Pollinator Picks: Attract more pollinators by planting what they love

Pollinators prefer specific flowers for a wide variety of reasons, including size, shape, color, and ability to provide food and shelter. Below are a few favorite flowers of pollinators common to Washington – next time you’re at Oxbow, look for them as you explore the forest and farmland trails!


Hummingbirds look for red, orange, purple, pink, and white tubular flowers with an abundance of nectar that they can feed on with their long tongues.

Native favorites: rhododendron, serviceberry, hairy honeysuckle, manzanita, red flowering currant, Cascade columbine, lilies

A hummingbird drinks nectar from a red columbine blossom. (Photo by eyesplash via Flickr Creative Commons)


Bees see flowers that reflect UV light, so you’ll find them frequenting yellow, blue, purple, and sometimes red flowers. There are hundreds of types of bees that come in a variety of sizes and have a range of flower preferences. Small bees, which have short tongues, prefer packed clusters of tiny flowers.

Native favorites: Salal, catmint, bigleaf maple, penstemon, serviceberry, oregon grape, aster, huckleberry, lupine, stonecrop, and many, many more

A bee lands on a Wilcox’s Penstemon bloom. (Photo by Leah Grunzke via Flickr Creative Commons)


Flies can be found visiting green, white/ cream, and dull dark brown or purple flowers. The stinkier, the better. They prefer shallow bowl- or funnel-like shapes.

Native favorites: Pacific dogwood, serviceberry, trillium, swamp lantern

Flies gather on the pungent Swamp Lantern, also known as Western Skunk Cabbage. (Photo by brewbooks via Flickr Creative Commons.)


Butterflies love brightly colored flowers red, purple, orange, yellow, pink, and blue are all fair game. They look for flat-topped flower clusters that offer a stable landing pad before they feed, and also seek out flowers that provide shelter for eggs and food for larvae.

Native favorites: Yarrow, Joe-pye weed, delphinium, rhododendron, red flowering currant, serviceberry, milkweed, lupine, fleabane, salal

A beautiful Puget blue butterfly lands on a cluster of yarrow flowers. (Photo by pictoscribe via Flickr Creative Commons)


Moths visit pale or dull red, purple, pink, or white flowers with ample nectar, particularly ones that open at dusk and emit a strong, sweet smell. They are also known to visit the same flowers that butterflies enjoy during the day, and similarly seek out flowers that provide shelter and food sources for larvae.

Native favorites: fleabane, thistles, camas, rose, serviceberry

A Police car moth on a dogsbane plant. (Photo by the Beaureau of Land Management Oregon & Washington via Flickr)


Beetles prefer dull white or green flowers – particularly ones with strong smells and sturdy petals. They will also visit wide-open flowers and flower clusters.

Native favorites: goldenrod, trillium, Pacific dogwood, aster, rose

A variety of longhorn beetle on a Trillium flower. (Photo by brewbooks via Flickr Creative Commons)

National Pollinator Week is June 21-27, 2021! We’ve been celebrating all month long by sharing about the insects, birds, and mammals that pollinate plants – check out our previous blog post about four common pollinators that might surprise you, and dig into the resources below to learn more about gardening for pollinators in Washington state and beyond.

Learn more

Oxbow’s Online Native Pollinator Plant Guideoxbow pollinator plant guide

A mini-guide to native pollinator plants and a great place to start to get inspiration for your garden or yard. Includes resources for where to purchase plants and seed.

King County Native Plant Guideking county native plant guide

Featuring plants native to Western Washington and native plant gardening tips. Create your own custom plant list, look at gardening plans, native plant ID, and more.

pacific lowlands pollinator plant guideA Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners in the Pacific Lowland Mixed Forest Province 

An excellent downloadable PDF with extensive information specific to our region of the PNW. A great piece to print out and store in a binder for reference.

Pollinator Conservation Resources: Pacific Northwest Region

Region-specific collections of publications, native seed vendors, and other resources to aid in planning, establishing, restoring, and maintaining pollinator habitat. Includes resources for buying bee-safe plants, vendor lists, and much more.

Gardening for Moths

A fascinating read about the wonderful, often misunderstood world of pollinator moths.

12 Plants to Entice Pollinators to Your Garden

An easy-to-read list from our friends at Oregon State University. Includes both native and non-native plants that can boost the pollinator power in your garden