Full sun pollinator garden

Asked May 22, 2020, 9:10 PM EDT

I'm interested in creating a bee/pollinator garden in a full sun area. I live in Somerset, pa. What native plants would be best to include?

Somerset County Pennsylvania

1 Response

Thank you for your question. Here is a list from the Penn State website - happy gardening:

Attract Beneficial Insects to Your Garden Using these Amazing Native Pollinator Plants!

A diverse population of insects is crucial for the health and productivity of vegetable and ornamental gardens. You can help these beneficial insects find their way to your garden by planting their favorite native pollinator plants.

Amazing Pollinator Plants

Amazing Pollinator Plants

Try using plants from these native plant groups. They attract a diversity of insects including pollinators and beneficial predatory insects which help provide natural pest control for your vegetable or ornamental plantings. Avoid using pesticides in your garden whenever possible because pesticides not only kill the problem pest, but beneficial insects and pollinators are also harmed. These plants are some of the top performers in on going Penn State Extension SEARAC pollinator plant trials.

Blazing Star

Liatris (Bloom Time: August-September) Small rosy purple flower heads bloom from top to bottom and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Plants have grass-like leaves and tend to be drought tolerant. Some to try:

  • Appalachian blazing star, Liatris microcephala prefers average to dry, well-drained, slightly acidic soil in full sun.
  • Scaly blazing star, Liatris squarosa prefers normal to dry soils in full sun. Height 1-2 feet.
  • Meadow blazing star, Liatris ligulistylis is easily grown in dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun. Height 2-5 feet.
  • Dense blazing star, Liatris spicata prefers average to moist, organically rich soils in full to part sun.Height 3-5 feet.


Asclepias (Bloom time: June-July) Many species of butterflies, nocturnal moths and bees seek the floral nectar of milkweeds. The leaves provide the only source of food for monarch butterfly larvae. Plants are usually deer resistant.

  • Butterfly weed, Asclepias tuberosa is an easy to grow sun loving plant for well drained or dry soils with clusters of bright orange flowers.Height 2 feet.
  • Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca with clusters of fragrant pink flowers, grows best in full sun and average to well-drained or dry soils. Can spread via rhizomes. Height 3-5 feet.
  • Swamp milkweed, Asclepias incarnata with clusters of pink flowers, prefers consistently moist soil, but performs admirably in average well-drained gardens as well. Full sun is best and some shade is tolerated. Height 3-5 feet.
  • Whorled milkweed, Asclepias verticillata has fine, needle-like foliage and fragrant white flowers from mid-summer into early fall. It is a great late season food for monarch caterpillars. Best located in a sunny dry spot, it will tolerate average to moist garden soil as well.

Mountain Mint

Pycnanthemum (Bloom Time: August-September) Tops in the Pollinator Trials at SEARAC! Pinkish-white flowers with silver bracts attract honeybees, butterflies, beneficial wasps, and moths. Aromatic flowers and leaves are deer resistant. Some to try:

  • Short-toothed mountain mint, Pycnanthemum muticum does best in sunny or partly shaded sites with moist well drained average soil.
  • Appalachian mountain mint, Pycnanthemum flexuosum is clump forming, and slow to spread.
  • Hoary mountain mint, Pycnanthemum incanum thrives in sunny acidic sites with rocky, gravelly or sandy soil forming colonies via shallow rhizomes and reaching up to 4 feet tall.
  • Narrow leaf mountain mint, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium grows well in average, dry to medium, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade.


Solidago (Bloom Time: August-November) Golden wands of yellow flowers attract butterflies, bees, beneficial wasps, syrphid flies, tachinid flies, and soldier beetles. Goldenrod is deer resistant and drought tolerant. Contrary to popular folklore, goldenrod does not cause hay fever. Goldenrods provide valuable nectar for monarch butterflies during their fall migration. There’s a goldenrod for almost every garden condition. Most are clump-forming and do not spread aggressively. Some to try:

  • Zig-zag goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis is a 3 foot goldenrod that can handle dry partial shade.
  • Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’ is a 3-4 foot goldenrod for moist well-drained soils in full sun to part shade.
  • Stiff goldenrod, Solidago rigida reaches 5 feet tall and does well in sunny average to dry sites.
  • Bluestem goldenrod, Solidago caesia is a 3 foot goldenrod for dry full or partial shade.
  • Solidago sphacelata 'Golden Fleece’ is another short goldenrod for full sun and average moisture.
  • Gray goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis is a short goldenrod for sunny dry locations that spreads via rhizomes.

