7 Hardy Pollinator Plants That Thrive in Punishing Conditions


These seven hardy pollinator plants can tolerate wind, heat, full sun and very well-drained soil without supplemental watering.

In An Urban Rooftop Garden for Pollinators, Hayden Regina writes:

“Standouts such as Calamint (Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta, Zones 5–7), ‘Onyx and Pearls’ penstemon (Penstemon digitalis ‘Onyx and Pearls’, Zones 3-8), and ‘Drops of Jupiter’ oregano (Origanum drops ) of Jupiter’, zones 4–9) were grown for their durability during the growing season and the bees’ obsession with them.

If they can survive on the roof, imagine how well they can do in slightly better conditions.

Hardy pollinator plants


‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder’ thistle

Photo: millettephotomedia.com

Name: Circum Revolver ‘Trevor’s Blue Wonder’

Zones: 5-8

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide

Conditions: full sun; Moist, well-drained soil

Local Range: Europe

Although calling its flowers “blue” is a stretch, this cersium has become our favorite rebloomer, and the bees love it as much as we do. It has fine architectural foliage and seed structure, although it is non-spiny and does not reproduce.


Winter Aconite

Winter Aconite
Photo: millettephotomedia.com

Name: Eranthes hymalus

Zones: 3–7

Size: 4 to 6 inches long and wide

Conditions: full sun to partial shade; Moist, well-drained soil

Local Range: Europe

Our pollinator friends arrive early in search of food, and I knew from my time at Fernwood Botanical Garden that aconite is a spring favorite that beats all other flowers to the punch. This small spring bulb looks good in any condition and spreads well year after year.


‘Pearl and Pearl’ Penstemon

Agate and pearl penstemon
Photo: Daniel Sherry

Name: Penstemon Digital ‘Salmons and Pearls’

Zones: 3–8

Size: 36 to 42 inches tall and wide

Conditions: full sun to partial shade; Moist, well-drained soil

Local Range: North America

The beautiful white flowers of spring, the beautiful texture of summer seeds, and the fiery color of fall are inspired by the extreme drought tolerance and hardiness of this plant.


Calament

Calament
Photo: Michelle Gervais

Name: Calamintha nepeta subsp nepeta

Zones: 5-7

Size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: full sun; Moist, well-drained soil

Local Range: Mediterranean region, Europe

This is an oldie but a goodie. I’m not sure any garden is complete without a disaster. I first fell in love with it at Lowry Garden. Clouds of white flowers form from early summer until frost.


Carthusian Pincus

Carthusian Pincus
Photo: Michelle Gervais

Name: Dianthus carthusianorum

Zones: 4-8

Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and 1 to 2 feet wide

Conditions: full sun; Well-drained soil

Local Range: Europe

This dianthus became a butterfly favorite on the terrace, and what I like about the plant overall is that the leaves read like grass. Lyrically it gets lost in the mix, but Bloom dances above the rest of the matrix.


‘Caradona’ Salvia

Caradona salvia
Photo: Daniel Sherry

Name: Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradona’

Zones: 4-8

Size: 1 to 2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: full sun; Moist, well-drained soil

Local Range: Europe, West Central Asia

This salvia’s dark stems and upright habit are hard to beat and perfect for my limited space. With a mid-season haircut, it often produces a second round of flowers, always appreciated by resident pollen collectors.


‘Drops of Jupiter’ oregano

'Drops of Jupiter' oregano
‘Drops of Jupiter’ oregano. Photo courtesy of Walters Gardens.

Name: Origanum ‘Drops of Jupiter’

Zones: 4-9

Size: 2 feet long and 3 feet wide

Conditions: full sun; Moist, well-drained soil

Local Range: Europe, West Central Asia

This ornamental herb looks as beautiful as it smells. ‘Drops of Jupiter’ features bright yellow chartreuse leaves when planted in direct sun, and flowers that bloom from mid-summer to early fall. Even after flowering, the purple calyxes offer a moody contrast to the bright foliage. You’re sure to love this plant as much as the bees and butterflies do.

Learn more about pollinator care with plants:

Pollinator’s Favorite Nectar Plants

7 Important Host Plants for Pollinators

Simple Ways to Help Pollinators


Hayden Regina is a landscape architect and planting designer in Chicago.

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