Pollinator Garden: Why They Are Important & How to Get Them

By Jessica Goldberg

June 4, 2021

Is your yard lacking buzz? Is your vegetable garden un-bee-lievably disappointing? Do you need to earn your landscaping wings and bring some life to your space? Time to introduce pollinators! Here’s some helpful tips on how to turn your space into a productive pollinator garden.

 

Pollinator Gardens

According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, 75% of the world’s flowering plants and 75% of our crops reproduce via pollinator animals. That means we have bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles, and bats to thank for most of our colorful gardens, fruits, and veggies! You probably remember it from elementary school: the bee flies up to the flower to drink nectar, and gets some pollen on its little feet. Then at the next flower, it drops some of that pollen and plant reproduction can begin.

 

Why Attract Pollinators? 

So, why invite all of these critters to your garden? On a global scale, we’ve all heard that bees in particular are in trouble. They are losing numbers due to the mass-spraying of pesticides, loss and fragmentation of habitat, and parasites. With so much of our plants and food depending on them, it’s great to do your part and give them a piece of habitat in your yard. Every little garden helps.

Also, on a personal scale there are also a number of benefits of planting pollinators!  This includes: 

  1. They support the overall health of your garden (and local ecosystem).
  2. Planning your gardens on a bloom schedule is great for pollinators and the year-round color and interest of your space.
  3. Growing tomatoes, squash, blueberries, strawberries, or a number of other fruits and veggies in your garden? These are all either dependent or aided by insect pollination.

Photo Credit: Charles Mayer Photography

How Do You Plant a Pollinator Garden?

Consult a List for Pollinator Garden Plants

Start with a list. There are endless lists of pollinator plants out there. The MSU Extension Pollinator Garden guides are a great resource, as is the Xerces Society

Here are a handful of Tilly’s surefire favorite plants for making pollinators go wild:

Small, Herbaceous Plants
  • Milkweed (Asclepias) – A butterfly favorite!
  • Autumn Joy Stonecrop (Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’)
  • Allium
  • Coneflower (Echinacea)
  • Catmint (Nepeta)
Shrubs
  • Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
  • Butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii)
  • Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
Trees
  • Fruiting trees like apple, pear, peach
  • Serviceberry (Amelanchier)
  • Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia)

*Check if these plants work for your climate and hardiness zone. Some may have specific cultivars that work for your region!

Select Plants for Different Bloom Times

Having lots of beautiful, flowering plants is great, but you definitely don’t want a flourishing cacophony of colors and butterflies in June, then a barren wasteland in July. Make a quick bloom schedule to ensure that there is nectar to be had throughout the season. 

Plant in Clumps

A bursting patch of purple is easier to locate than a lonely salvia – plant in clumps so the pollinators can find you! 

Avoid Harsh Chemicals and Pesticides

Remember, pesticides are especially harmful to bees. Use less toxic insecticides or those that target specific species. Read labels and spray at night when pollinators are not active.

Pollinators Need Water!

Any type of shallow basin of water will make your yard that much more attractive. Make sure there are low perches for butterflies and bees. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you could get a hummingbird visitor!

Register Your Garden, and Keep Learning!

The Million Pollinator Garden Challenge is a network that allows you to register your garden as a part of a community of pollinator-conscious gardeners in the US! The partnering organizations offer educational resources, information on seed giveaways, and pollinator garden signage. Including a sign (especially for a street-facing garden) is a great way to encourage neighbors to incorporate pollinator designs as well. 

What are some of your favorite pollinator plants?

 

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