Public interest in protecting bees and other pollinators has initiated a new market for flowers that are good food plants for pollinators. There are at least eight types of buyers who may be looking for plants that support bees and butterflies: landscapers, home gardeners, small fruit (blueberries, raspberries, etc.) and tree fruit (apples, cherries, etc.) growers, golf courses, arboreta, hobbyist beekeepers, schools, and college campuses.
The biggest single demand will probably be for milkweed, either as seed or seedlings to plant in the spring to provide summer food for monarch caterpillars and butterflies. More public and private gardens are now including pollinator gardens.
Growers may want to test the market for pollinator food plants. They can be grouped into the following categories for honeybees and native bees: annual flowers, herbaceous perennials, and wildflowers. A fourth category can be added for plants that are good food plants for butterfly adults and the caterpillars that develop into them.
Plants listed in the annuals category are found below. Tables with plant lists for the other three categories, as well as several others, can be viewed and downloaded in the Extension publication, Protecting and Enhancing Pollinators in Urban Landscapes, for the U.S. North Central Region.
Annuals Attractive To Bees
Anise-scented sage/Salvia guaranitica
Black-eyed susan or gloriosa daisy/Rudbeckia hirta
Blue salvia (mealycup sage)/Salvia farinacea
Borage or starflower/Borago officinalis
Clary sage/Salvia sclarea (biennial)
Common lantana/Lantana camara
Common sunflower/Helianthus annuus
Dahlia (open types)/Dahlia cv.
Garden heliotrope/Heliotrope arborescens
Pineapple sage/Salvia elegans
Popcorn plant/Cassia didymobotrya
Spider flower/Cleome spp.
Sweet William (biennial in southern parts of north central region)/Dianthus barbatus
Sweet alyssum/Lobularia maritima