Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Wildflower Wednesday: Early Summer Pollinator Magnets for Pollinator Week

Bumble on coneflower

June Wildflower Wednesday has landed in the middle National Pollinator Week. What a great time for me to showcase my favorite early summer wildflower pollinator magnets. Follow the link to find out more about pollinators and the week long celebration. As the Pollinator Partnership has promised:  The continent will be buzzing with events that will be happening throughout the week.

Bumble on Common milkweed

As a wildflower loving, native plant fan who gardens for wildlife, the plants in my garden need to be more than just pretty faces, they must be helpful for the critters that visit and live here. The Wildflower Wednesday early summer pollinator magnets fit that description to a T. I hope you appreciate their pretty faces and great wildlife value. 

Butterfly on Coneflower


When ever anyone asks me what plants to get for their garden I always say this: "It's your garden, you can plant what ever you want, but, please remember to plan for all the critters that live and visit your garden." 

Partridge pea and bumble

 I assure them that they will never be sorry! Pollinators will thank them by hanging around pollinating flowers, vegetables and fruits; beneficial insects will raise offspring that will gobble up harmful insects; and songbirds and spiders will keep the insects in check. The more they plan and plant for critters...crawling, flying and even digging ones, the healthier and more diverse their garden will be.

Asclepias tuberosa

Unfortunately, we've been convinced by advertising that a garden should be perfect and that insects are harmful and must be eliminated or they will damage our flowering plants and make them ugly.  It's important for all of us gardeners, new or experienced, to reconsider beauty and to begin to appreciate the insect damaged plant as providing food for a critter that may in turn be food for a spider, another insect or a song bird. 

Embrace imperfection in your garden

I encourage these gardeners to look at their plants very closely to find insects that might be living on them.  A friend told me she use to pull the caterpillars off her fennel before she knew they were Swallowtail butterfly cats. Now she plants extra fennel for the cats. We need to make sure those "ugly bugs" aren't beneficial insects before you pluck them off or squish them. Some of the "good bugs" include lacewings, lady beetles, minute pirate bug, soldier bugs, assassin bugs, braconid wasps, tachinid flies, flower flies and aphid mites. 

Flower flies on Hypericum frondosum

Take a close look at the Susan in the photo below. Can you see the disguised caterpillar? It's an Emerald Wavy Lined moth and it uses bits and pieces of the Rudbeckia for protective coloration. Caterpillars are especially at risk because they can't fly away when danger approaches. Camouflage is an effective means to blend into their environment and escape being eaten by a bird or wasp. If we are seeking perfection in our gardens, if we spray to kill aphids and other insects messing with our plants we lose critters like this. Trust me, you don't need to worry that  a critter like this will destroy your flowers, most are eaten by birds, spiders and wasps!

Emerald Wavy Lined moth (Synchlora aerata)

  We must consider the bigger picture. Our gardens might be an oasis of food and shelter for all kinds of critters in a sea of over fertilized and pesticide treated lawns. Think about that for a minute.


I know all about gardening in a sea of manicured lawns...Our neighborhood is changing from its established 1950s ranch homes with freedom lawns that light up each spring with Spring Beauties and glow in the summer with lightning bugs. Houses, lawns and trees are being bulldozed down at a frightening rate. In their place are 5000 to 10,000 sq foot megahouses with perfectly manicured lawns and the same old same old non-native shrubs, all for "curb appeal". What they get are fertilized lifeless lawns and shrubs that offer nothing to critters. 

I despair for wildlife.

 I fear that the new neighbors will complain about our "unkempt yards" next to their million dollar homes. Those of us that know how important a wildlife friendly garden is to pollinators and other critters have got to help educate these newcomers.

Maintaining a buffer between the  garden and the street can go a long way to helping neighbors see your front garden as attractive rather than messy. Posting signs has helped my neighbors understand what's happening in my garden. Sharing posts like this one on our neighborhood listserv and Facebook page keeps the conversation out in the open where others can learn and give support.

Stokesia laevis

My personal goal is to make a lovely garden that provides nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies from late winter until late fall and a garden for all critters to find food and shelter and to raise their offspring. I hope my neighbors get joy from seeing the pretty faces in the garden.

Gloriosa Daisy

 What you can do

If you're a new or even an experienced gardener and want to create a pollinator friendly garden or want to add more pollinator friendly plants to your garden, I urge you to take time to figure out what plants make sense for your garden conditions. Invest in a good wildflower identification guide for your part of the country, join a native plant society and visit your local botanical garden and arboretum. If you are lucky enough to have garden centers that sell native plants shop there and not big box stores.

 It took me years to figure out that gardening would be a lot more fun and successful if I gardened with Middle Tennnessee/ Central Basin natives. Local provenance matters. After all, locally grown native plants evolved with our wet winters and dry summers and will succeed in my difficult gardening conditions. So shop locally when ever it's possible.

