Nine Essential Spring Flowers for Your Midwestern Pollinator Garden

A woodland glade filled with a profusion of bluebells in bloom

There are few sights more welcome after a Midwestern winter than the first flowers of spring. The lovelies on this list bloom as early as March, and will continue blooming as late as July. Native to the Midwest, they support a variety of wildlife. Read on to find the right match for your spring garden.


Aquilegia canadensis

close up of columbine bloom with many more in the background
Photo by David J. Stang, CC BY-SA 4.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Showy and colorful, Columbine is the first flower of spring for the hummingbird. It grows in both sun and shade and tolerates a variety of soil conditions—even beneath pine trees.

A member of the buttercup family, but the origami-lantern blossoms seem too exotic for such a humble genus. Resist the fancy varieties and go for the native version (aquilegia canadensis) that is host plant for the ecologically vulnerable Columbine Duskywing butterfly.

intricate many lobed blossoming flower with a blend of colors from red to yellow
American Lotus, CC BY-SA 4.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Color: Red to yellow

Height: up to 2 feet

Bloom: April through June

Benefits: Deer resistant.

Cream Wild Indigo

Baptisia bracteata

The Cream Wild Indigo is essential to the queen bumblebee, who seeks out this flower when she wakes from her winter hibernation.

It provides year-round interest with its cream-colored blooms in spring, green seed pods in summer, and striking dark foliage in the fall and winter. Long lived, low-maintenance, drought tolerant, it also can also improve your soil quality.

Color: Cream

Height: up to 2 feet

Bloom: May through June

Benefits: Deer resistant.

Creamy white two-petaled flowers with dark green foliage
Frank Mayfield, CC BY-SA 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Golden Alexander

Zizia aurea

Flower with umbrella like clusters of tiny golden yellow flowers
Fritzflohrreynolds, CC BY-SA 3.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

A host plant for the swallowtail butterfly family, Golden Alexander also makes an excellent cut flower. What won me over was its cheerful yellow umbels, and the long blooming season which stretches from early spring into the summer. And unlike those spring flowers which die back soon after their bloom is done, their foliage is lovely all season.

Color: Yellow

Height: 1 to 3 feet

Bloom: April through June

Benefits: Shade or sun, deer resistant.

Pasque Flower

Anemone patens var. wolfgangiana

pale lavender flower with pointy petals and fuzzy stems, blooming over brown winter lawn.
Blaine Hansel, CC BY 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Think of the Pasque flower as the native crocus. The very first flower of spring, you can sometimes spy its flowers springing from the snow. If you’re from South Dakota, you might recognize it as the state flower. Only growing to six inches in height, this endangered plant does well in dry, rocky, and alkaline soil.

Color: Purple, white

Height: 6 inches

Bloom: March through May

Benefits: Low growing, hardy.


Viola sororia

dozens of four-petaled flowers blooming on a lawn

If you’re into monoculture you might consider this a weed, but the humble violet is a lovely addition to any pollinator garden. Low-growing, it makes an excellent never-needs-mowing ground cover. In the US, native violets are a much better choice than that whole clover-yard fad.

Violets are the only larval host plant for the Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly. Their purple and sometimes white flowers delight April through June, and they often produce a second bloom in fall as temperatures drop.

My daughter and I lying in on the front lawn with the violets in bloom

Color: Purple, white

Height: 6 inches

Bloom: April through June

Benefits: Deer resistant, pollinator favorite.

Wild Geranium

Geranium maculatum

forest floor abloom with pink five petaled flowers

Few things are more stunning than coming across a forest full of Wild Geranium. Typically found in woodlands, Wild Geranium will also do well in a sunny garden spot as long as it’s kept moist. It’s easy to grow and works well as a ground cover in shady areas. While guidelines say it blooms April through July, no one told my Wild Geranium, because it bloomed all season.

Color: Purple, pink

Height: 12 inches

Bloom: April through ??

Benefits: Deer resistant, pollinator favorite.


Mertensia virginica

If anything can rival a forest full of Wild Geranium in bloom, it’s a forest full of Bluebells. The only bad thing I can say about these gorgeous flowers is that their blooming season just isn’t long enough. They’re also a favorite of female bumblebees, butterflies, and moths. They do go dormant by mid-summer, so plant some Showy Black-eyed Susan or Purple Coneflower nearby for interest later in the season.

Color: Blue

Height: 2 feet

Bloom: April through May

Benefits: Deer resistant.

Jacob’s Ladder

Polemonium reptans

clusters of sky blue flowers with a background of ferny foliage
Steve Redman (MORA), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Similar to Bluebells, Jacob’s Ladder has a slightly longer blooming season, and the lovely ferny foliage holds out for most of the season, especially in shady spots. Native to the Eastern half of the United States, Jacob’s Ladder can work in a sunny spot too, as long as there’s adequate moisture.

Color: Blue

Height: 12 inches

Bloom: April through June

Benefits: Deer resistant.

Wild Lupine

Lupinus perennis

Wild Lupine is a stunning spring bloomer which is also of great value to wildlife. Its striking spires of purple and blue flowers are surrounded by vivid green palm-shaped leaves. It’s a host plant for a variety of butterflies and moths, including the endangered Karner Blue butterfly. Birds and small mammals love the seeds later in the season. A legume, it even improves the quality of your soil.

purple spires of blooming flowers
wackybadger, CC BY-SA 2.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

Color: Purple

Height: Two feet

Bloom: May through June

Benefits: Host plant for Karner Blue Butterfly

Make your garden more beautiful with a variety of colorful blooms which delight throughout the growing season. All these options add not just beauty to your midwestern garden–they’re of great value to wildlife and endangered species.

One response to “Nine Essential Spring Flowers for Your Midwestern Pollinator Garden”

  1. I look forward to seeing these beauties in the next few months. Hard to imagine now amidst all the gray, but to paraphrase Hemingway, spring delights us all the more when it seems to have come so close to failing.


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