Summer is nearing, the sun is shining and things are warming up! We’re all getting back outside into our gardens and starting new projects, it’s by far one of our most favorite times of the year. This is an excellent opportunity to bring some color and life into your yard or on your porch; wouldn’t it be great to not only have a garden that’s beautiful, but that also functions as a pollinator smorgasbord? Something that is often downplayed in the world is the importance of our small, pollinating heroes- the butterflies, hummingbirds, and most importantly, BEES! To put it into perspective, one third of our entire food supply depends on the honey bee species alone; so these guys are obviously a big deal. It’s pretty well known that the bees are in big trouble- from pesticides, to habitat depletion, to dreaded colony collapse, there’s a world of problems that our little friends are facing; but we’re here to help! We’re here to give a few tips on what you can do to provide a safe haven for bees and other pollinators.
What to Plant
Pollinators are attracted to plants that are sweet smelling, vibrant, and of course, provide nectar. These are all things to keep in mind when constructing your pollen garden. When choosing your plants, here’s a quick color guide to help you out!
Butterflies and hummingbirds are drawn to pink, red, orange, yellow and purple, while bees lean more towards blue, purple, violet, white and yellow; that leaves a lot of room to get creative and have a vast rainbow of color across your yard! Of course, we have some suggestions to get you started!
Bees love lavender for it’s deep purple flowers and strong fragrance. It also produces pollen and nectar to feed on! Plant this in your yard, and the honey bees will flock!
Milkweed is widely known as the host for the monarch butterfly! Bursting with red, orange and yellow flowers, it’s no wonder that these butterflies love to snack on it!
Available in an array of colors, hibiscus plants are attractive to pollinators across the board. They produce plenty of nectar and pollen to feel hummingbirds, butterflies and bees alike! Not to mention, they are simply stunning blooms that bring tropical vibes anywhere they go!
Butterfly Bush “Buddleia”
It’s right in the name. Butterflies and bees eat this stuff up! This flower is highly attractive because it’s nectar has higher sucrose, glucose, and fructose levels than most other garden flowers!
Confederate Jasmine or “Star Jasmine”
This gorgeous, vining plant produces small white flowers with a strong, intoxicating scent that pollinators truly can’t resist!
Not only does it make a beautiful, blooming hedge, but bees can’t get enough of this stuff! This hardy shrub boasts small purple flowers that attract all pollinators to its branches!
This flowering bush is a fast grower and is always blooming in a variety of colors. Their strong scent brings in the bees and butterflies!
These flowering bushes come in red and pink, both of which are loved by hummingbirds and butterflies. It’s not unusual for this plant to have 30-40 blooms at any given time, making it a delicious and consistent food source for pollinators.
Delicate, yellow, and full of pollen. Daylilies are a catchall choice for butterflies, hummingbirds and bees!
Pentas come in all sorts of colors and are frequent bloomers, making them very popular with pollinating insects.
Bright and sunny, these flowers come in various tones of orange, red and yellow. They have a strong scent that bees and butterflies love, but they also repel harmful insects and pests like aphids and mosquitos.
Honey bees adore this plant, it’s fuzzy red flowers that are full of dusty pollen makes it an excellent place to land and have some lunch!
Low to the ground, bushy and covered in purple flowers, this plant makes a lovely resting and feeding spot for pollinators.
How to Plant It
How you plant and care for your pollinator garden is just as important as what you put in it. Something that a lot of people don’t know is that planting your flowers in clusters of the same species will make them more attractive to bees and butterflies. These insects are attracted to volume, and like to feel like they’re grazing in a vast field of flowers. Keeping your flowers clumped together helps create this illusion.
Additionally, it’s important to avoid using chemical pesticides, herbicides and plant food. These harsh substances can leech into the pollen and do harm to the insects and birds consuming them. We recommend using natural means of pest control such as planting insect-repelling plants that bees actually like (Such as marigolds or mint), or introducing ladybugs to your garden. Small amounts of insecticidal soap is also safe to use, you can make this yourself with 16oz of water, 10 drops of dawn dish soap, and 1tbsp of rubbing alcohol. Use this mixture by lightly misting the soil/affected leaves of your plants.
An important component of a good pollen garden is a water source. Bees, butterflies and birds get thirsty too! It’s encouraged to keep a shallow dish of fresh water in your garden so your little visitors have a place to rest and drink.
Also, we know that weeds in your yard are considered a menace, but many of these are actually really great for bees. They love clovers, dandelions and wildflowers, so if you can stand it, let them be!
Lastly, an often overlooked necessity for our pollinating creatures is a resting place or shelter. Birdhouses and “bee hotels” are becoming more and more popular, but another simple solution is to leave piles of pruned branches and leaves in your yard instead of tossing them out. The piles of brush on the ground act as a shelter for insects needing to rest or hide from inclimate weather.We’ve covered the basics, now it’s up to you! Go forth and create your Pollinator Garden of Eden. The Bees and Butterflies thank you. The Earth thanks you!