Pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds make the garden a wonderful place to spend time. Help keep their populations strong by making your landscape and gardens pollinator friendly all year ’round!
Plant a variety of flowers with different shapes, colors and bloom times. Consider incorporating native plants into your garden; their adaptations to local soil, climate and wildlife have evolved alongside wild pollinators.
1. Choose Flowers with High Nectar and Pollen Content
Whether you have just a balcony garden, flower pots or a backyard plot, you can help pollinators thrive by including flowers with high nectar and pollen content. You’ll also want to choose plants that are easy for them to access, like flat flowers with simple structures, such as daisies.
Bees see color five times faster than humans do, and can be lured to flowers by colors like blue, purple, red, pink, yellow and white. Hummingbirds favor brightly colored tubular flowers, so include some in your planting scheme like fuchsias, honeysuckles and penstemons.
Mix in some annuals that complete their life cycle within a single growing season and perennials that come back year after year, as well as woody shrubs and wildflowers to provide food and shelter throughout the seasons.
2. Plant in Groups
Flowers that offer pollen and nectar are important to butterflies, bees and other pollinators. The fruits and seeds from these pollinated plants are a staple of the diets of 25% of all birds and mammals.
Plan your flower beds, vegetable gardens and container garden to attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Plant a mix of annuals and perennials, both flowering and fruiting, in groups rather than scattering single species throughout the garden.
Try to include plants with different bloom structures, including tubular flowers that are a favorite of long-tongued bees and hummingbirds. And leave patches of soil exposed to encourage solitary bees and other ground-nesting insects, which are often overlooked when gardening for pollinators. This is a gardening technique called succession planting. It’s great for gardeners who want to produce vegetables and flowers all year round.
3. Create a Shelter
Besides food, pollinators need shelter to hide from predators and rear young. Leaving parts of your garden wild — such as a hedgerow, compost pile or an area of bare, unmowed grass — provides refuge for bees and butterflies. And don’t be tempted to tidy your garden with heavy garden chemicals, since many pesticides are nonselective and kill pollinators as well as pests.
Plant flowers in clumps rather than scattering them throughout the garden to mimic natural habitat and make it easier for pollinators to find them. Choose single-flowering plants over double-flowering ones to help bees reach their inner petals. And plant in colors that bees favor, such as purple, blue and yellow. Consider planting native species or cultivars that are adapted to your growing zone for best results.
4. Provide Water
Keeping water nearby for pollinators is a must. Even the slightest drip on a leaf or in a garden faucet is often enough for a bee to land and wick up a drink.
Look for plants that provide both nectar and pollen, including fuchsia, lavender and penstemon. Single flowers (those with one ring of petals) are easier for pollinators to access than doubles. Plant a variety of bloom times and flower shapes, from early spring to late fall.
Native plants are especially attractive to pollinators and offer the added benefit of settling in quickly. Check with your local extension office or a trusted garden center for recommendations of native plants that will thrive in your climate. You can also find native plant lists at the Xerces Society and the National Park Service websites.
5. Keep Your Soil Healthy
Pollinators provide a crucial service to farmers, helping keep more than two-thirds of our crop species growing. In return, those crops supply the fruits and seeds that many birds and mammals rely on for nutrition.
Plant in drifts (grouping multiple of the same plant together). Pollinators see this as a signal that there is a rich floral resource nearby, and they will be more likely to visit.
Consider mixing flowers with overlapping bloom times to ensure that your garden stays vibrant throughout the season. Pollinators also need to feed throughout the winter and fall, so having a variety of plants that offer continuous food is important.
Be sure to leave clumps of leaves and twigs, which can be used as shelter by many wildlife species. Finally, be careful with your use of fertilizers and pesticides.