How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

So You Want To Start A Pollinator Garden?

Planning a pollinator garden involves several key considerations to create a space that is both attractive to pollinators and sustainable for the environment. Here’s a guide to help you start.


Hardiness Zone – The USDA created a Hardiness Zone Map based on the average temperature lows over decades, which helps gardeners know what plants will thrive in their environment. Most of Wisconsin is between Zone 5a and 5b. Knowing your exact hardiness zone helps you select plants that are adapted to your climate.

Sunlight – Observe how much sun and shade your garden gets to choose appropriate plants. Typical options are full sun, part sun/part shade, and shade. Knowing how many hours of light your garden gets is essential. 

Diversity and Blooming Periods – Plant a variety of species to ensure continuous blooms throughout the growing seasons, providing ongoing food sources for pollinators. Spring bloomers like forsythia provide pollen early, while fall bloomers like aster or sedum provide late season pollinator fuel. 

Avoid Pesticides – Use natural pest control methods to protect the pollinators in your garden. Not sure what qualifies as natural? We’re here to help

Provide Water and Shelter – Include a shallow water source like a bird bath, keeping it filled with fresh water, and consider elements like rocks, logs, or bee hotels for pollinator nesting and resting.

Maintenance – Regular upkeep such as weeding, mulching, and deadheading (removing dead flowers) is crucial. Some plants are known to rebloom if the spent flowers are deadheaded early enough.

Educate Yourself about Local Pollinators – Knowing what pollinators are native to your area can guide your plant choices. By carefully selecting plants that are suited to your garden’s specific conditions and the needs of local pollinators, you can create a thriving, sustainable pollinator garden. Remember, a successful pollinator garden is one that supports a wide range of pollinators throughout the growing seasons.



To attract hummingbirds in Wisconsin, choose plants that provide nectar throughout the growing season. Hummingbirds are drawn to tubular flowers with vibrant colors, especially red and pink. 

Consider planting a mix of species to ensure a continuous supply of nectar from spring through fall. Hummingbirds are more likely to visit your garden if you provide a safe and pesticide-free environment. Additionally, offering a hummingbird feeder with a sugar-water solution can supplement their nectar diet, especially in early spring and late fall when fewer flowers may be in bloom.

Here’s a list of plants that are well-suited for attracting hummingbirds in Zone 5:

Bee Balm (Monarda): Bright, nectar-rich flowers that are a hummingbird favorite.

Salvia: Offers tubular flowers; particularly red and purple varieties are attractive to hummingbirds.

Columbine: Early bloomer with unique, nectar-rich flowers.

Trumpet Vine: Produces large, trumpet-shaped flowers. Requires space and support as it’s a vigorous grower.

Phlox: Offers clusters of colorful, fragrant flowers.

Butterfly Bush: Although more famous for attracting butterflies, its flowers are also appealing to hummingbirds.

Penstemon: Has tubular flowers in various colors, suitable for hummingbirds.

Coral Bells: While known for its foliage, its small flowers on tall spikes can attract hummingbirds.


When planning your bee garden, aim for a variety of plants that bloom at different times, providing a continuous food source from early spring to late fall. Also, consider native plants, as they are well adapted to your local climate and often require less maintenance. Avoid using pesticides in your garden, as they can be harmful to bees and other beneficial insects.

Creating a bee-friendly garden in WI involves choosing plants that provide ample nectar and pollen. Bees are especially attracted to blue, purple, white, and yellow flowers. Here’s a list of plants that are known to be particularly beneficial to bees:

Lavender: Highly aromatic, lavender is a top choice for attracting bees.

Bee Balm (Monarda): As the name suggests, it’s excellent for bees, offering abundant nectar.

Coneflowers (Echinacea): These hardy perennials are great for bees, and their seed heads also provide winter food for birds.

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia): These bright flowers are a favorite among bees.

Sunflowers: Not only do they attract bees, but they also add dramatic height and color to the garden.

Sedum: Especially the Autumn Joy variety, sedums are late bloomers and a vital source of nectar as winter approaches.

Catmint: Known for its long blooming period and attractiveness to bees.

Salvia: These plants offer plentiful nectar throughout the summer.

Phlox: Phlox provides abundant nectar and comes in various colors.

Asters: Late bloomers, they provide an essential nectar source in fall.

Herbs: Many herbs like Thyme, Oregano, Mint, and Chives are attractive to bees when allowed to flower.


The key to a successful butterfly garden is to provide both nectar sources for adults and host plants for their caterpillar form. When planning your butterfly garden, consider planting in groups rather than single plants to make it easier for butterflies to locate the flowers. Also, choose a sunny spot protected from strong winds. Entice butterflies even more by providing flat stones for basking, shallow water sources, and avoiding pesticides.

Here are some top plant choices that can help turn your garden into a butterfly haven:

Milkweed (Asclepias): Essential for monarch butterflies as a host plant for their caterpillars. Common varieties include butterfly weed and swamp milkweed.

Coneflowers (Echinacea): Popular for their nectar-rich flowers and also provide seeds for birds in the winter.

Black-eyed Susan: These bright flowers are not only attractive to butterflies but also to other pollinators.

Joe-Pye Weed: A tall, native plant that’s a magnet for butterflies.

Butterfly Bush: Known for its long, nectar-rich blooms. Note that it can be invasive in some areas, so check local guidelines.

Asters: Provide late-season nectar, which is crucial for butterflies preparing for migration.

Phlox: Offers abundant nectar and is particularly attractive to Swallowtail butterflies.

Liatris: Also known as blazing star, this plant’s tall purple spikes are butterfly favorites.

Sedum: ‘Autumn Joy’ and other varieties provide late-season nectar.

Zinnias: Their bright flowers are excellent for attracting a variety of butterflies.

Fennel, Dill, and Parsley: These herbs act as host plants for Black Swallowtail caterpillars.


There are many types of pollinators, but these are the big three that most homeowners hope to attract to their yards. Remember to plant a variety of flowering species that bloom at different times to provide a consistent food source. Avoid pesticides if possible, as they can harm our pollinator friends.

Reach out to us with any questions, or stop into our Oregon or Oshkosh garden centers!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *