A pollinator garden is basically a garden that contains plants that are particularly attractive to pollinators. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds which transfer pollen from plant to plant. This process is how the plant is fertilized and then can produce fruit. Without pollination, plants would be unable to reproduce, and there would be no food in the world. Actually, our very survival is dependent on the pollinators.
Pollinators are under duress. Their habitat is being destroyed. Most natural areas full of native plants are being eliminated or mowed down as weeds. The increasing use of insecticides is another danger for the pollinators. Insecticides don’t discriminate between bugs. The pollinators will be killed along with the pest insects we are trying to control.
Another factor is the diminishing number of native plants used in our gardens. You might ignore the native perennials and look for unusual, exotic plants for your garden. Gardeners are always interested in new plants or plants that originally only grew in other climates. Unfortunately, this can be a problem because the plants of each region developed together with the pollinators. Those native plants provide exactly what the pollinators need and on a dependable schedule. If that chain of interdependency is broken, the pollinators will not survive.
A prime example is the Monarch butterfly. It is estimated that the Monarch population has dropped 90 percent over the last 20 years. Why? Mainly because the Monarch must have milkweed plants to lay their eggs on. It is the only plant the young larvae will eat. Milkweed typically grew along the side of country roads and in the uncultivated fence lines between fields on family farms. Today, we mow the roadside ditches and the fence lines are being removed to make huge fields that are easier to work with larger equipment. If Monarchs are native in your area, plant milkweed in your pollinator garden and help save the Monarch butterfly.
What Do Pollinators Need To Thrive?
A key ingredient for a pollinator garden is to plant native plants. If you are not sure what plants are actually native in your area, call your local Cooperative Extension Office. They will be able to provide you with a list of plants you should include in your pollinator garden.
It’s important to cater to your pollinators because each pollinator looks for different things. Bees are attracted to sweet fragrance like apple blossoms or hybrid tea roses. They also see ultraviolet light and are especially attracted to flowers that are yellow, purple and blue.
Butterflies are not interested in flowers that are blue or green, but are very attracted to pink, yellow, orange, red and white. Butterflies also need shelter from the wind, enjoy puddles of water and love big flowers with landing space for them.
Hummingbirds like flowers that are tubular shaped as they can reach down in them when other pollinators can’t. This guarantees they won’t have to share the nectar they are seeking. Hummingbirds are very attracted to flowers that are red, orange or pink.
Many flowers close up at night, so look for a few night-blooming plants to feed the moths. Moths are also great pollinators.
Use Perennials to Draw the Most Pollinators
Load your pollinator garden with perennials which often have more nectar than annual flowers. Once the pollinator finds your garden, they will return, looking for the same plant each year. Look for perennials for sale in the spring, but also check in the fall. Some perennials do better if planted in the fall.
When you select plants for your pollinator garden, try to have something blooming all the time. Hybrid tea roses are great for pollinators as they will bloom all summer. They will provide food for the pollinators as your other plants go in and out of bloom.
Remember, it’s important to avoid using insecticide in your yard whenever possible—especially if you’re trying to attract pollinators. The same insecticides that kill pests can kill or poison your favorite birds, bees and butterflies.
If every gardener becomes mindful of the pollinators, the impact will be hugely positive—not just in our gardens, but for the world.