Native Plants for Pollinators

Why use native plants in your garden?

Pollinators have evolved with native plants, which are best adapted to the local growing season, climate, and soils.  Most pollinators feed on specific plant species —hummingbirds sip nectar from long, tubular honeysuckle flowers, while green sweat bees prefer more open-faced sunflowers.  Non-native plants may not provide pollinators with enough nectar or pollen, or may be inedible to butterfly or moth caterpillars.  Butterflies need specific native plants — host plants — to feed their caterpillar stage of life.

Based on both research and home gardener experience, CHAPP recommends the following native flowering plants for the Tennessee Valley.  These plants are easy to grow in most sunny to part shade gardens and are becoming more widely available at nurseries.  (Click here for a downloadable PDF.)  Make sure you ask whether the plants you are buying have been treated with pesticides!  If you can’t get a clear answer, buy your plants elsewhere.

Bloom Period Common Name Scientific Name Flower Color Max Height (feet) Notes
Perennials
Early Golden Alexander Zizia aurea yellow 3 Black Swallowtail butterfly host plant
Eastern Columbine Aquilegia canadensis red-yellow 3
Early-Mid White Beardtongue Penstemon digitalis white 3 Other native penstemons as well
Lanceleaf Coreopsis Coreopsis lanceolata yellow 3 Drought tolerant
Butterfly Milkweed Asclepias tuberosa orange 3 Monarch butterfly host plant
Mid Coneflowers Echinacea spp pink-purple 3 Purple, Pale, Tennessee coneflowers
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia spp yellow-orange 3 Many native species of different forms and sizes
Wild bergamot Monarda fistulosa lavender-purple 4 Other native beebalms as well
Joe Pyeweed Eutrochium spp pink-purple 8 Many native species of different forms and sizes
Anise hyssop Agastache foeniculum lavender-white 3
Mid-Late Sunflowers Helianthus spp yellow 8 Many native species of different forms and sizes
Narrowleaf Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum tenuifolium white 3 Not as aggressive spreader as other mints
Ironweed Vernonia altissima magenta 8
New England Aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliase blue 4
Goldenrods Solidago spp. yellow 8 Many native species of different forms and sizes
Late Aromatic Aster Symphyotrichum oblongifolium blue 3
Frostweed Verbesina virginica white 6
Shrubs, Vines and Trees
Early Eastern Redbud Cercis canadensis pink 3
Coral honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens red vine Long-blooming
Early-Mid Blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum white 12
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus white 3
Pasture rose Rosa carolina pink 3
Mid-Late Buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis white 12
Passionflower vine/Maypop Passiflora incarnata purple vine Gulf fritillary butterfly host plant