The U.S. grows more than 100 crops (with an annual value estimated at $3 billion) that need or benefit from pollinators. Help the hardworking critters that bring us flowers, fruits and vegetables by making your yard a great place for them to thrive.
One of the best things you can do to boost pollinators in your yard is to grow local and regional wildflowers, since the insects have adapted along with those species. Contact your local Extension Service if you don’t know which options are native pollinator-attractors.
Note that garden visitors coming in for a landing are more attracted to clumps at least 3 feet wide than they are to individual plants. Choose a location that gets sun most of the day, then plant an assortment of flowers and grasses.
Coneflowers (Echinacea species) are favored among pollinators. Butterflies and moths sip the nectar, and hummingbirds feast on many of the other insects that stop by. In the fall, finches love the dried seedheads. Plant coneflowers in drifts to attract more winged friends.
Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia species), tough native North American plants hardy to Zone 3, attract bees and butterflies. Various species grow best in moist, well-drained soils but tolerate drought once established. Interestingly, scientific research shows that pollinators are believed to be able to discriminate between Rudbeckia species by sight.
Blue mist shrub, also called bluebeard (Caryopteris x clandonensis), not only provides stunning blue blooms in late summer to early fall, when other flowers are getting harder to find, but it also attracts bees, hummingbirds and adult and larval butterflies and moths. Ranging in height from 2 to 4 feet, blue mist shrub produces the most blossoms when grown in full sun. It is hardy to Zones 4 or 5.
There’s a lot for a pollinator to like in this mix of annuals and perennials: ColorBlaze Keystone Kopper coleus, Goldilocks Rocks bidens, Señorita Blanca cleome, Stratosphere White gaura, Infinity Red New Guinea impatiens, Supertunia ‘Lavender Skies’, Lemon Coral sedum, Meteor Shower verbena and Forest Red gomphrena.
Some types of bees prefer solitary conditions instead of a hive. Create a frame that’s open in the front and closed in the back, with a roof to help rain roll off. Inside, place open paper or cane tubes, or pieces of wood with tunnels drilled into them of varying dimensions, up to ½-inch wide.
Site your house 3 to 5 feet off the ground facing east or southeast in a wind-protected area that receives morning sunlight. A water or mud source nearby is helpful. Keep vegetation from covering the openings so bees will have easy access. If you see birds attacking and looking for a tasty treat, place chicken wire across the front.
Perching birds get dusted with the pollen from one flower and transfer it to another plant when they move. Unlike insects, they are attracted by color, not scent, and have a preference for red, orange and yellow flowers, so be sure to have some perches available in your beds.
A female ruby-throated hummingbird sips nectar from a double-flowered rose of Sharon shrub, which performs best in full sun, blooming by summer to late summer. Many varieties are available. They are hardy in Zones 5 to 9, reach 15 feet or less and act as a deterrent to deer. Butterflies find the flowers attractive as well.
GOOD PLANTS FOR POLLINATORS
Species native to your region are always good choices, or rely on the plants listed above, a reliable Butterfly Bush like Buddleia ‘Black Knight’ and the mainstays on this list.
BUTTERFLY WEED (Asclepias tuberosa) The most ornamental of all the milkweeds, it serves as both a host and nectar plant for monarch butterflies.
SHASTA DAISY (Chrysanthemum x superbum) This plant draws bees, which are attracted to the big yellow “landing pad” in the center, where the pollen lies.
CARDINAL FLOWER (Lobelia cardinalis) The nectar entices hummingbirds and swallowtail butterflies, but it also feeds bees, flies and moth caterpillars.
LUPINE (Lupinus species) Bees, especially honeybees, love lupines. Along with their beauty, these plants also are legumes, which add nitrogen to the soil.
BEE BALM (Monarda species and hybrids) Monarda attracts bees, wasps, hummingbirds and hawk moths for both its nectar and pollen.
PENSTEMON (Penstemon species and hybrids) Almost all pollinators like these dainty flowers for their upright habit and tubular blooms.
GAURA (Gaura lindheimeri) The blossoms may resemble fancy butterflies, but the real things duke it out with bees to reach these plants.
ROSE (Rosa species and hybrids) The pollen-filled centers of roses, especially single-petal types, often attract bees.
GOLDENROD (Solidago species) An all-around winner! Blooming in fall, when other flowers are waning, this beauty is a great source of nectar and pollen.
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