'Solar Eclipse' and 'Cherry Brandy' are two Rudbeckia hirta cultivars that attract pollinators to an early summer garden

 Native annuals/short lived perennials like Rudbeckia hirta cultivars are wonderful additions to a pollinator garden. Lavender, sweet alyssum and herbs are also good additions to a pollinator friendly garden. Beneficial insects love many of them and we want beneficials in our gardens.

Hydrangea arborescens is a pollinator friendly native shrub

 When you're creating your beautiful pollinator garden, be sure to include trees and shrubs, you might be surprised to learn that many of the woodies are far more important to insects than flowering plants.

Elymus hystrix is a host for the caterpillars of the Northern Pearly Eye butterfly and several moths

 When you think about ornamental grasses, and you should, please consider planting one of our fine native grasses. Grasses like early blooming Bottle Brush grass fill the garden with movement and beauty all year long, while providing food and shelter for visiting mammals, birds and insects. 



Fill your garden with native plants that are pollinator magnets! You'll never be sorry.

Pycnanthemum muticum attracts bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles

Here's the nitty gritty for creating a pollinator friendly garden.
  • Plant a lot of nectar and pollen producing plants, lots and lots; swathes work, so does repetition (Central Basin natives make sense in a Middle Tennessee garden)
  • Don't forget trees, shrubs and grasses in your garden plan
  • Plant host plants~so the offspring of butterfly, beetles and other pollinators can feed
  • Plant for bloom from late spring to early winter. 
  • Plant nectar and pollen rich fall blooming plants for migrating butterfly.
  • Include water for bees
  • Provide nesting sites near your garden for a variety of visitors: Build a pollinator condo, leave some bare ground for earth nesting bees and pile decaying logs for beetles who like to tunnel.
  • practice peaceful coexistence. Bees sometimes choose to nest in inconvenient places. Rather than exterminating them, think of it as an opportunity to watch and learn about them up close.
  • Take the pledge to never, ever, ever use pesticides in your gardenI really do mean never!  

 If this post helps you have as much fun as I have gardening for pollinators and other wildlife then I will consider myself successful.

Happy Wildflower Wednesday and enjoy the events and activities from the Pollinator Partnership.

Welcome to Clay and Limestone's Wildflower Wednesday celebration. I am so glad you stopped by. WW is about sharing and celebrating wildflowers from all over this great big, beautiful world. Join us on the fourth Wednesday of each month. Remember, it doesn't matter if they are in bloom or not; and, it doesn't matter if we all share the same plants. It's all about celebrating wildflowers. Please leave a comment when you add your url to Mr Linky.


Gail Eichelberger is a gardener and therapist in Middle Tennessee. She loves wildflowers and native plants and thoroughly enjoys writing about the ones she grows at Clay and Limestone. She reminds all that the words and images are the property of the author and cannot be used without written permission.


  1. Great post Gail! Do you live in an HOA neighborhood? I work really hard to provide wildlife habitat and now that we have an active HOA again with folks that want manicured lawns and boring shrubs, it has become a battle. So sad! I think I saw one of those wavy lined moths on a coreopsis the other day. Thanks for the ID!

  2. I enjoyed your post, Gail! I haven't posted on my blog for a long time. I wonder if I remember how. I am sorry your neighborhood is changing. Is that causing your property taxes to go up?

    1. Yes, I've heard other neighbors wondering if they will be able to afford the taxes on their fixed incomes.

  3. Sad to hear about the lawn and same old same old invasion.
    I hope the beauty of yours, will encourage more wildflowers to invade instead.

  4. Such a great post, Gail, for pollinator week! It’s such a good thing to encourage folks around planting for pollinators. So difficult to experience the mega house happenings in your neighborhood, not to mention the insect-free lawns.

  5. I'm hoping the school system gradually impresses kids about the value of pollinators so maybe they'll educate their parents! Or am I dreaming? Lovely post.

  6. I'm doing my best to provide for the pollinators and right now, most of my neighbors (I live in a small village in western NY) are now lawn warriors. OTH, the gypsy moth caterpillars have almost completely defoliated the red Norway maple in front of my house, so it's hard to feel sympathy for them.

  7. Excellent post. Sorry that the trend in your neighborhood is not in a good direction. Here developments are mixed. A few houses are getting rebuilt as mcmansions but others are removing lawn and replacing it with gardens, often with native plants.

  8. Wonderful post Gail. I'm fortunate because none of my neighbors spray anything either. I even appreciate the red wasps who hunt caterpillars. I find it fascinating to watch these days. As you know, I don't care as much about the plants as I do the creatures who visit. Excluding Japanese beetles which I have now found in my garden. I knock them in soapy water everyday, and I've noticed they visit the same roses over and over. I'm sure it's pheromone trails they follow. Anyway, much love to you and a wonderful, informative post. ~~Dee

  9. I love this post Gail, you know how I feel about attracting pollinators, especially butterflies.

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"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson