 3–9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Eastern North America

 

9. ‘Blue Fortune’ giant hyssop (Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’)

‘Blue Fortune’ giant hyssop

Zones: 5–9

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

 

—John Gwynne is a landscape architect who splits his gardening time between New York City and Little Compton, Rhode Island.

Photos, except where noted: Danielle Sherry.

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