Pollinators tend to prefer native plants over non-natives and ornamentals for a few reasons. For starters, they co-evolved with these plants, and some actually can’t survive without their particular type of pollen.
“At least a quarter of native bees, of which there are 4,000 species in North America, require pollen from the plants that they evolved with,” Nancy Lawson, naturalist and author of The Humane Gardener: Nurturing a Backyard Habitat for Wildlife, tells mbg. “The pollen they’re bringing back to their nest has to be from certain plants or families of plants.”
Non-natives are more likely to overtake other plants in your garden and become invasive, while some ornamental plants that are bred for aesthetics can hide pollen and nectar in their decorative petals, making it harder for pollinators to find.
With that being said, something is better than nothing, and a yard full of non-native plants is usually preferable to one that just has bare grass. “The presence of a lawn means the absence of all these other habitat elements,” Lawson says. A yard with flowers, shrubs, trees, and water features will be much more appealing to pollinators (not to mention, humans).