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Creating A Pollinator Garden
Creating a pollinator garden will benefit every living creature and help keep our planet healthy.
Pollinators are essential for pollinating plants so they will be able to produce food, flowers, and re-produce themselves. We get to enjoy the beauty and food the handiwork of pollinators create, plus the living greenery improves the air, water, and soil quality.
By planting and growing a pollinator garden you will be attracting them to your landscape and helping to increase their population. The key to a thriving pollinator garden is to have a wide variety of plants so something will be in bloom for most of the year. If you live in a climate that has mild winter weather, you will be able to keep pollen and berry-producing plants growing during the winter months to attract and feed pollinators.
A well-planned pollinator garden will also increase the value of your property. Established flower and vegetable gardens will increase the curb appeal of your home and increase the value should you decide to sell it. But even if you live in a rented apartment, you can still create an attractive and functional pollinator garden with a few containers on the balcony.
What To Grow
The more flowers that produce pollen and nectar that are growing in your landscape, the better. Bees are the number one pollinator and they need both pollen and nectar to survive. Butterflies also need both while hummingbirds and insects can thrive on nectar alone.
The nectar provides high-energy carbohydrates while pollen provides the protein and fat, along with the other nutrients that pollinators need.
Pollen-rich flowers include lavender and snapdragon. Nectar-rich flowers include salvia and coneflowers. But don’t limit your pollinator garden to flowers only. Vegetables, herbs, shrubs, and trees produce blooms that attract and feed pollinators.
Include plants that bloom in the morning, at night, in the shade, and during all four seasons. it will make your garden beautiful and keep the pollinators well fed.
How To Plant
Create groupings of the plants so the pollinators will easily see the colorful blooms as they pass by and come down to see if there’s a free meal awaiting them. Group the same bloom colors for maximum color impact.
Vary the bloom colors as much as possible. Purple seems to be the favorite flower color to attract bees, red is a favorite of hummingbirds, butterflies prefer orange, and yellow seems to be the universal color that all pollinators are attracted to.
Vary the bloom shape as well as the bloom color. Plant a colorful variety of flowers that produce tubular-shaped blooms that are filled with pollen or nectar, like foxglove or honeysuckle. Also, plant some flowers that produce flat, open blooms so they can rest while they eat, like daisies and cosmos.
Pollinator gardens need blooms filled with food day and night all year long. The goal of creating a successful feeding area for pollinators is to have plants blooming for most of the year and plants that produce berries during the winter. You will also need plants that have new blooms opening throughout the day and a night-blooming plant for the nocturnal pollinators
Early morning is the time pollinators begin feeding. They will continue to feed until mid-afternoon, then take a much needed rest. Feeding will start again in the early evening and continue through the night.
Morning Glories open very early in the morning and will get the pollinators off to a good start, however there are many pollen and nectar-producing flowers, like Daylilies, that produce new blooms from morning until mid-afternoon. Night-blooming plants, like Evening Primrose, will attract the nocturnal pollinators like bats (in tropical and desert climates) and moths.
Many garden vegetable plants produce large yellow blooms that are filled with pollinator food.
The tubular-shaped yellow blooms of squash plants are irresistible to bees and insects. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and okra also produce yellow blooms. Beans and peas have small purple blooms filled with pollen and pollinators can’t resist the herbal flowers.
All food-producing plants will have blooms that will draw the pollinators into the garden. You can create a pollinator garden that will provide beauty, food, and fragrance when you plant vegetable plants and herbs like basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, and lavender in your home garden.
Shade Loving Plants
Shady spots in the landscape are often under utilized for plant growing but those areas are ideal for creating a pollinator garden. If you have a location that is shaded most of the day and you don’t know what to do with it, plant these pollen and nectar-rich plants in the location for the pollinators to enjoy. You will enjoy watching them feed plus you will transform an unused shady spot into a beautiful garden.
* Begonias thrive in shade and bloom throughout the summer. The plant comes in a wide range of bloom colors (reddish-orange seems to be the favorite bloom color), sizes, and growing habits.
* Bacopa is a trailing plant that will develop runners that will be 3-4 feet long when mature. This shade lover produces tiny white or lavender blooms during the summer. This flower is good for growing in a hanging basket in a shady location.
* Blooming coleuses are a member of the mint family and the small blooms are very attractive to pollinators. These colorful annuals thrive in shade and will produce a flower spike in mid-summer.
* Creeping Charlie could be a good nectar source for pollinators. This shade-loving perennial plant is in the primrose family and it’s a fast-growing plant that thrives in moist soil. Bright yellow blooms.
* Coral bells are attractive to bees and thrive in the shade. Coral bells are drought and deer resistant and will develop tall spikes of flowers in mid-summer that will last until frost.
* Deadnettle produces purple blooms filled with nectar that is attractive to a variety of pollinating bees. This shade-loving flowering perennial develops silver foliage and purple blooms during the summer.
* Hosta is a favorite of bumblebees and the tall spikes of flowers in mid-summer attract all kinds of pollinators looking for a meal. Hostas grow best in a shady location and damp soil and bumblebees like to forage around under the plant leaves in the dampness.
* Fuchsia is a flowering annual that produces bi-colored hanging stems of flowers that will create an attractive hanging basket for a shady location. Carpenter bees and birds love these nectar-rich flowers.
* Impatiens grow in the shade and have an unusual curved spur protruding out the back of the bloom. This spur is filled with a sweet sugar solution designed to attract the flowers’ pollinators. Bees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds can’t resist a patch of colorful impatiens.
