Tips for your Native Pollinator Garden, by Juanita Salisbury

Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, Palo Alto

Pollinators are declining globally. One way to help maintain the local pollinator population is to plant native plants in your garden. Non-native plants don’t work as well because native insects and pollinators prefer native plants. Fortunately, there are plenty of plants to choose from: California has 7,000 native plant species. Landscape architect Juanita Salisbury shares some tips for planting your own pollinator garden. Juanita is the found of Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, a volunteer group that transforms local public spaces into pollinator and insect habitats.  Learn more about the Primrose Way Pollinator Garden on Facebook and support them on their GoFundMe page.

What Plants to Use and Why

  • Use local, native California plants to create your plant palette.
  1. Native plants and pollinators evolved together and these plants provide nutrients and compounds required for reproduction. Native insects won’t survive on non-native plants, which become “dead-ends” for transferring the sun’s energy into the ecosystem, with a resulting cascade effect on other species.
  2. Native plants are largely preferred over nonnative plants by pollinators.
  3. Nonnative plants can escape cultivation and infest natural areas, and/or bring in disease and exotic insects.
  • Use at least 3 species of plants that bloom during each of the early, mid and late seasons (ie, 9 different species minimum).
  1. Pollinators emerge at different times, and providing overlapping bloom times will keep them foraging in the garden.
  2. Providing a diversity of bloms and plant resources will attract a diversity of pollinators.
  3. A garden with at least 20 different types of blooming plants is ideal for attracting a diversity of pollinators.
  • Consider plants as a buffet… or a salad bar, with nectar and pollen for bees.

Also consider if that plant provides other vegetative resources (larval food). Helpful hint: check out the plant finder tool (beta version) at

  • Plant in layers

Plant trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals and bulbs. Think of these as layers that build in complexity.

  • Start small

Start small, unless starting from scratch (less disruption). Add more plants over time as appropriate.


Plants Used at the Primrose Way, Arcadia Place, Island Drive and Guinda Street Gardens

Achillea millefolium californica
Agastache urticifolia
Angelica hendersonii
Angelica hendersonii
Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’
Artemisia spp.
Asclepias speciosa
Aster childnsis
Baccharis sp.
Brodiaea californica ‘Babylon’
Camissonia cheiranthifolia
Carpenteria californica
Ceanothus cuneatus
Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet’
Ceanothus rigidus ‘Snowball’
Ceanothus thyrsiflorus ‘skylart’
Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’
Cirsium occidentale
Chloraglalum pomeridian
Corylus cornuta
Erigeron glaucus
Eriogonum crocatum
Eriogonum elongatum
Eriogonum fasciculatum foliolosum
Eriogonum grande rubescens
Eriogonum lanatum
Eriophyllum lanatum
Erysimum spp.
Eschscholzia californica var. maritima
Frageria vesca californica
Grindelia stricta v. platyphylla
Helianthus californica
Helenium puberulum
Heteromeles arbutifolia
Heterotheca sp.
Lepechinia fagrans
Lobelia cardinalis
Lupinus spp.
Malacothamnus palmeri var. lucianus
Mimulus sp.
Monardella villosa ‘Russian River’
Penstemon spp.
Perideridia spp.
Peritoma arborea
Phacelia bolanderi
Phacelia californica
Phacelia tanacetifolia
Philadelpus lewisii ‘Goose Creek’
Plantago subnuda
Ranunculus sp.
Silene scouleri
Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’
Salvia brandegei
Salvia pachyphylla
Salvia spatheca
Salvia apiana ‘compacta’
Scrophularia californica
Sisyrinchium bellum
Soladago velutina californica
Symphocarpus albus
Trautvetteria caroliniensis
Trichostema lanatum
Vaccinium ovatum
Vancouveria hexandra
Veratrum californicum
Verbena lilcina ‘de la Mina’
Wyethia angustifolia
Zauscheneria ‘Calistoga’

As well as various annuals…

Native Plant Sources

California Flora Nursery
Yerba Buena Nursery
Bay Natives Nursery
East Bay Wilds
Oaktown Native Nursery
Annie’s Annuals
Mostly Native Nursery
Larner Seeds
Klamath Siskiyou Native Seeds

Photos of the Primrose Way Pollinator Garden

Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, Palo Alto Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, Palo Alto Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, Palo Alto Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, Palo Alto Primrose Way Pollinator Garden, Palo Alto