One of the key initiatives of GatE is to support pollinating insects and more generally to increase biodiversity in our gardens. There are a variety of ways we can do this.

Plants for pollinators

The table below is an initial list of garden plants which are good for pollinating insects, drawn from the RHS Garden Plants for Pollinators. Plants marked with N are natives; HP stands for Herbaceous perennial.

Latin nameCommon nameTypeFlowers
Achillea ptarmicasneezewortHPJun-Aug
Achillea speciesyarrowHPJun-Aug
Aquilegia speciescolumbineHPJun-Aug
Calamintha nepetalesser calamintHPJun-AugN
Campanula glomerataclustered bellflowerHPJun-AugN
Centaurea scabiosagreater knapweedHPJun-AugN
Coreopsis speciestickseedHP or AnnualJun-Aug
Digitalis speciesfoxgloveBiennialJun-Aug
Echinacea purpureapurple coneflowerHPJun-Aug
Echinops speciesglobe thistleHPJun-Aug
Eranthis hyemaliswinter aconiteBulbNov-Feb
Galanthus nivaliscommon snowdropBulbNov-Feb
Geranium pratensemeadow cranesbillHPJun-AugN
Hebe specieshebeShrubMar-May
Heliotropium arborescenscommon heliotropeAnnualJun-Aug
Helleborus species and hybridshellebore (spring-flowering)ShrubMar-May
Helleborus species and hybridshellebore (winter-flowering)HPNov-Feb
Hyssopus officinalishyssopShrubJun-Aug
Knautia arvensisfield scabiousHPJun-AugN
Knautia macedonicaMacedonian scabiousHPJun-Aug
Lavandula angustifoliaEnglish lavenderShrubJun-Aug
Lavandula stoechasFrench lavenderShrubJun-Aug
Origanum vulgare oregano, wild marjoramHPJun-AugN
Pulmonaria specieslungwortHPMar-May
Salvia speciessageAnnual or HPJun-Aug
Scabiosa speciesscabiousAnnual or HPJun-Aug
Symphyotrichum species and hybridsMichaelmas daisyHPSep-Oct
Verbena bonariensispurple topHPJun-Aug

Annie’s Favourites

The following list was drawn up by Annie and provides a more personal view on some of the plants listed above.

Achillea (Yarrow)

Achillea millefolium, is the British native species with pretty white flower heads, held in flat clusters surrounded by feathery foliage. A reasonably tall plant, there are many Achillea cultivars. Flower colours range through yellow, pink and bronze; for example, Achillea ‘cloth of gold’. Butterflies and hoverflies like the flat flower heads of Achillea.

Aquilegia (Columbine)

A cottage garden favourite as well as a pollinators’ favourite! Whites, pinks, purples and even yellow flowers are possible, as are bi-coloured forms. Aquilegia will suit most garden styles except the very modern or Japanese gardens.

Centaurea (Knapweed)

Centaurea flower

There are different types, varieties and cultivars, all popular with bees, pollinating wasps and butterflies. Most respond to being cut back as the flowers die by producing fresh growth and masses more flowers. One of the National Collections of Centaurea is held by Special Perennials in Cheshire. Centaurea dealbata has bronze buds open into deep rose pink cornflowers. Centaurea montana — also known as perennial cornflower — is usually found with blue flowers. But there are also white and purple varieties; the delightful Centaurea montana ‘purple heart’ has white outer petals surrounding a purple centre.

Coreopsis (Tickseed)

Coreopsis flower

Much loved by butterflies, flowers may be yellow /white or right yellow, all with fine, feathery foliage. A very long flowering period and general cheerful manner makes them an easy maintenance choice for those who also want to help pollinating insects.

Echinops (Globe thistle)

Echinops plant

This is a wonderful architectural plant with varieties large and small. The seed heads are a further bonus for you and the garden birds. Personally, I find Echinops fascinating in bud, in flower and in seed, adding interest to the flower border in all stages.


Geranium flower

Geranium, with its open flowers — but not all carry good supplies of nectar. Those that do are Geranium pratense, the meadow cranesbill. Blue / purple flowers are scattered over large clumps of soft green foliage; Geranium ‘Ann Folkard’ with magenta pink petals and a black centre.; Geranium sanguineum, a smaller leaved geranium perhaps offers better ground cover for a smaller garden. Pale pink, bright pink and white flowers from sanguineum.

Knautia macedonica

Also known as Macedonian scabious, and Scabiosa rumelica, the Knautia has similar flower heads to Scabiosa. Knautia ‘red knight’ has a bright red flower which sings at you on rainy summer days. Knautia are good for human interest as they have a long flowering period; and good for pollinating insects for the same reason!

Nepeta (Catnip)

Plants which are mainly silver leaved with blue / lilac / purple flowers. Nepeta ‘kit kat’ is one of the dwarf varieties. Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ is larger and more sprawling.

Salvia (Sage)

The herbaceous salvias, such as Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna’, a particular favourite with its royal purple flower spikes held on red-black stems. Salvia nemerosa are also known as Balkan clary sage, and all have mildly aromatic foliage.


Scabiosa or pin cushion flower. Pin cushion heads of flowers in white, pale pink and blue, dark red and purple can lend themselves to cottage garden and contemporary garden styles, Scabiosa ‘Chile black’ is highly dramatic.


Make a home for solitary bees in your garden


See more info and resources for pollinators on the GatE Resources Page.

How will this help with the climate crisis?

The best way to restore natural habitats to help fight global warming is through natural regeneration from seeds, and for that we need pollinators.

Jeff Ollerton, 2021

Drawing down carbon from the atmosphere and sequestering it requires multiple approaches; there is no single solution. Without pollinators as allies, reversing the effects of climate change will be much harder.

Jeff Ollerton, 2021

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top