If you’re looking to add some bee and butterfly-friendly plants to your garden, cosmos should be at the top of your list. Their vibrant blooms and easy care requirements make them an excellent addition to any garden. Plus, you’ll get to enjoy the beauty of the flowers all season long.
Cosmos are bee and pollinator-friendly plants with large, open blooms and pollen and nectar-rich centers. These easy-to-grow flowers will bloom for many months and come in various colors that attract a range of pollinators.
Additionally, cosmos make excellent cut flowers, so you can bring a few bunches of flowers into your home while still having plenty to share with your local pollinator population.
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What makes cosmos flowers perfect for pollinators?
Aside from being pretty in the garden and excellent for fresh bouquets, cosmos have several qualities that make growing them beneficial for pollinators.
1. Blooms are appealing to bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects
The large, flat cosmos flowers are easy for bees and butterflies to land on and access the nectar and pollen inside. The flowers cover the plant, giving bees and butterflies a great source of food that is easy to find and close by.
Cosmos flowers come in a range of bloom types with single, semi-double, or double blooms. Single blooms have one row of petals, which is ideal for easy access to pollen and nectar at the center of the flower.
Semi-double and double blooms have multiple rows of petals, giving them a puffy appearance. Semi-double blooms aren’t so bad, but with double blooms, the petals often obscure the center of the flower, making it impossible for pollinators to access the pollen and nectar.
Although double blooms are more showy and beautiful for bouquets, if your main goal is to attract and nourish bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, choose cosmos flowers with single blooms.
If you still want to have some showy double blooms for gorgeous bouquets, try planting a mix of single and double bloomed cosmos varieties so that if a bee strikes out at a double bloom, then a single pollen-bearing bloom isn’t far away.
2. Provide pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and more
Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds are attracted to cosmos because they provide nectar. Nectar is a sugary liquid that bees collect to make honey, and it provides butterflies and hummingbirds with the energy they need to fly.
The nectar in cosmos flowers is located at the bloom’s center, inside a long tube called the corolla. Bees and butterflies insert their long tongues into the corolla to access the sweet nectar. As they do so, they also collect pollen on their bodies.
Pollen is a powdery substance that contains the male reproductive cells of plants. When bees and butterflies visit other flowers, they transfer the pollen to the female reproductive parts of the flower, which helps the plant create seeds.
As bees pollinate cosmos flowers, they’ll also fly to neighboring plants, making cosmos an excellent companion plant in any vegetable garden that depends on pollination. Tomato, zucchini, cucumber plants and more will all appreciate being visited by pollinating bees, so cosmos more than pull their weight in the garden.
3. They are so easy to grow!
It’s hard to justify planting a flower in your garden if it’s fussy about growing or needs special care. Fortunately, cosmos are very easy to grow, even for new gardeners.
Cosmos are annuals, meaning you start them new every year. The seeds are large and easy to sow, and they will germinate a week or so after planting. Cosmos prefer full sun and well-drained soil and will bloom from summer to fall. They can be grown in a wide range of soil types and do not require a lot of water or care.
If you’ve never planted cosmos seeds before, you’re almost guaranteed to be successful. Check out this article if you need some encouragement and how-to: Are Cosmos Easy To Grow? Yes, Especially From Seed!
4. Blooms in a variety of colors
Cosmos come in a wide range of colors, from white and pink to purple and red. This allows you to create a color scheme in your garden that appeals to you and the pollinators.
Different pollinators prefer different colors, so plant a range of colors to get the maximum amount of pollinator traffic to your garden.
Butterflies: Red, orange, pink, and purple are a butterfly’s preferred colors. Pink cosmos are very popular and easy to find, so you’ll have plenty of choices for butterflies.
Bees: Purple, white, and yellow flowers are beautiful to bees. Fortunately, there are numerous cosmos varieties in white and yellow. Purple varieties don’t exist, though some trend toward maroon and burgundy.
Hummingbird: Red is the iconic color of hummingbird feeders. While cosmos don’t come in true red, there are varieties in maroon, carmine, and scarlet orange shades.
Best cosmos varieties for pollinators
While almost any cosmos variety will be attractive to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, some might bring in even more pollinators than others. My favorite source for cosmos is Swallowtail Garden Seeds, which has a stunning 43 different varieties for sale.
The most classic cosmos mix, this tall variety produces pink, white, and carmine flowers. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds alike will frequent the flowers daily.
This dwarf variety produces single and semi-double flowers in yellow, orange, and scarlet, making them excellent for all three popular pollinators but especially loved by butterflies.
Another orange variety, this four-foot-tall cosmos will bring in all the butterflies and provide nectar in a stubby, easily-accessible center.
These double flowers come in a variety of colors, and the fluted petals create a crinkled ray around the center of the flower. Even though it’s a double bloom, the center is still easily accessible by pollinators.
These soft pink single flowers have a long blooming season, making them an excellent option for months of pollinator activity.
This list barely scrapes the surface of the different cosmos varieties out there, so spend an hour browsing some seed catalogs to find the ones that strike you the most. No matter which variety you choose to grow, you’re guaranteed to have bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in your garden all summer long.
If you need a little help getting your cosmos going, save this article for future reference: The Complete Guide To Growing Cosmos.