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Sustainability at ESF
Recommended Native Plants

All the resources in this page are compiled by Molly Jacobson, RSC Pollinator Ecologist

Native Plant Suppliers for Central New York Homeowners

This list can help you find which native pollinator-supporting plants are best suited for your individual property, and where you can purchase them, either as seeds, plugs, or potted plants. There are also additional resources to help you learn more about our native pollinators, and how to plan your garden based on the specific plants that specialized or imperiled pollinators need. Note that many small nurseries carry a selection of native plants subject to customer demand, but are rarely advertised and can be harder to locate online.

 

Business Name Town County Miles from Syracuse
Faverolles Gardens Lafayette Onondaga 14
Go Native! Perennials Skaneateles Onondaga 20
The Plantsmen Groton Tompkins 48
Butterfly Effect Geneva Ontario 52
Grow Wild! Brooktondale Tompkins 55
White Oak Nursery Canandaigua Ontario 71
The Fernery Hartwick Otsego 75
Amanda's Native Garden Dansville Livingston 107
Catskill Native Nursery Kerhonkson Ulster 185
One Nature Beacon Dutchess 214
Native Landscapes Garden Center Pawling Dutchess 233
Wild Ones (annual CNY plant sale) Westvale Onondaga 5

 

 

Recommended Native Pollinator Plants for Central NY Homeowners

There are thousands of plants native to New York, each playing a unique ecological role. However, New York has many ecoregions and multiple climate zones, meaning a plant that grows wild, or grows well, on Long Island or in the Adirondacks may not be suited for a garden in Syracuse! In addition, most native plants are not yet available at nurseries - though the selection is growing by the year as public demand increases. Here we present a selection of easy to find, easy to grow, high value native pollinator plants well-suited for a CNY yard or garden. Included is information about preferred growing conditions and relationships with native pollinators. We highly recommend you consult other resources, like those online and in print listed in our Resources section, to explore the full variety of plant choices for our region, including grasses and ferns which are important host plants, nesting material, and habitat structure for pollinators.

