Water-Wise Pollinator Gardens

Water-wise pollinator gardens are a great way to add interest and diversity to the landscape. Water-wise pollinator gardens attract bees, butterflies, moths, flies, beetles,bats, and even hummingbirds. Without pollinators, many of our food crops would not exist.

Many water-wise native and non-native plants can be used in the water-wise pollinator garden to provide nectar and pollen for insects and birds.

Many of these plants have interesting attractive flowers that add beauty to the landscape.  Many annual and perennial herbs are also attractive to bees and other beneficial insects.

Interpretive sign for the Water Wise Pollinator    Garden at Utah State University (USU) Image source: USU Water Wise Garden, Planting for Pollinators

What is Pollination?

When pollinators visit a flower, pollen from the flower anther (male part) is picked up on the pollinator’s body and then transferred to another flower’s stigma (female part) for pollination. If the flower is compatible with the pollen, fertilization occurs and seed is produced. The pollinator uses nectar and pollen for protein and energy.

Western swallowtail butterfly feeding on water-wise Blazing star (Liatris spicata)
Photo credit: Susan Buffler
Sphinx moth feeding on annual nasturtium flower (Nasturtium species)
Photo credit: Susan Buffler

Tips for a Creating a Water-Wise Pollinator Garden

  • Include pollinator plants with a variety of bloom times to ensure that juvenile and adult pollinators have plenty of food throughout the growing season.
  • Choose plants with a variety of colors and flower shapes to attract different kinds of pollinators.
  • Plant native plants that local pollinators are adapted to.
  • Provide water in shallow containers with sloping sides or with gravel, rocks or other structures as resting sites so that insects do not drown.

The links below provide a small sample of the wide variety of water-wise plants that attract pollinators to a water-wise pollinator garden. Note that not all of the following species will perform well in every area. Click on the plant name for more information.

Woody Plants for Water Wise Pollinator Gardens
Herbaceous Perennial Plants for Water Wise Pollinator Gardens
Annual Plants for Water Wise Pollinator Gardens 
Garden Herbs for Water Wise Pollinator Gardens

Please check with the local Cooperative Extension Service for more information on water-wise perennials that attract pollinators. Links to additional resources are listed below.

General Resources:

Using Native Flowering Plants to Attract Beneficial Insects
Identification of Native Bees
Conserving Pollinators: A Primer for Gardeners
USDA NRCS – Plants for Pollinators at the PMC
USDA US Forest Service – Gardening for Pollinators
The Xerxes Society for Invertebrate Conservation – Pollinator Conservation Resource Center
North American Butterfly Association Butterfly Garden and  Habitat Program 
Pollinator Partnership NAPPC

Additional Resources:


Gardening for Native Bees in Utah and Beyond


Iowa – Recommended Plants for Butterflies
Ohio –  Native Landscaping for Birds, Bees, Butterflies, and other Wildlife


Florida – Pollinator gardens attract bees, butterflies, insects galore