* Rosemary is a garden herb that feeds both pollinators and people. This fragrant herb will grow in the sun or shade. It’s an important early nectar source for newly emerging spring bees.
* Japanese spurge is an evergreen perennial that is a member of the boxwood family. The dark green, leathery leaves remain on the plant year-round and it produces tiny white flowers in the spring that are filled with pollen.
* Vinca are good for attracting bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, and other pollinators. Also known as periwinkle, vinca thrives in the heat in the heat of summer and in shady locations. The bloom colors include white, pink, and red, and the colors will help brighten up a shady location while feeding the pollinators.
Night Blooming Plants
Pollinators get started feeding just after daylight and night-blooming plants still have blooms opened as the sun rises in the morning. They provide a quick breakfast of leftovers for hungry early risers.
The night-blooming plants also open their food-filled blooms in the late evening when hungry pollinators are looking for a snack before retiring for the night.
Then there are the pollinators that only come out after dark and forage for food all night long. Bats, moths, some bees, fireflies, mice, and lizards do their best work at night and need plenty of food while they work the night shift. Make sure your pollinators garden has some of these night- blooming plants for the nocturnal pollinators.
Evening primrose, moonflower, night blooming jasmine, angel trumpet, night gladiolas, night phlox, nicotiana, four o’clocks, evening stock, and tuberose.
Plant some of these attractive trees, shrubs, and flowers for early spring blooms that are rich in pollen. Apple and pear trees, bellflowers, crocus, daffodils, hyacinth, tulips, lungwort, lilac, potentilla, Lily of the Valley, and Winter Aconite. Spring offers a wide selection of trees and flowers that make it easy to have something blooming.
Create your pollinator garden with low-maintenance in mind. Use plants that are drought-tolerant and produce continuous blooms during the summer months. Bee balm, bugbane, clematis, catmint, coneflower, dianthus, sunflower, salvia, sage, lavender, petunias, and poppies are a few colorful summer favorites of the pollinators.
Chrysanthemums are the favorite fall flower but they produce very little food for pollinators. Decorate with chrysanthemums and plant some of these fall food-producing plants for the pollinators.
Autumn Joy, aster, Bluebonnet, beautyberry, Lantana, verbena, goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed, and pineapple sage.
Winter Pollinator Food Sources
In warmer climates, pollinators are around during the winter months and need a reliable food source so they can survive the winter. These winter-blooming plants will brighten your landscape and produce pollen, berries, and lodging.
Christmas box, hellebore, hyssop, Oregon grape, mexican sunflower, snowdrop, winter honeysuckle, heather, willow, and witch hazel. Holly, Winterberry, and Cotoneaster are shrubs that will provide berries and shelter for pollinators during the winter.
Native perennial plants are growing wild in every climate. They have adapted to a particular climate, soil, and pest population within that region. Natives are low-maintenance plants and pollinators in the region are used to seeing them and knowing which ones offer the best meals.
Native plants will return for years without being replanted or divided. Incorporate native plants into your pollinator garden to attract the locals.
Open fields, woodlands, wetlands, and any area that is left unmowed will have native perennials growing in it. Some of the native plants will be considered weeds by humans but are a feast for pollinators.
You can discover the native plants growing in your area by doing an online search of native plant lists.
To learn more about the importance of native plants in the garden read: 13 Reasons Why Native Plants Are Best: A Wildlife Gardener’s Perspective
Woodlands And Vines
If your landscape has a natural woodland section, create a pollinator garden close to it. This will provide the pollinators with a natural habitat as well as native plants to forage.
Plant vining plants along the border of the woodland area so the vines will grow up into the trees and create colorful blooms and attract pollinators. Vining plants will climb the trees and create an irresistible pollen and nectar buffet. The height of the blooms in the trees will be visible to more pollinators and draw them in for a meal.
If you don’t have a woodland area, consider installing a pergola or archway in the pollinator garden to support the blooming vines.
Use vining plants like honeysuckle, trumpet creeper, passionflower, dutchman’s pipe, pipevine, or wisteria, to create a climbing floral buffet for pollinators.
To learn more about gardening for wildlife read: How to Turn Your Yard Into an Amazing Certified Wildlife Habitat and Botanical Sanctuary
Baskets And Planters
If you don’t have outdoor landspace or are not interested in creating a large pollinator garden, a hanging basket or container can be used to help feed the pollinators. Grow plants that are rich in pollen or nectar to add colorful beauty to your small outdoor space and it will be a win for both you and the pollinators.
Plant A Wide Variety
They say that variety is the spice of life and we can assume that is true for the flowers that pollinators like to frequent. They seem to enjoy fluttering about from flower to flower sampling what each variety has to offer.
Plant a wide variety of blooming plants in your pollinator garden to attract as many pollinators as possible. A flowering plant mix that includes natives, perennials, annuals, vegetables, herbs, fruits, night bloomers, morning bloomers, and seasonal plants will keep the pollinators thriving in your landscape.
Don’t use any type of synthetic products on the plants, especially pesticides. Only use organic plant food and pest control so the pollinators won’t be harmed.
We hope that these tips will help. Creating a garden for pollinators is an easy way to keep your backyard beautiful and the environment healthy. Hopefully, it will encourage you to remember to plant flowers that are friendly to bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators, so we can all do our part to help the earth.
So, hopefully this has given you the motivation to get started with your own pollinator garden. It’s a great way to make a tangible difference in the world around you, and the outcomes are well worth it. So get out there and garden!