Perennial Wildflowers

Common Name Scientific Name Sun Moisture Bloom Season Common Pollinators Host Plant For Notes
New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae full average-moist Late bumble bees, sweat bees, mining bees, small carpenter bees, butterflies, flies, moths Asters host half a dozen specialist bees, such as Andrena canadensis, and 100+ caterpillar species including the pearl crescent butterfly Can get semi-woody, with a coarser appearance than other asters. Best used in a mixed planting, such as with goldenrods.
smooth aster Symphyotrichum laeve full dry-moist Late bumble bees, sweat bees, mining bees, small carpenter bees, butterflies, flies, moths Asters host half a dozen specialist bees, such as Andrena canadensis, and 100+ caterpillar species including the pearl crescent butterfly There are countless similar asters that work nicely in gardens such as sky blue aster (Symphyotrichum oolentangiense) and New York aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii)
white wood aster Eurybia divericata  part-shade dry-average Late bumble bees, sweat bees, mining bees, small carpenter bees, butterflies, flies, moths Asters host half a dozen specialist bees, such as Andrena canadensis, and 100+ caterpillar species including the pearl crescent butterfly A good choice for a tough shady dry spot. Low-growing, spreads over time.
stiff goldenrod Oligoneuron rigidum full  dry-average Late mining bees, sweat bees, cellophane bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, sand wasps, potter wasps, butterflies, longhorn beetles Goldenrods host nearly a dozen specialist bees in the northeast, such as Andrena hirticincta and Colletes simulans, plus 130+ caterpillar species The species shown here are among those which do not spread aggressively in the garden. The idea that goldenrods cause hay fever is a misconception; ragweed is the true culprit. Goldenrods are keystone species that support countless insects.
blue-stemmed goldenrod Solidago caesia part-shade dry-average Late mining bees, sweat bees, cellophane bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, sand wasps, potter wasps, butterflies, longhorn beetles Goldenrods host nearly a dozen specialist bees in the northeast, such as Andrena hirticincta and Colletes simulans, plus 130+ caterpillar species A good choice for a tough shady dry spot.
seaside goldenrod Solidago sempervirens full dry-average Late mining bees, sweat bees, cellophane bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, sand wasps, potter wasps, butterflies, longhorn beetles Goldenrods host nearly a dozen specialist bees in the northeast, such as Andrena hirticincta and Colletes simulans, plus 130+ caterpillar species A coastal species, it is salt, drought, and wind tolerant, making it ideal for urban plantings. It is among our latest-blooming plants, flowering into November.
common milkweed Asclepias syriaca full dry-average Mid bumble bees, leafcutter bees, cuckoo bees, resin bees, butterflies, moths Milkweeds are the sole host plant for the imperiled monarch butterfly, as well as milkweed tussock moths Spreads via rhizome to form large patches, so allow it space. Hosts a unique ecosystem of specialized, brightly patterned insects! Use this instead of tropical milkweed, which can harm monarchs through fatal virus transmission.
butterfly milkweed Asclepias tuberosa full dry-average Mid bumble bees, leafcutter bees, cuckoo bees, sweat bees, butterflies, moths Monarch butterflies Showy orange flowers add unique color to the garden. Prefers poor or sandy soils but will tolerate average garden conditions.
swamp milkweed Asclepias incarnata full dry-average Mid bumble bees, leafcutter bees, resin bees, sweat bees, masked bees, butterflies, moths Monarch butterflies Flowers later than the other milkweeds, providing a bloom turnover - plant multiple milkweed species for best effect!
spotted Joe-Pye weed Eutrochium maculatum full  average-wet Late butterflies, bumble bees, sweat bees, longhorned bees clymene moth, ruby tiger moth, Eupatorium plume moth, Eupatorium clearwing moth Highly important nectar source for monarch butterflies. Grows tall - best used as a backdrop for shorter plants.
wild geranium Geranium maculatum part-shade average-moist Early mining bees, mason bees, sweat bees, cuckoo bees geranium mining bee Andrena distans, white-marked tussock moth, geranium clearwing moth Makes an excellent border plant when massed.
Virginia mountain mint Pycnanthemum virginianum full average-moist Early bumble bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, cuckoo bees, butterflies, potter wasps, thread-waisted wasps, yellowjackets, moths, beetles hermit sphinx moth A veritable powerhouse of pollinator activity - all mountain mint species are highly popular with countless insects including many solitary and parasitic wasps, which provide beneficial pest control services for your yard.
wild bergamot (bee balm) Monarda fistulosa full-part dry-average Mid bumble bees, sweat bees, resin bees, butterflies, moths, potter wasps, beetles Bee balm shortface bee, Dufourea monardae, hermit sphinx moth Highly attractive to two-spotted bumble bees, and its showy lavender blooms are a must-have for any garden.
oxeye sunflower Heliopsis helianthoides full dry-average Mid leafcutter bees, sweat bees, cuckoo bees, bumble bees, butterflies, moths, beetles, flies Ithaca clearwing moth Can grow tall and flop over if not supported by other plants or staked.
hairy beardtongue  Penstemon hirsutus full-part dry-moist Early bumble bees, mason bees, small mason bees, digger bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, hummingbirds  distinct mason bee Osmia distincta, confused haploa moth, Baltimore checkerspot  Usually found on dry or rocky sites in the wild but adaptable to a wide range of conditions
wild columbine Aquilegia canadensis part dry-average Early hummingbirds, bumble bees, sweat bees columbine duskywing butterfly, columbine borer moth Important early nectar source for ruby-throated hummingbirds - adding scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma), trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens), and cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) will keep them around all season!
harebell Campanula rotundifolia full dry-average Mid leafcutter bees, digger bees, sweat bees, small carpenter bees, mason bees, moths bellflower resin bee Megachile campanulae A short-statured delicate purple flower. Grows best between rocks or along sidewalks.
yellow false indigo Baptisia tinctoria full  dry-average Mid leafcutter bees, small mason bees, sweat bees, bumble bees, cuckoo bees frosted elfin butterfly, wild indigo duskywing butterfly, Io moth Shrub-like, with yellow pea-like flowers and interesting seed pods.
golden alexanders Zizia aurea full-part dry-moist Early mining bees, sweat bees, masked bees, mason bees, flies, potter wasps, butterflies, beetles Golden alexanders mining bee Andrena ziziae, black swallowtail butterfly A member of the carrot family, it has bright yellow umbels of flowers that are an important food source for spring insects.
Culver's root Veronicastrum virginicum full-part average-wet Mid bumble bees, masked bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, butterflies, thread-waisted wasps none in NY Tall, vertical plant with narrow white flower plumes resembling candelabras
American trout lily Erythronium americanum part-shade moist Early mining bees, sweat bees, butterflies, beetles trout lily mining bee Andrena erythronii One of many showy 'woodland ephemerals' that flower in early spring before canopy leafout and disappear come summer. The mottled leaves are just as pleasing as the flower, and it will spread to form a colony that makes a good groundcover.
common violet Viola sororia part-shade average-moist Early mining bees, sweat bees, small carpenter bees violet mining bee Andrena violae, fritillary butterflies Can spread to form a good woodland ground cover or shaded border
woodland phlox Phlox divericata part-shade average-moist Early butterflies, moths, hummingbirds olive arches moth, hitched arches moth Spreads to form a good woodland ground cover. A great substitute for invasive myrtle (vinca).
swamp vervain Verbena hastata full moist-wet Mid sweat bees, longhorned bees, bumble bees, leafcutter bees, small carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, butterflies, flies verbena moth, verbena bud moth Provides vertical structure and purple color to a rain garden.
nodding onion Allium cernuum full dry-average Mid bumble bees, cellophane bees, leafcutter bees, sweat bees, resin bees none in NY A good alternative to ornamental onion. Pink, bell-shaped flower clusters and onion-scented foliage work well in massed plantings or borders.
wild strawberry Fragaria virginiana full-part dry-moist Early sweat bees, mining bees, cuckoo bees, mason bees, small carpenter bees, flies, wasps, butterflies 82 caterpillar species, including purple-lined sallow moth and blackberry looper moth An excellent lawn replacement, handling high foot traffic, filling in spaces over time, and with excellent fall color. Produces edible berries, and an important spring resource for pollinators.
spotted jewelweed Impatiens capensis part moist-wet Late bumble bees, sweat bees, leafcutter bees, digger bees, flies, wasps, hummingbirds white-striped black moth, Virginian tiger moth An annual, rarely available in nurseries, but seeds can be purchased online or easily collected from wild plants. Also called 'touch-me-not' for its exploding seed pods - fun for kids!

