Tagawa Gardens Blog

Plants pollinators can’t resist in your Colorado garden

Gardening for pollinators is a bit like good relations in our own families:  feed them, and they will come.

And since June is National Perennial Gardening month, this seemed like the perfect time to think about our pollinator friends…. especially the bees, and the butterflies, too.  There’s a long list of pollinator-friendly perennials that can thrive in Colorado gardens.  Let’s look at a few of my personal favorites.

Bee on a Gaillardia, Tagawa Gardens, Denver

I be a beekeeper, and garden with “the girls” in mind

For the record, unless you’re a beekeeper, as I am, all of the honey bees you’re likely to see will be females…“worker bees.”  Quite simply, they do all of the work to support the job of the queen and the colony as a whole, including collecting nectar and pollen.  (Perhaps we can talk about “the guys” another time…)

When I refer to “the girls,” I mean the long-laboring ladies of the hive who spend their short lives looking for the best flowers they can find… the flowers with the most nutritious nectar and pollen.

Remember that Colorado has hundreds of species of wild bees, too.  Big ones like the wonderfully-bumbling bumble bees…. and tiny ones that don’t look like bees at all.  And they all have a job to do.

So let’s give them what they need by planting their favorite perennials!

Bee on a Coneflower, Tagawa Gardens, Denver

An even dozen for “the girls”

Here are twelve perennials that work for me and my “girls.”  Bigger bees need bigger blossoms.  Tiny bees are good at working remarkably little flowers that often appear in clusters.

Here we go.

Agastache (a.k.a. Hyssop) – A large family of plants with flowers in a variety of colors; “Carolyn’s Hope” offers beautiful, vibrant pink trumped-shaped flowers with white throats; also attracts hummingbirds

Beebalm (a.k.a. Monarda) — Lots of flowers that live up to their name; various shades of light and dark pink.

Catmint (a.k.a. Nepeta) — Always one of my top recommendations; a mound of hundreds of tiny lavender flowers; one vigorous strain also available with white flowers; will re-bloom if the first flush of flowers is trimmed

Cranesbill (a.k.a Wild Geranium) – Sky blue flowers on a loose mound of attractive green foliage; “Rozeann” is my personal favorite

Goldenrod – Graceful, upright and arching branches of tiny bold yellow flowers on the larger varieties; a late-summer favorite of “the girls”

Iris – Elegant, almost exotic blossoms often found in our grandmother’s garden; offer a big serving of pollen in mid- to late-spring; wide range of beautiful colors

Liatris (a.k.a. Gayfeather) – Tall, very upright spikes of very tiny light purple flowers

Penstemon (a.k.a. Beard Tongue) – Trumped-shaped flowers in pinks, purples, blues, reds; lots of blossoms on tall spikes; also attracts hummingbirds

Russian Sage – One tough plant with spikes of pale purple flowers in mid-summer, just when “the girls” needs it; pretty, fuzzy silver foliage; can be invasive

Sedum “Autumn Joy” – A succulent that blooms in late summer with clusters of rich dark rust-colored flowers the bees love

Thyme – Ornamental varieties grown as groundcovers (not intended as an edible) produce flowers so tiny they require a close look to see them; can be covered with bees; “Step-able” varieties planted between flagstone can stand up to light foot traffic

Yarrow – Rounded “bouquets” of very tiny flowers on the end of tall stems; “Moonshine Yellow” is as bright as it sounds; other varieties are pale yellow, dark red, burgundy; a favorite of small, native bees

Perennials that attract butterfly, Tagawa Gardens, Denver

And let’s not forget some treats for the butterflies!

Aster – Beautiful, daisy-like flowers in bold purples, lilacs and pinks; a late-summer treat for the butterflies

Blackeyed Susan (a.k.a. Rudbeckia) – A real workhorse of a flower; yellow daisy-shaped flowers with black centers; makes a great show in large plantings

Butterfly Weed (a.k.a. Asclepias (Milkweed)) – The milkweed that Monarch butterflies depend on, also popular with other butterflies; vibrant orange flowers that are as attractive to us as they are to the their insect visitors

Coneflower (a.k.a. Echinacea) – Large, daisy-shaped flowers with open petals; yellow, orange, pink and burgundy; Purple Coneflower is a long-time favorite

Coreopsis (a.k.a. Tickseed) – A variety of shapes and sizes, bold to delicate yellow, some lavender; “Moonbeam” is a lovely buttery yellow with delicate-looking but sturdy foliage

Gaillardia (a.k.a. Blanket Flower) – Large flowers in combinations of yellow, red and burgundy with dark centers; offer great “landing pads” for the butterflies

Joe Pye Weed – Medium to tall plants with clusters of pink to reddish flowers that the butterflies can’t resist; excellent in large groupings

Shasta Daisy – The original “loves me… loves me not” flower; white or yellow rays leading into a large yellow center; excellent planted in large drifts or groupings

Perennial plants, Tagawa Gardens, Denver

Check out Tagawa Gardens Plant Finder

Pictures, flower traits and growing requirements for all of these plants are available on the Tagawa Gardens Plant Finder on our website. Look for the little plant icon.

Please remember that our plant inventory will vary.  Feel free to call our Perennials Department to ask about the current availability of a particular plant.

I think you’ll find that if you plant for “the girls,” the butterflies and other pollinators, you’ll benefit as much as they do.  Now go have some fun in the garden!

More About Bees and Perennials…

Bee Good to the Bees…


How to Plant Perennials…

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Luan Akin
Luan Akin
Tagawa Gardens Outreach Ambassador

After 30 years as a news reporter for KCNC TV in Denver, Luan Akin was ready for a change. In 2008, she came to Tagawa Gardens and offered to create a brand new position: Garden Outreach Ambassador.

Luan had trained and volunteered as a Douglas County Master Gardener for ten years. In addition to her duties as a news reporter, working primarily out of the Channel 4 News helicopter, Luan also produced and presented a long-running series of stories called “Gardening Together.”

All these years later, Luan now works year ‘round, presenting a variety of gardening and nature-related topics to hundreds of children, HOA’s, gardening clubs, church groups, small businesses and other organizations.

She is an avid gardener, a beekeeper and a proud mom to four dogs who have trained her well.


  1. Pam Wright

    March 15, 2018 - 4:53 pm

    My name is Pam Wright. I am a board member with Colorado Foundation for Agriculture. Colorado Ag in the Classroom Program was started by the CO Depart of Ag in early 1980s. The CDA developed the Colorado Readers as a tool to provide educators with current, accurate information about Colorado agriculture. We publish the readers three times each year and distributed them to about 600 classrooms with a total distribution of 60,000. The Reader I am working on is on Native Plants and their importance to CO ecosystem. Please see our website @ growingyourfuture.com. I would like to have permission to have use your information and pictures regarding plants for pollinators in our next publication. I look forward to your reply. Sincerely,
    Pam Wright
    Water Conservation Specialist
    City of Greeley

    • Luan Akin

      Luan Akin

      April 8, 2018 - 6:56 pm

      Dear Pam,
      I am sorry for the delay, I have been remiss at checking messages here!
      If it is not too late, we would be very honored for you to use our information provided in our blog for your Reader publications, if we could just be given a small credit, that would be great.
      Thank you so much
      Beth Z., Tagawa’s Manager

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