Every bit of food we eat has been pollinated, and it takes a large population of pollinating insects to make that happen. In recent years, though, those pollinating insect populations have been on the decline. The good news- we can help support them and keep them around by planting pollinator-friendly plants in our gardens! And bonus! They’ll help our garden look amazing!
Read more for tips on how to integrate pollinators into your garden and to hear about some of our favorite pollinator plants!
Quick Tips for Starting a Pollinator Garden
Diversity is the key.
Plant multiple varieties of pollinators to make sure nectar and pollen are available for pollinators all throughout the growing season. In addition to considering when the plants flower, select a variety of flower shapes. Pollinators have different physical traits that allow them to collect pollen and nectar (i.e. their tongue length), so by having a variety of flowers, your garden will be helpful to a larger variety of pollinators. (See our chart later on in this blogpost to learn which plants attract which pollinators!)
Select Plants that are both Host + Nectar Plants.
Host plants are where butterflies lay eggs and reproduce, and nectar plants are where they get their food and energy! Some plants provide for both needs, whereas others just function as a host or nectar plant. We suggest having a combination or just planting plants like Milkweed that provide for both functions! (See the chart below to learn which plants you can buy that do both and effortlessly support pollinators!)
Plant in clusters.
Plant 3 or more of each plant for the best effect. Single-flowered pollinator plants are best for pollinators, so create more visual impact in your garden by planting in groups. Bees especially are attracted to these clusters of plants because it allows them to forage more efficiently! (And we all know we need to keep the bees around!)
Side note: If you want to support pollinators but also are concerned about having bees too close to your kids or pets- it’s easy to plan your garden accordingly. Plant clusters of pollinator plants further away from entrances or patios where people will be. You’ll get to save the bees and enjoy your patio this summer! Sounds like a win-win!
Discontinue the Use of Pesticides.
This is a big one- don’t use any pesticides on your yard, but especially not near or on your pollinator garden. Using pesticides will counteract your attempt to promote pollination seeing as they actually kill pollinators.
Add Stones or Tiles. To go all out, add some dark stones or tiles where butterflies can warm up on cool mornings. You’ll get butterflies to stick around longer and help create a more complete habitat.
Now that you know some basics to create a pollinator haven, here are a few of our favorite pollinator plants for your new garden! All of these plants are both host + nectar plants, so they’re sure to promote pollination regardless of what combination you use!
Some of Our Favorite Pollinator-Friendly Plants:
Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca):
This full-sun perennial blooms from June to August with pinkish, purplish flower clusters. Their flowers are a great nectar source for monarch butterflies, and their leaves serve as a food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars.
Golden Alexanders (Zizia aurea):
Golden Alexanders bloom from May to June with delicate flat-topped clusters on top of 3-foot stems. This plant is a host plant for Missouri’s woodland swallowtail butterfly.
Cardinal flower (Lobelia Cardinalis):
Cardinal flower blooms July through September with stalks of bright red flowers. These beautiful bright flowers attract both hummingbirds and butterflies!
New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae):
New England Aster can be planted in areas with partial sun and will keep your pollinator garden colorfully blooming through autumn! These bright pink, bushy blooms attract monarchs, bees, and other butterflies!
All of these pollinator-friendly plants are available seasonally at Garden Heights! Stop by and we’d be glad to help you find one of them and answer any of your pollinator gardening questions!