 

Woody Plants (Trees and Shrubs)

**Note: Many woody plants not listed here do not have insect-pollinated flowers, but they still have high value to the caterpillars of pollinating butterflies and moths!

Common Name Scientific Name Sun Moisture Bloom Season Common Pollinators Host Plant For Notes
 oaks (such as white oak, red oak) Quercus spp. (Quercus alba, Quercus rubra)  full varies  Early  wind-pollinated, but visited by mason bees and potentially mining bees 500+ caterpillar species, including silkmoths like the polyphemus moth, cecropia moth, and luna moth Perhaps the most ecologically important trees in North America. Extremely high value to countless wildlife, birds, and caterpillars. Many grow on the driest, poorest soils, while others are found in rich forests or lowlands.
 red maple Acer rubrum  full-part average-wet  Early  mining bees, cellophane bees, sweat bees, mason bees 300+ caterpillar species, including the rosy maple moth, imperial moth, and Io moth All native maples have high caterpillar value, but red maple also has insect-visited flowers. Its bold red fall color is unparalleled. Avoid the invasive Norway maple which is a staple yard and street tree and has no ecological value.
black cherry  Prunus serotina full-part dry-moist Early mining bees, sweat bees, bumble bees, small carpenter bees, mason bees, cuckoo bees, flies, butterflies 400+ caterpillar species, including the red-spotted purple butterfly and eastern tiger swallowtail High bird value. Ornamental cherry trees have much lower value to pollinators, caterpillars, and wildlife, so choose a native species.
chokecherry Prunus virginiana full-shade dry-moist Early mining bees, sweat bees, bumble bees, small carpenter bees, mason bees, cuckoo bees, flies, butterflies 400+ caterpillar species, including the red-spotted purple butterfly and eastern tiger swallowtail High bird value. While black cherry is a tree, chokecherry is a large suckering shrub which will form colonies. Good for a wooded edge on a larger property.
shadbush Amelanchier canadensis full-part average-moist Early mining bees, sweat bees 120+ caterpillar species High bird value. Smaller in stature than downy serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea).
staghorn sumac Rhus typhina full-part dry-average Mid mining bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, small carpenter bees short-tongued mining bee Andrena brevipalpis, plus 50+ caterpillar species High bird and wildlife value, especially in winter. Small carpenter bees nest in the stems. Will form clonal thickets, good as a border.
red osier dogwood Cornus (Swida) sericea full-part moist-wet Mid mining bees, sweat bees, small carpenter bees, cuckoo bees, flies, beetles 4 specialist mining bees, plus 110+ caterpillar species All species of shrubby dogwoods (red-osier, gray, silky) are similar in pollinator and wildlife value, but tolerate different moisture conditions. Red-osier is the most showy due to its bright red stems, and is best sited in a rain garden or low-lying area, or as a screen.
pagoda dogwood Cornus alternifolia part-shade average-moist Mid mining bees, sweat bees, flies, beetles 4 specialist mining bees, plus 110+ caterpillar species High bird value. Has a unique tiered growth form lending a stately architecture to a shady yard.
American basswood (linden) Tilia americana full-part average-moist  Mid bumble bees, sweat bees, moths, flies 150 caterpillar species Highly attractive to bumble bees and honeybees.
black chokeberry Aronia melanocarpa full-part average-wet Early mining bees, sweat bees, bumble bees, cuckoo bees 6 caterpillar species, including striped hairstreak butterfly and large lace-border moth High bird value. Suckering habit that works well in a massed planting or hedge.
New Jersey tea Ceanothus americanus full-part dry-average Mid sweat bees, bumble bees, resin bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds spring azure butterfly, mottled duskywing butterfly Does well in sandy or rocky soils. Needs protecting from deer and rabbits which have caused the decline of this plant in the wild, but worth growing for its value to rare butterfly species.
buttonbush Cephalanthus occidentalis full-part moist-wet Mid bumble bees, sweat bees, masked bees, small carpenter bees, carpenter bees, flies, wasps, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds 19 species of caterpillar, including hydrangea sphinx moth, beautiful wood-nymph moth, connubial underwing moth The globe-like flowers and seedheads provide seasonal interest. Good for rain gardens or low-lying areas.
northern bush honeysuckle Diervilla lonicera sun-shade dry-average Mid bumble bees, sweat bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds snowberry clearwing moth, laurel sphinx moth Not to be confused with the invasive bush honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.), which should be avoided at all costs. Searching plants online by their scientific names will reduce mixups - always check tags in the store to know what you're buying.
