The majority of the world's flowering plants attract bees because the insects serve as pollinators. In general, bees are attracted to many of the same floral characteristics that humans find desirable, including bright colors and alluring fragrance. Some people, especially those allergic to bee stings, may seek out flowers not pollinated by bees. These plants fall into several categories, according to whether they are pollinated by wind, other insects or birds. If you are not sure whether a new garden plant attracts bees, install it in an out of the way place and observe it on warm sunny days. If no bees visit, chances are it is not pollinated by bees.
Most wind-pollinated flowers are small and unimpressive-looking, like those of ragweed. Yellow or yellow-green flowers predominate in these species. Hops (Humulus), which can be grown as a climbing ornamental, is a decorative, wind pollinated plant. To grow hops, provide a sunny situation and a sturdy support for the vine.
Garden favorites canna and nasturtium are examples of bird-pollinated plants. Both are sun lovers that bloom in summer. Canna, with its showy flowers and leaves, is tender in cold winter areas, but the tubers can be stored over the winter. Nasturtiums come in a variety of colors and flourish in lean, poor soil. They are also available in climbing forms. Birds are normally attracted to the tube-shaped blooms of species with red flowers and little scent.
Moth- or Butterfly-Pollinated Plants
Both moths and butterflies are drawn to sweet-smelling flowers like milkweed (Asclepias) and verbena, with deep, narrow tubes. These plants flourish in sunny spaces. Butterflies are attracted to day-blooming species with bright blossoms in primary colors. Moths prefer white or pale green flowers, especially night blooming species like the moon flower or moon vine (Ipomoea alba). Plant moon vines near a support structure in a spot where the fragrant flowers can be appreciated by evening garden visitors.
Flies are often drawn to flowers that smell of decay. Skunk cabbage and other members of the aroid family fall into this category. Fly-pollinated plants include Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema), arum and dracunculus. Most gardeners would not voluntarily plant skunk cabbage, but there are many striking varieties of arisaema on the market. All bloom in spring and prefer shady locations that are consistently moist.