Pollinator-Friendly Plants of the Pacific Northwest

Native plants are a great choice for landscaping because they support the indigenous pollinators in your area. They also require less maintenance because they’ve naturally adapted to the local environment.

As weed-free, highly-manicured lawns with exotic flowers become popular , adding native plants to provide food for pollinators like bees, butterflies and birds is more important than ever.

Get your garden started with shrubs and flowers that are native to the Pacific Northwest.

Flowers

Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris ssp. Lanceolate)

Selfheal (also called Allheal) is a small, low-growing purple flower. It is part of the mint family, but it doesn’t bare any resemblance in appearance or scent. Selfheal is seen as a weed by some home owners, but think twice before removing them - plants like Selfheal, clover and dandelions are the main food source for bees in urban areas.

Common Camas (Camassia quamash)

Camas is a blue flower in the herb family. Its stem and leaves grow thin and tall, resembling grass. By early summer their blue star shaped flowers are in full bloom, attracting a variety of pollinators. Start your Camas from bulbs and you’ll have a plant that will grow back year after year.

Large-Flowered Collomia (Collomia grandiflora)

Large-flowered collomia is a showy annual wildflower native to the Pacific Northwest. Collomia typically grows in meadows and lightly wooded areas where the soil is dry, making it a great choice for landscapes in drought prone areas. The collomia’s flowers offer a mid-summer display; bold trumpet-shaped flowers in colors from white to salmon bloom in large clusters that can’t be missed. Bees flock to these flowers and pick up their blue pollen!

Big Leaf Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus)

Big leaf lupine is a flowering perennial with blue and purple flowers that attract bumblebees. It grows naturally along river banks and prefers damp, light soil and modest sunlight. .

Meadow Checkermallow (Sidalcea campestris)

Meadow checkermallow is an uncommon native wildflower and is on the conservation concern list for the State of Oregon. The white and pink blossoms atop 4 - 5 ft. tall, slender stems bloom in midsummer. Meadow checkermallow are most commonly found in meadows as their name implies, where they have access to plenty of sunlight and moderately moist soil. This important pollinator attracts native bees, beetles, butterflies and other pollinators.. In fact, meadow checkermallow is the main nectar source for the endangered native Fender’s blue butterfly and native Diadasia nigrifrons bee

 
 

Trees and Shrubs

Vine Maple (Acer circinatum)

Vine maples are typically found within 200 miles of the Pacific Ocean, where temperatures are mild and shade is abundant. Most develop into a large shrub, but some grow into small-to-medium sized trees. Their leaves are light green throughout spring and summer before turning yellow and orange in the fall. The plant’s small flowers attract bees and a butterflies, specifically the Western tiger swallowtail.

Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)

Oregon’s state flower - the Oregon grape, is an evergreen shrub with holly like leaves. In spring Oregon grapes bloom with clusters of small yellow flowers, attracting mason and bumble bees. By summer yellow flowers turn to dark blue berries which are edible, however eat at your own risk - Oregon grape berries are extremely tart!

Nootka Rose (Rosa nutkana)

Named after the Nootka Sound in British Columbia where the plant was first documented, the Nootka rose is a common flowering shrub with a mild cinnamon scent. This fast growing plant is able to withstand a wide variety of soil conditions – from seasonal flooding to extended periods of drought. When in bloom the Nootka rose’s leaves are decorated with delicate pink flowers, attracting a variety of pollinators and leafcutter bees who use the shrub for nesting material.

Douglas’ Spirea (Spiraea douglasii)

Douglas’ spirea (also known as Hardhark and Rose Spirea) is a flowering shrub in the rose family. Douglas’ spirea grows to be a medium sized shrub (4 to 6 ft tall) doing best in areas with moist soil and full to part shade. In the summer months, it blooms with clustered pink flowers that attract bumble bees.

Blue Blossom (Canthus thyrsiflorus)

Blue blossom is an evergreen flowering shrub native to the northern California and southern Oregon coast. This fast growing plant varies greatly in size; average height is 12 ft., but when left free to grow in ideal conditions heights can exceed 18 ft.! Blue blossom’s light blue flower clusters attract humming birds, bees and specifically hosts the pale tiger swallowtail butterfly.  

 
 

Native Annual Pollinators

Annual pollinator-friendly plants add an additional pop to your garden that you can change year to year. Try planting several varieties in a raised bed or planter to create your own mini pollinator garden!

Sunflower (Helianthus)

Sunflowers are a great choice for pollinators as their tall, large, bright blooms attract bees and butterflies. They also attract a variety of birds due to their abundance of nutritious seeds. Plant sunflower seeds in an area that gets full sun when temperatures start to warm up in the spring. Sunflowers are a great choice for gardens in hot, dry climates, as many varieties are heat and drought tolerant. 

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)

Nasturtiums are fast growing trailing flowers. Similar to cosmos, they establish easily from seed and can grow in a variety of places and soil conditions, preferring poorer soil. Their yellow, red and orange blossoms continue to bloom late in the year, making them a great feeding source for bees throughout summer and into fall.

Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)

Cosmos are a versatile flower capable of growing in a variety of containers, garden beds and in varying soil conditions (including poor soil). They grow best when planted in full sun, and are easy to establish by seed. Their daisy like flowers come in a spectrum of colors attracting birds, bees and butterflies.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed susans are one of the most popular wildflowers native to North America. With their daisy-like structure, golden petals and deep purple/brown center, it’s easy to tell their close relation to the sunflower. Black-eyed susans thrive in a variety of locations and conditions, making them easy to grow. Blooming from June through October, their flowers provide bees with food well into the fall. 

 
 

Plant Care

Native plants require less watering and fewer chemicals – and are resistant to pests and diseases. While they don’t need added fertilizer, many gardeners use Clean Water Grow Rose & Flower Food to establish new native plants. It supports vibrant and hearty blooms that can help attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

A Happy, Humming Garden

Support your local pollinators by incorporating native plants in your garden or landscaping this year. You’ll enjoy less maintenance, and your yard will be humming with activity all season long!

If you live outside the Pacific Northwest but still want to plant pollinator friendly plants, head over to Xerces Society and select your local region.

Arbor Fessler