Recommended Plants

Host Plants

Fennel caterpillar Host plants – Including plants in gardens to host insects is just as important as providing pollen and nectar. Without host plants in the landscape, butterflies and moths have nowhere to rear their young. Sometimes, a single plant species hosts a single insect species, as is the case with monarchs and milkweed. Other plants, however, can serve as host to multiple insect species, and vice versa.

These associations have evolved over millions of years, and almost always occur between native plants and butterflies. The  increased use of land for farming and development and the spread of invasive exotic plants have diminished the diversity and populations of native plants. This has put a tremendous amount of pressure on pollinators. By including host plants in your garden, you will provide the means for generations of butterflies and moths.


Tall VerbenaPerennials – Flowering perennials that return year after year are great plants for pollinators. The primary importance of perennials is to provide nectar and pollen, though some are also good host plants. Most perennials bloom for short periods of time so it’s a good idea to include perennials that bloom at different times during the season in your garden.


Pipeline swallowtail on zinniaAnnuals – The importance of continuous bloom is where annuals, which live for just one year, come in. Designing with perennials alone can leave a gardener struggling for constant bloom. Good nectar-providing annuals can assure food for pollinators from May to a hard frost, and they are heavy bloomers. Moreover, annuals can be planted in places other plants can’t go like containers, baskets, and window boxes. With annuals, any patio, balcony, windowsill, or courtyard can become pollinator habitat.

Trees and shrubs

Flowering cherryTrees and shrubs – Woody plants are the true multi-taskers of the garden. They provide great habitat for pollinators, particularly for early foragers as they tend to bloom in early spring.  Many trees and shrubs also host important butterfly and moth caterpillars.

Pollinator-friendly Plants

Spring-Blooming Plants
Spring-Blooming Plants pdf
Summer-Blooming Plants
Summer-Blooming Plants pdf
Fall-Blooming Plants
Fall-Blooming Plants pdf

For additional information on each recommended plant, including sun requirements, deer resistance, size, and more, check out this Detailed Plant Guide to choose what plants are best for your growing conditions.

Native Plant Sales

Native plant sale Bowyer FarmSponsored by the Klosterman Baking Company and located at the Zoo’s Bowyer Farm (2210 Mason Montgomery Road, Lebanon, OH), the Zoo’s native plant sales offer a wide selection of reasonably priced, well-grown, hard to find, and ecologically important native plants to add to your garden or landscape.

Bowyer Farm: 2210 N Mason Montgomery Rd

More information on native plant sales

Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators Brand

To make it even easier for people to choose the best pollinator plants, we have established a Zoo-approved and branded selection of plants. This Zoo’s Best Plants for Pollinators line is grown by two local growers and sold at many local, independent garden centers in our region. A portion of every sale comes back to the Zoo to support our plant trialing program. Access the current list of participating garden centers here.