What Should I Plant for Pollinators?
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Planting for Pollinators

Boost the biodiversity of your landscape with these six easy tips.

Written by Elizabeth Millard

Photo: Adobe Stock ©Lou
 
When thinking of pollinators, many people picture bees — and rightly so. These hardworking insects play a vital role to ensure healthy crops and flower gardens. But they’re far from the only guys on the job. Butterflies, wasps, moths, hummingbirds, bats and flies all perform pollination tasks, and that’s important not just for edibles but for numerous plants in a garden, particularly flowering ones.
 
By filling your landscape with vegetation that attracts these essential members of nature’s community, you’ll have a stronger, more robust plant population, and, in turn, you’ll be providing the pollinators with much-needed sanctuary and nutrition. Here are six top tips to consider:
 

1. Source locally.

Pollinators do best with plants native to your area. An added bonus: These plants tend to be drought resistant, which helps to create healthier soils around your log and timber home.
 

2. Offer a buffet.

Pollinators love diversity. So, in addition to several types of plants, it’s also helpful to vary their height. This will provide a wind break that can keep pollinators from being disturbed as they feed.
 

3. Aim for the rainbow.

Pollinators are attracted to bright colors, which is likely one reason why flowers are so vibrant. Aim for multiple types, like coneflowers, goldenrods, lavender, snapdragons and sunflowers, which are all easily maintained and will infuse your yard with a rainbow of color.
 

4. Have a succession plan.

When choosing plants, make sure that something will be in bloom during every season, so you can extend your pollinator feast all year long.
 

5. Pass on pesticides. 

To protect pollinators, avoid using pesticides in your garden. Instead, opt for non-chemical options that won’t harm pollinators, such as kaolin clay, which you can find at garden stores. Also keep in mind that some bugs are beneficial for gardens, so resist elimination as a first-line strategy.
 

6. Add water.

Like most creatures, pollinators need fresh water to drink, but they can’t easily land in large water sources or even bird baths. Make a “bee bath” by using a shallow plate or pan with rocks inside so they have a place to perch. Replace the water every few days to prevent mosquito infestation.
 
If you have a garden with fruits or vegetables, creating a landscape that includes pollinator-friendly choices can boost your harvest and help plants thrive. Plus, you won’t want to miss lounging on a sunny afternoon outside your cabin as fat bumblebees and colorful butterflies flit around.
 

Navigating Nativars


Jack Coyier/©Garden Gate magazine
Pictured here: Wild columbine / Aquilegia canadensism, Woodland phlox / Phlox divaricata, 'Double Stuff’ Solomon’s seal / Polygonatum odoratum
 
Shopping for native plants can be confusing. A growing majority of the plants you find in nurseries are cultivars of native species, often referred to as “nativars.” Plant breeders select plants for a variety of characteristics, like interesting leaf traits or flower size and shape, but some of these changes may mean that a plant won’t support pollinators well.
 
When you’re buying plants, choose cultivars that have retained the characteristics that make them attractive to pollinators: flower shape, easy-to-access nectaries and original leaf and petal colors. For example, the ‘Double Stuff’ Solomon’s seal flowers (above) are the same as the species, so insects can access the pollen just as easily in either the cultivar or the species. But if in doubt, you can’t go wrong by going native.
 

Blooms for the Seasons

Pollinators tend to take the winter off, retreating to their hives or migrating to warmer climes. But in North America, we can enjoy three seasons of butterflies, honeybees and hummingbirds, if we plan it right. Start with these suggestions.

Spring


Adobe ©Richard & Susan Day/Danita Delimon
 
Early in the year, pollen and nectar are hard to come by. Fuel spring’s pollinators with plants like wild columbine (shown), woodland phlox and bee balm.
 

Summer


Jack Coyier/©Garden Gate magazine
 
Pollinators appreciate plants that thrive in the heat of summer. Look to options like coneflower (shown), calendula and marigold.
 

Autumn


Jack Coyier/©Garden Gate magazine
 
By fall, many plants have lost their blooms, but a few key specimens will support pollinators late in the season and keep your garden looking fresh. Try plants like aster (shown), goldenrod and sunflowers.
 
 
To discover more ideas for your yard, check out gardengatemagazine.com

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