by Tim Kane

As Spring rolls along, the sun is higher in the sky and all of us are focused on the coming season with more than a bit of anticipation. This anticipation, known in some circles as spring fever, is very real and more acute the more you love plants and getting to work with them in the early spring garden.

Early native pollinators have their own version of spring fever and are out there during these lengthening days on the hunt for pollen and nectar sources. Just as you yearn and need those first fulfilling, warmish days in the garden, early pollinators have those same wants and needs and are looking to your yard to provide them with these needs. Is your yard ready??

Many of us think about pollinator activity later in the spring, summer and but tend to forget that early pollen providing plants are also many of the same plants supporting the life cycles of so many native birds, bees and butterflies. Let’s take a look at a few great American Beauties Native Plants® that are essential plants for early pollinators and will add early pollinator power and beauty to your landscape.


No early pollinator supporting garden would be complete without a selection of great perennials. Their bloom is the perfect landscape enhancement for a laundry list of native bees along with a who’s who of early native butterflies and, of course, hummingbirds. Let’s look at a few for your home.

Phlox divaricata - woodland phlox

Woodland phlox is an essential early pollinator supporting perennial and, also, one of the most useful perennials for semi-wooded areas. It loves to spread and tumble over rocks and other woodland features, tolerates moist areas and bursts into showy blue to purple colored bloom in April much to the delight of native bees, butterflies and moths. Sphinx Moths, Hummingbird Moths, Skippers and Gray Hairstreaks are among the many early partakers of this plant’s spring nectar supply.


Native selections of Phlox divaricata
Phlox divaricata 'Blue Moon' 
- Selected by Bill Cullina of New England Wildflower Society for its dense flower cover, compact growth, fragrance, and consistent bloom.  

Aquilega canadensis - columbine

Columbine is a signature native garden plant that is one of the earliest to bloom in the garden. Native to semi-wooded areas, this plant’s unique horned bloom appears at the top of its stem, above the foliage attracting a ton of native bees like Bumble Bees, Miner Bees and Green Metallic Bees for its nectar in April. It is also the host plant for Columbine Duskywing and attracts a full range of other colorful spring butterflies looking for nectar. There are many naturally occurring selections of this outstanding native that will look great in your garden are perfect for grouping and support an incredible menagerie of bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and native song birds.

Native selections of Aquilegia canadensis
Aquilegia canadensis 'Little Lanterns' - a compact columbine that only grows 10” tall and is generally grown from seed. 

Zizia aurea - golden alexanders

For some reason, it is easy to remember this name! Zizia, commonly known as golden alexanders, is plant that shows off big, flat, 3 to 4” wide umbrellas of tiny gold flowers at the tops of stems above foliage for a considerable period of time in April and May. It is a magnet for native bees, moths and butterflies that love its abundant nectar. It is also a host plant for the Black Swallowtail Butterfly and the Ozark Swallowtail. Once it goes out of bloom, its seed is feasted on by a number of native birds. This big, rangy plant is perfect for grouping in sunny areas and loves a location where it can grow and naturalize. It tolerates moist as well as dry conditions.