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10 Best Annuals for Pollinators

Having a pollinator garden isn’t limited to a perennial garden bed. There are a multitude of annuals that you can grow in pots or garden beds to attract bees, butterflies, moths and birds.

If you are growing vegetables in an urban setting, here are some ideas for annuals you can plant along with them to attract the pollinators.

Cosmos

Cosmos are known for attracting a wide variety of butterflies and bees. Plus we love the feathery foliage. Cosmos come in shades of pink, as well as white and orange. If planted in the ground they may re-seed themselves for the next season.

Light: Full sun.
Height: Up to 24″.
Bloom Time: Spring/Summer/Fall.
Best For: Butterflies, moths, bees, syrphid flies*, beetles.

*Syrphid flies are pollinating flies. Colorful little flies can be seen hovering over flowers, thus their name “Hover Fly,” also commonly known as “Flower Fly.” These Syrphid flies look like tiny bees or yellow jackets, depending on the species but are harmless to humans. They also love to eat aphids.

Zinnias

Zinnias are wonderful, sending up a profusion of blooms all season long until frost ends the show. There are many Zinnia varieties, with different colors and sizes to choose from.

Zahara zinnias send up a profusion of blossoms, making easy (and highly visible) masses of color that last all season. They rarely exceed 12 inches in height and bush out, so they are great for front of the garden.

State Fair gets tall – about two feet, and are perfect for middle of the garden.

Light: Full sun
Height: Up to 24″
Bloom Time: Spring/Summer/Fall
Best For: Butterflies, moths, bees, syrphid flies, beetles

Alyssum

These low-growing masses of honey-scented blossoms are a pollinator magnet! They are an excellent border plant in a pollinator garden. There are multiple colors to choose from; Rose, Easter Basket, Snow Crystal, and purple.

Light: Full sun to part shade
Height: Up to 10″
Bloom Time: Summer
Best For: Butterflies, moths, bees, syrphid flies, beetles

Sunflowers

It doesn’t get better than sunflowers when it comes to attracting pollinators and other wildlife. With tall plants and giant blossoms, sunflowers are highly visible and irresistible to butterflies, bees, and all sorts of pollinators. As an added bonus, the seed heads attract chickadees, gold finches, titmice, nuthatches, and woodpeckers after the blossoms are spent.

Light: Full sun
Height: Up to 6+ feet
Bloom Time: Late summer
Best For: Butterflies, moths, bees, syrphid flies, beetles

Petunias

Petunias look great in hanging baskets as they send out cascades of trumpet-shaped blossoms all season long (as long as you deadhead them regularly). You can also put them in large clumps at the front of the garden, or in window boxes.

Light: Full sun to part shade
Height: Up to 12″, but may spread out
Bloom Time: Spring/Summer/Fall
Best For: Butterflies, bees, bee flies. Hummingbirds may also visit

Lantana

Lantana adds a splash of deep red, orange, and yellow in your flower bed. These drought-resistant, hot-weather plants are the perfect addition to your summer garden.

Light: Full sun
Height: Up to 36″
Bloom Time: Summer
Best For: Butterflies, moths, bees, and syrphid flies

Annual Daisies

Annual daisies draw in pollinators of all types thanks to their big, showy blossoms.

The Marguerite Daisy (Argyranthemum frutenscens), which is constantly covered in interesting insects including moths and beetles.

Osteospermum (also called African or Cape Daisies) are a big hit with bees and butterflies. They also tolerate cooler, early spring weather, taking a break during the hottest part of summer before giving an encore of blooms in the fall. The blossoms close up at night and on cloudy days, only opening when they are bathed in full sun.

Pansies

Pansies are great very early-season annuals that will provide a nectar source to bees and other pollinators emerging from hibernation in the spring.

Light: Full sun/part sun
Height: About 8″
Bloom Time: Spring/Early summer
Best For: Butterflies, moths, bees

Cornflower

This bright blue hardy annual is most noted for attracting the Painted Lady Butterfly, and also attracts hummingbirds and lady bugs. Cornflowers grow best in full sun, are drought tolerant and tolerate poor soil. They naturalize well, and come in blue, pink, & white colors.

Light: Full Sun
Height: 12 – 24 inches
Bloom Time: Late Spring to Summer
Best For: Bees, Birds & Butterflies

Calendula

Also known as “pot marigold” is notorious for being a bee magnet. The aromatic heads of these spring flowers can be collected and made into oils and salves to help heal skin injuries of all kinds. Colors range from orange to yellow.

Light: Full Sun
Height: 12 -14 inches
Bloom Time: Summer to Late Summer
Best For: Bees

4 thoughts on “10 Best Annuals for Pollinators

  1. Naturally, all or most of these will be plants devoid of neonicotinoids, correct? I would not like to plant anything harmful to insects or animals. If your plants are without the ‘bad stuff’, it might be a selling point for you.

    1. Neonicotinoids are a relatively new class of insecticides that are believed to play a role in recent pollinator declines.
      Gulley Greenhouse, Inc. is concerned about the safety of these products and how they may affect pollinators. We want our customers to know that we have not used any chemical from this class on our finished perennials, finished flats of annuals, and of course nothing but oil, soap or biologicals are used on our herbs and vegetables.
      We are introducing beneficial insects into our greenhouse environment to reduce the use of chemical pesticides. These insects include beneficial nematodes, predatory mites, and predatory wasps. They are safe for our consumers and our world!
      We thank those customers who have reached out to us and questioned our use of any of these chemicals on our plants. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us.
      Sincerely,
      The Gulley Family and Team

  2. When you say you don’t use neonics on “finished” perennials, does that mean you use them at earlier stages of growth?

    1. No, we do not use neonics at any stage of the plants life. We believe in protecting our bees and pollinators. Thank you for checking!

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