witch-hazel Hamamelis virginiana sun-shade average - moist Late flies, moths, beetles, wasps, occasionally sweat bees 60+ caterpillar species, including the witch hazel dagger moth and hickory tussock moth Our latest-blooming native, flowers persist into December, providing a crucial nectar and pollen source for the last flying insects. Adds color to the landscape when all else is slowing down.
 winterberry holly Ilex verticillata  full-part moist - wet   Early  mining bees, bumble bees, sweat bees, flies 39 caterpillar species, including pawpaw sphinx moth and Harris's three spot moth High bird value, with bright red persistent berries. Prefers acidic soils. To produce berries, both male and female plants are needed. Further south in NY, other native holly species can be planted which attract the holly specialist bee Colletes banksi.
 pussy willow Salix discolor  full moist - wet  Early  mining bees, cellophane bees, sweat bees, mason bees, bumble bees, cuckoo bees, flies, wasps, butterflies Willows support 9 specialist bees in the northeast, including Andrena salictaria and Andrena erythrogaster, plus 400+ caterpillar species All native willows have high pollinator and caterpillar value. Other species commercially available include black willow (Salix nigra) and Bebb willow (Salix bebbiana). Avoid the exotic weeping willow.
Virgin rose Rosa virginiana full - part dry - average Mid bumble bees, mining bees, sweat bees 135 caterpillar species, including apple sphinx moth and blinded sphinx moth All native roses have high wildlife and pollinator value. Avoid the invasive beach rose (Rosa rugosa) which has become a staple of coastal yard plantings.
black elderberry Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis full moist - wet Mid mining bees, sweat bees, small carpenter bees, flies, beetles 42 caterpillar species, including the ruby quaker moth and elder shoot borer moth High bird value. Bees nest in the pithy stems.
meadowsweet Spiraea alba full - part moist - wet Mid bumble bees, mining bees, masked bees, sweat bees, beetles, wasps, flies, butterflies 90+ caterpillar species, including spring azure butterfly and great brocade moth This and its pink-flowered relative steeplebush (Spiraea tomentosa) are good alternatives to Japanese spiraea. In northern New England this is the primary host plant for the rare New England buck moth.
highbush blueberry Vaccinium corymbosum full - part moist - wet Early bumble bees, mining bees, mason bees, sweat bees, cuckoo bees, cellophane bees, digger bees, carpenter bees, masked bees half a dozen specialist bees, including blueberry digger bee Habropoda laboriosa and blueberry cellophane bee Colletes validus, plus 290+ caterpillar species Blueberries need acidic soils. If you wish to grow these in other conditions, soil amendments are necessary. High bird and wildlife value. Lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) is of shorter stature and is good as a shrubby groundcover in drier, sandy areas.
mapleleaf viburnum Viburnum acerifolium part dry - average Early mining bees, sweat bees, flies, beetles, butterflies 100+ caterpillar species, including hummingbird clearwing moth and azalea sphinx moth High bird value. Good for tough shady dry spots or as woodland understory plant. Rosy pink fall color. All native viburnums have high wildlife value.
eastern ninebark Physocarpus opulifolius full - part dry- moist Early mining bees, sweat bees, flies, wasps, butterflies blinded sphinx moth, raspberry leafroller moth, white slant-line moth Exfoliating bark makes for winter interest.
spicebush Lindera benzoin sun - shade average - moist Early mining bees, mason bees, flies, wasps, butterflies 11 caterpillar species, including spicebush swallowtail butterfly, promethea moth, eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly High bird value. Both female and male plants needed for berry production. Leaves and twigs have a spicy, citrusy aroma when crushed. A good alternative to exotic forsythia.
shrubby St. John's wort Hypericum prolificum full-part average - moist  Mid bumble bees 20 species of caterpillars, including wavy-lined emerald moth and gray hairstreak butterfly Large yellow blooms are a bumble bee magnet.
black raspberry Rubus occidentalis  full-part dry - moist Early bumble bees, mining bees, mason bees, cuckoo bees, sweat bees, carpenter bees, small carpenter bees, flies, wasps 160+ caterpillar species, including striped hairstreak butterfly and Isabella tiger moth (woolly bear) High bird value. Cultivated varieties are available, but commonly grows wild, and so may not need to be planted. Smaller thorns than blackberry. Small carpenter bees nest in the canes.

