When it comes to helping pollinators in spring, not all flowering bulbs provide the nectar bees and other insects need. Find out which early spring flowers provide nourishment for emerging pollinators.
To get started with growing bulbs, these beginner planting tips will help.
Spring Flowers For Pollinators
You know those wonderful early spring days when winter has finally surrendered—at least for the moment—and the sun is shining and the bees come out seeking nectar?
With days or weeks to go before plants like dandelions are blooming, the best nectar sources by far are early spring-flowering trees and shrubs. Just by sheer volume, they provide massive all-you-can-forage buffets that sustain pollinators.
And right there along with them are the early spring-flowering bulbs—but not just any bulbs. We’re specifically looking at the ones that provide nectar and pollen.
We tend to focus on the bees but, in nature as a whole, we have so many pollinators at work. The list includes birds, moths, wasps, bats, beetles, flies, various small mammals, and more.
With so many living things depending on these mutually-beneficial relationships, it seems a shame to grow bulbs that are purely decorative when they can also contribute to the eco-system.
The list below is a good starting point. Do your homework to confirm the choices are suited to your region and feel good knowing you are growing something both beautiful and useful.
Pollinators & Their Flower Choices
You can often guess a plant’s pollinator based on the shape, color, and odor (or lack of) of a flower.
Hummingbirds pollinate long, tuberous flowers and certain flies pollinate plants like carrots and goldenrod that have lots of easy to access pollen.
Bees like to have a landing platform on (mostly) light-colored flowers while moths go for flowers with strong, sweet fragrances at night.
Love Magnolia Blooms? Thank a beetle. Beetles pollinate magnolias, paw-paws, and yellow pond lilies.
20 Spring-Flowering Bulbs For Pollinators
The plants suggested here are geophytes: perennial bulbs, corms, rhizomes, and tubers that store their food in underground stems or other plant organs. We use the broad term ‘bulb’ for all of them.
Bloom times vary from early spring onward.
If you are wanting native plants, check what is considered native in your area. Many of the bulbs listed below are non-native but still readily used by pollinators.
The goal is to grow pollinator-friendly flowers that are proven forage sources and will not be invasive or too aggressive in your garden.
If you want to save or print this list, see the Resources section.
- Allium Ornamental onion (Allium spp.) Zones 4-9
- Anemone (Anemone spp.) Zones 7-10
- Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) This is a rhizome native to parts of North America. The flowers only last for a day or two. Zones 4-8
- Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) Also an ephemeral native to eastern North America. Zones 3-8
- Camassia | Quamash (Camassia leichtlinii) Zones 3-9
- Claytonia (Claytonia virginica) is a corm and its only pollinator is a tiny miner bee, the Andrena erigeniae. Zones 6-9
- Crocus (Crocus spp.) Zones 3-9
- Daffodil Narcissus poeticus or N. jonquilla Zones 3-8
- Dutch iris (Iris x hollandica) Zones 5-10
- Fritilaria | Checkered lily | Crown Imperial (Fritillaria Meleagris) Zones 3-10
- Glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa spp.) non-native Zones 2-8
- Grape hyacinth (Muscari spp.) Zones 3-9z (US)
- Hyancinth (Hyacinthus) Zones 4-8 | Buy at Eden Brothers (US)
- Iris reticulata A bulbous perennial iris. Zones 5-9
- Lily-of-the-Nile (Agapanthus spp.) Rhizome. Zones 6-10
- Siberian squill (Scilla sibirica) non-native Zone 2-10
- Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) Zones 3-8
- Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) Zones 3-9
- Trilliums | A rhizomatous bulb Zones 4-7
White trillium (Trillium grandiflorum) Pollinated by ants who carry the seeds.
Yellow trillium (Trillium luteum)
Toadshade (Trillium sessile)
- Species Tulips (Tulipa spp.) – Zones 3-8
You can mail order a lovely variety pack here from Naturehills.com. Ships to US lower 48.
- Trout Lily (Erythronium spp.) A true bulb with several native varieties. Zones 3-9
- Winter Aconite or Buttercup (Eranthis spp.)* Zones 2-9
- Wood hyacinth (Hyacinthoides hispanica) Zones 3-9
*can be invasive in natural areas: check first in your region.
Want to add a splash of spring color to your lawn? See How to Naturalize A Grass Lawn With Flowering Bulbs.
Buy Bulbs Online
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- Eden Brothers (US)
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Flowering Bulbs For Spring Pollinators
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Want Pollinators in Your Garden?
- Choose plants, trees, and shrubs used by local wildlife for food and habitat during all stages of life. Options will be different in each growing region.
- Avoid products like pesticides that are toxic to pollinators and other animals in the food chain.
- Keep it natural: sustainable gardens are not tidy. Dead and decaying things nourish living things.
You can read more ecological gardening tips here.
by Kim Eierman
Win the War on Pollinator Decline with Ecological Gardening; Attract and Support Bees, Beetles, Butterflies, Bats, and Other Pollinators
by Rhonda Fleming Hayes
It’s no secret that pollinators are increasingly threatened. While you can’t solve all their problems, every gardener can join the front lines. So stow your pesticides and learn how to foster a beautiful, healthy garden that attracts bees, butterflies, birds, and other pollinators.
What Do Butterflies Need to Survive
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