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Desert Gardening: Choose Key Pollinator Plants

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Plant flowers that attract hummingbirds, butterflies and bees to bring some kinetic pollinator action to your desert garden.

In the Southwest's higher elevations of (Prescott, Flagstaff and Santa Fe) coneflower makes an excellent butterfly plant.

A few years back I took my then-15-year-old daughter on a garden photo shoot. The garden I was photographing was full of prairie coneflower in full bloom. I set up my tripod and went into a bit of a trance looking through the viewfinder. After awhile I looked up and noticed that my daughter - who normally hates visiting gardens - had her camera out and was busily chasing clouds of checkerspot butterflies.

My point is that people who are not at all interested in gardens (ahem, some of our children) might be fascinated with pollinators. Below are a few of my favorite plants for bringing them in.

Sundrops (Calylophus hartwegii) is one of the best sphinx moth attractors

Sundrops sports a big, flouncy flower that somewhat resembles a yellow petunia. Thankfully it is a lot tougher than a petunia. A Southwest native, Sundrops takes heat and drought without batting a petal. The flowers open wide in the evening, and that's when this plant becomes sphinx moth central. These big moths - which look like a cross between a hummingbird and butterfly - love sundrops' deep-throated flowers.

Hummingbirds love to work the stalks of penstemon plants

Sometimes I wonder if my garden belongs to me or the hummingbirds. If I could ask them, I have a feeling they wouldn't be shy in proclaiming their ownership! Their territorial nature and feisty defense of favorite plants is reason enough to plant a few things for them. One of my favorites, pictured, is the hot-pink-flowered Parry's penstemon. The flower stalks can rise over 4 feet, and the hummingbirds work them for nectar from bottom to top. Parry's penstemon also attracts queen butterflies.

Queen's Wreath vine attracts bees of all sorts

The buzz of happy bees at work is one of the sounds of the garden. One of the best bee plants is Queen's Wreath (Antigonon leptopus). Covered with pink, red or white flowers in the summer months, this vigorous climber grows from a tuber. Large black carpenter bees particularly favor it.

What are your best pollinator-attracting plants?

See more Desert Gardening Articles.