Triple Threat: Pollinator Plants for Bees, Birds and Butterflies

Updated: Feb. 16, 2023

If you want to grow plants for pollinators, start here. These pollinator plants are beloved by bees, butterflies, and your feathered friends.

With traits that appeal to the big three, birds, butterflies and bees, these powerhouse blooms are top options for a wildlife-friendly garden. From easy-to-grow annuals to hardworking perennials, there’s something for every landscape.

Courtesy Kay Christensen

Pollinator Plants: Cosmos

Cosmos spp., Annual

Throughout the growing season, bees and butterflies can’t resist these colorful pinwheel-shaped blossoms with feathery foliage. Grow single or double cultivars of this easygoing bloomer in full sun, and you’ll have flowers and seeds for the birds from summer through late fall. These pollinator plants stand from 1 to 6 feet high, so no matter how large your space, there’s a type of cosmos that will fit right in.

Treat yourself with chocolate cosmos flowers.

fall garden
Courtesy Ralph Graham
Male American goldfinch on a black-eyed Susan flower

Black-eyed Susan

Rudbeckia spp., Zones 3 to 9

Lovely as a background planting or in a wildflower garden, black-eyed Susan also shines when grouped with other daisy-shaped flowers. The pretty plants for pollinators range from 1 to 6 feet in height, offering a big visual impact in any size yard. Butterflies appreciate the landing pad the blooms provide, bees flock to the bright yellow color, and birds love the late-fall seed heads.

Try these pretty flowers for a cutting garden.

Cabbage White Butterfly, Pierus Brassicae, Feeding On Agastache Hyssop Flowers. Oklahoma, Usa.
B LaRue / Alamy Stock Photo
Cabbage white butterfly on agastache


Agastache spp., Zones 4 to 11

Bushy and studded with blooms from mid- to late summer, agastache is a favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Flower spires in pink, orange, yellow, blue or violet reach 2 to 6 feet high. Agastache thrives in full sun and in well-draining, fertile soil.

Check out more of the best perennials to grow for hummingbirds.

Butterfly On Purple Coneflower. Image Shot 07/2013. Exact Date Unknown.
James Schwabel / Alamy Stock Photo
Butterfly on purple coneflower


Echinacea spp., Zones 3 to 9

Birds, bees and butterflies, such as fritillaries, truly love this perennial! You’ll watch songbirds pause to nibble the seeds, and you’ll see butterflies and hummingbirds stop to sip the nectar into fall. In winter, the remaining seed heads are an interesting garden focal point.

Check out our complete guide to growing coneflowers.

A Male Ruby Throated Hummingbird (archilochus Colubris) Feeding At Monarda Or Bee Balm In A Garden In Speculator, Ny Usa
David Nelson / Alamy Stock Photo
Male ruby-throated hummingbird at bee balm

Bee Balm

Monarda spp., Zones 3 to 9

This unusual beauty grows up to 4 feet tall and starts flowering in midsummer, inviting hummingbirds, butterflies and bees to your flower bed. These pollinator plants come in hues of pink, red, white and purple; choose mildew resistant varieties for best results. Frequent deadheading keeps this enthusiastic self-sower in check, but then you won’t see songbirds stopping to eat the seeds once petals die back. The choice is yours!

Bee Gathering Pollen On A Liatris Flower
Getty Images/iStockphoto
Honeybee on blazing star

Blazing Star

Liatris spp., Zones 3 to 9

The nectar of this spiky plant is a butterfly favorite, especially when it comes to the silver-spotted skipper. After the flowers fade, birds favor the seeds, which are easy to pick out in the garden. Blazing star reaches up to 6 feet tall, but some types, like Kobold, are much shorter, measuring roughly 18 inches.

Attract more butterflies with fuzzy flowers.

pollinator plants Verbena Santospurplebloom
Ball Horticultural Company
Santos Purple


Verbena x hybrida, Annual to Zone 9

Expect summer-long color from these attractive blooms. The plant’s stems spread out to about 18 inches. Keep the soil moist but well drained for optimal flowering. Verbena does well in containers, so use it to lure pollinators to small spaces.

Psst—find out how to help bees and pollinators in easy ways.

pollinator plants Ruby Throated Hummingbird And Zinnia Flower
Christina Rollo / Alamy Stock Photo
Female ruby-throated hummingbird at zinnia


Zinnia spp., Annual

You probably know that zinnia is a butterfly and hummingbird garden go-to, but several varieties of sparrows, finches and juncos eat the seeds later in the year. The annual pollinator plants are bee-friendly, too, attracting honeybees, bumblebees and some solitary bees. It reaches up to 3 feet and blooms until the first frost.

Next, check out the best monarch butterfly flowers you should grow.