3 Easy-to-Grow Annuals Pollinators Will Love

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As we look toward warmer weather and the gardening itch returns, it’s time to plan ahead for the coming season.

Planting flowers and plants to attract bees and butterflies has been a popular trend, and with minimal effort on your part, you can be on that cutting edge with these three annuals.

These North American native plants can be sown directly outdoors in the Indiana garden once the weather warms up. Alternatively, the seeds can be started indoors about six weeks before planting outdoors. Seed packets give lots of information to guide this process.

Or, perhaps the easiest method is to buy plants at the garden center. No matter the method you choose, the pollinators will love you for planting their favorites.


There are two types of cosmos popular among DIYers and gardeners. Sulfur cosmos are compact with orange or yellow flowers, similar to a marigold. Garden cosmos resemble a daisy-type flower. There are many varieties of garden cosmos, including some that easily grow up to 4 feet tall. The flowers are in the pink and white range, some with stripes and picotee (a term for flowers whose edge is a different color than the flower’s base color).


Grow cosmos in full sun and don’t fertilize them – too much fertilizer will stall flower production. Water as needed. Snipping off spent flowers will keep cosmos growing through the summer. Select garden cosmos for color and height.

Because of their long period of flowers, sulfur cosmos and some shorter garden cosmos varieties do well in summer containers. Several cosmos have been named All-America Selections (AAS), which means they performed well in trial gardens throughout the United States and Canada.

See more: Bring Butterflies to Your Garden


Marigolds have popped up on the comeback kid chart. Popular a couple of decades ago, marigolds are now back in demand. Many of the varieties have been improved with larger flowers and taller, well-formed plants that bloom all summer until there’s a hard freeze.


Marigolds are gold, yellow, reddish-bronze or bicolor. Short ones are perfect for tucking in pots or forming a flower-bed border, while tall ones work well as a cut flower. Grow marigolds in full sun and water regularly. Remove spent flowers to keep the plants blooming. Many gardeners save the seeds from the spent flowers to plant the following year.

Big Duck Gold marigold is an outstanding, garden-worthy 2019 All-America Selection. This bicolor Super Hero Spry marigold was named an AAS winner in 2018, which means the plants performed well in trial gardens throughout the United States and Canada.


Probably the best-known summer annual is zinnia, which seems to scream the season. Appreciated for flowers with different shapes and colors, zinnias are a mainstay for cutting for indoor enjoyment.

Grow zinnias in full sun, watering regularly to keep the plants blooming. Removing spent flowers will also help maintain full blooms. Queeny Lime Orange zinnia was a 2018 AAS winner that is very popular with gardeners because of the lovely color and form of the dahlia-like flower.


Some of the best varieties are available only as seeds, so explore the seed racks at garden centers or scout online retailers.

Zinnia is a great starter plant for children because it’s an absolute draw for butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. The kids can pick out the colors they like and sow the seeds or plant a transplant, watch it grow and enjoy the pollinators that land on their flowers. The National Garden Bureau offers great tips to help children grow a butterfly garden.

If there’s a drawback to zinnias, it’s their susceptibility to fungus disease on the leaves. Look for varieties labeled as disease-resistant if that concerns you.

See more: How To Avoid Gardening Mistakes

About the Author

Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp is a five-star-rated speaker at greatgardenspeakers.com. She’s president of Garden Communicators International and blogs at hoosiergardener.com. Sign up for her free, monthly newsletter at http://eepurl.com/gkfb91.

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