A lot of plants can pollinate themselves.

Fruits: Tomatoes, Strawberries

Vegetables: Peppers, Eggplant, Snap Beans, Lima Beans, Lettuce, Endive, Peas, Cabbage, Broccoli, Beets, Kohlrabi

Other: Chicory, Oats, Wheat, Barley, Dill, Lentils

Some other plants cannot.

What can I plant that will attract butterflies and other pollinators? I am in Minnesota.

Also See: What steps can I use to encourage pollination?

  • If you want loads and loads of moths and other insects, just put a black light outside on a pole (like the lights in bug zappers, without the mechanism to kill the insects). Make sure it has enough of the right kinds of light to attract them. Back in the day (when I was quite young), we had a bug zapper, and I think it attracted a lot more bugs than it killed. The toads loved it (they'd hang out under the zapper). Moths probably pollinate most at night, though (but that's good for some kinds of gourds, at least). Nov 16, 2017 at 6:43

3 Answers 3


Pollinators are no different than people, they need the same things: food, water, shelter.

  • Food: Some butterflies like a bit of mud to puddle up minerals
  • Shelter: many bees are under-served in the shelter area. Nesting tubes can be as simple as groups of bamboo 4-8" long, smooth with a 5/16" diameter hole. Group them together in a bundle off the ground and with some mesh around to prevent birds from poking their beaks in for a snack.
  • Water that is fresh and moving is a magnet for all kinds of animals, pollinators included.

For the food part try to add flowers that have many small compound flowers like

  • Sedum Spectabile
  • Milkweed
  • Aster Aster
  • Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia
  • Caltrop Kallstroemia
  • Creosote bush Larrea
  • Currants Ribes
  • Elder Sambucus
  • Goldenrod Solidago
  • Huckleberry Vaccinium
  • Joe-pye weed Eupatorium
  • Lupine Lupinus
  • Oregon grape Berberis (probably not hardy in Minnesota)
  • Penstemon Penstemon
  • Purple coneflower Echinacea
  • Rabbit-brush Chrysothamnus
  • Rhododendron Rhododendron
  • Sage Salvia
  • Scorpion-weed Phacelia
  • Snowberry Symphoricarpos
  • Stonecrop Sedum
  • Sunflower Helianthus (guaranteed to attract all kinds of pollinators)

Skip grasses and large flowering plants like lilies or hardy hibiscus.

And most importantly: do not use pesticides. Frequent use kills more than just the pests if there is residual activity

  • Use a variety of flowers. Not every insect will pollinate every plant.
    – uncle brad
    Feb 7, 2012 at 15:34

@kevinsky's answer is excellent. I would also mention that different plants bloom (and attract pollinators) at different times. If you want to attract pollinators for help with, say, your June strawberry crop, then sunflowers (which bloom late) are a poor choice -- Lupines might be better.

Because of the differing bloom times and possibly preferences of different pollinators, it would be a good idea to plant a wide variety of species. Then you can start attracting pollinators early in the season and keep them around for longer.

In addition to kevinsky's list, also consider Monarda (bee balm) as a candidate. You can get very hardy varieties that will survive a Minnesota winter. Ours grow about 4' tall and when in bloom attract tons of bees and butterflies.


I'm not sure about Minnesota specifically. I'm in Idaho. I would recommend these things:

  • Clover (a clover lawn would be great; just don't let people walk in it barefoot without knowing the risks; it attracts honeybees)
  • Fruit trees (apples, pears, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches, nectarines, etc.; not only do they like the flowers, they also like the fallen fruit and such a lot, at times, and the areas underneath the flowers)
  • Asters (ours had a plethora of bees last year)
  • Comfrey
  • Muskmelons (honeybees love these during some parts of the season)
  • Sunflowers (small bees loved Red Sun sunflowers in my yard; sunflowers with large heads are a good choice, too)
  • Welsh onions (don't harvest them; let them grow flowers every year; these should be great for Minnesota; by Welsh onions, I mean Allium fistulosum, which includes most bunching onions)
  • Ornamental Alliums
  • Thistles (such as milk thistle)
  • Alfalfa
  • Buckwheat (buckwheat has nice ornamental flowers, and it's produced in Minnesota; it also grows an edible pseudocereal, can be used as a cover crop, and the hulls can be used to stuff pillows)
  • Horseradish (butterflies lay lots of eggs on it in my area; I think they're the same butterflies that come from cabbage worms; we had ~18 new horseradish plants last year, and the yard was chalk full of white butterflies; I'm curious to see what happens this season). I imagine planting lots of cabbage and letting the worms devour it would produce a similar (but much more smelly) effect. Horseradish is a perennial, though, and doesn't head.
  • Artichokes (yeah, they require a longer season, but if you buy a plant instead of planting seeds, that can give you an awesome headstart; if you can grow midseason tomatoes, I imagine you can grow artichokes from a store-bought plant; the flowers are enormous; bees like them)

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