 

Vines

Many vines used in horticulture are invasive, like English ivy and oriental bittersweet. Native vines perform important roles in ecosystems.

Common Name Scientific Name Sun Moisture Bloom Season Common Pollinators Host Plant For Notes
Virginia creeper Parthenocissus quinquefolia sun - shade average - moist Mid sweat bees, masked bees, small carpenter bees, leafcutter bees 32 caterpillar species, including Virginia creeper sphinx moth and Abbott's sphinx moth High bird value, with berries that are poisonous to humans but an important resource for birds in autumn. One of the most adaptable vines. Striking fall color.
virgin's bower Clematis virginiana full - part moist - wet Late sweat bees, masked bees, flies, wasps 6 caterpillar species Spreads via twining stems, not adhesive discs. A good replacement for invasive Japanese clematis or sweet autumn clematis. Has unique feathery seedheads.
trumpet honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens full - part moist Mid hummingbirds, butterflies 37 caterpillar species, including snowberry sphinx moth and spring azure butterfly The bright red tubular flowers are irresistable to hummingbirds.
wild cucumber Echinocystis lobata full - part moist Late bumble bees, sweat bees, wasps, flies melonworm moth An annual, making it less of an investment than other vines. Produces spiky, hollow inedible fruits. Rarely available at nurseries, but seed can be purchased online from Prairie Moon Nursery or the Wild Seed Project, or collected easily from wild plants.