Bee balm

Monarda (Bloom Time: June-August) Beautiful tubular flowers of beebalm are adored by butterflies, clearwing moths and hummingbirds as well as bees, beneficial wasps, beetles, and bee flies. It is a host plant for the Hermit Sphinx Moth. Fragrant minty foliage is deer resistant. Most may form colonies via shallow rhizomes. Some to try:

  • Wild bergamot, Monarda fistulosa has showy clusters of lavender flowers reaching up to 4.5 feet tall. It is best grown in full sun.
  • Scarlet bee balm, Monarda didyma has red flowers preferred by hummingbirds. Grow in sun or part sun in average to moist sites.
  • Spotted horsemint, Monarda punctata is a pollinator magnet! Stacks of pink bracts and white flowers with purple spots are unique. Plant in dry to average soil in full sun.
  • Eastern bee balm, Monarda bradburiana is a shorter beebalm whose pinkish flowers sport purple dots. Prefers average to dry soils in full sun to part shade.
  • Monarda x Peter’s Fancy Fuchsia’ blooms vigorously with bright fuchsia pink flowers that pollinators can’t miss! Best in full sun with moist fertile soil.

Rattlesnake Master

Eryngium yuccifolium (Bloom Time: June-September) A unique and striking plant reaching up to 5 feet tall, rattlesnake master’s fragrant showy rounded flower orbs provide abundant nectar for beneficial wasps, bees, butterflies, and beetles. Stiff sword shaped leaves are deer resistant and add winter interest. It is best grown in full sun in moist to dry soil.

Native Sunflowers

Helianthus (Bloom time: July-October) Topped with clusters of yellow 2-3” daisy like flowers from mid-summer until fall, native sunflowers attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Give these upright rhizomatous perennial wildflowers some space to form colonies. Helianthus are a host plant for the Silvery Checkerspot butterfly. Some to try:

  • Swamp sunflower, Helianthus angustifolius is easy to grow in sunny sites with acidic moist or wet soil. Height to 6 feet.
  • Ten petaled sunflower, Helianthus decapetalus is easy to grow in sun to part shade with evenly moist soil. Height to 5 feet.
  • Woodland sunflower, Helianthus divaricatus grows well in average or dry soils in part sun or part shade. Height to 6 feet.
  • Small woodland sunflower Helianthus microcephalus thrives in part sun to part shade with moist well drained acidic soil. Height 4-6 feet. Flowers about 1” across.

Joe Pye

Eutrochium (Bloom Time: July-September) Large dome shaped heads of mauve-pink flowers on tall plants attract butterflies like CRAZY! Bees, wasps, flies, and moths also visit. All Joe Pye prefer sunny moist sites. Plants can become quite large and almost shrubby. Some to try:

  • Joe pye weed, Eutrochium fistulosum at up to 8’-10’ tall with whorled leaves are majestic in the garden.
  • Eutrochium maculatum 'Gateway' has wine red stems and huge flower heads up to 18’ across. This 6 foot tall Joe pye is a showstopper.
  • Sweet Joe pye, Eutrochium purpureum has sweetly scented rose-pink flower heads. It is the most shade and drought tolerant of the Joe pyes.
  • Coastal plain Joe pye, Eutrochium dubium is a shorter Joe pye, at up to 5 feet tall. It is tolerant of light shade.


Eupatorium hyssopifolium (Bloom Time: August-October) Is a vase shaped perennial with clouds of tiny white flowers and narrow gray-green leaves that attract butterflies, skippers, moths, and bees.


Symphyotrichum (Bloom Time: August-October) Violet, blue, or white flowers on arching stems provide nectar and pollen to bees, butterflies, bee flies, syrphid flies, and soldier beetles. Some asters host caterpillars of the Pearl Crescent Butterfly and several species of moths. Aster flowers supply critical late season nectar for pollinators, including migrating Monarch butterflies.

  • Smooth aster, Symphyotrichum laeve ‘Bluebird’ grows best in full sun and average to dry soil. Loose clusters of flowers with violet blue rays and yellow centers cover this robust 3 foot tall smooth aster selection in a profuse Sept-Oct bloom.
  • New York aster, S. novi-belgii is a clump forming perennial with sprays of purple flowers. It grows 3-5 feet tall in full sun in average to moist soil.
  • New England aster, S. novae-angliae is a showy clump forming aster reaching 4-6 feet with large purple flowers. It is best grown in full sun in average to moist soil.
  • Blue wood aster, S. cordifolium is well suited to full or partial shade. Blue flowers with yellow centers bloom on plants 2-3 feet tall.
  • Aromatic aster, S. oblongifolius flowers prolifically into October or even November with clouds of sky blue flowers.
  • White wood aster, Eurybia divaricata is 1-2 feet tall with clusters of delicate flowers that have yellow centers and white rays.

Leave your garden perennials standing over the winter. Resist the urge to clean up too much in the fall. Seed heads attract songbirds. Many beneficial insects over winter in standing stems and some butterfly larvae over winter in leaf litter.


  • Pollinators of Native Plants by Heather Holm, Publisher: Pollination Press LLC; 1st edition (January 1, 2014)
  • SEARAC Bees, Bugs, Blooms pollinator trial, 2012-2014
  • North Creek Nurseries, Inc. 388 N Creek Rd, Landenberg, PA 19350
  • New Moon Nursery, LLC 975 Barretts Run Rd, Bridgeton, NJ 08302

Contact Information

  • Consumer Horticulture Educator
Phone: 717-840-7408