Supporting pollinators is not only a good environmental choice, but you can reap the benefits in your own garden with bountiful blooms and a healthy harvest of fruits and vegetables. Common pollinators include some of our favorite garden visitors, such as honeybees, bumblebees and butterflies. It is important to supply food (nectar and pollen), water and a home for these creatures that are crucial to our ecosystem. Fortunately, what is good for the pollinators is good for the garden.
Why We Need to Support Pollinators
For our plants to produce fruit and seeds, their flowers need to be fertilized. Pollinators help do this by transferring pollen from the male anther of a plant to the female stigma. This is how plants create seeds and reproduce.
Wind, birds, bats, bees and butterflies all act as pollinators, but bees and butterflies are some of the easiest to entice into the garden. If you are growing vegetables or fruits, pollinators are essential for proper fruit development.
Planning a Garden that Attracts Bees and Butterflies
- To attract pollinators, choose a variety of blooms to allow for different sizes of bees and butterflies.
- Avoid hybridized plants that don’t produce as much nectar.
- You should also stop the use of insecticides or pesticides. Even products labeled as organic can contain ingredients that are harmful to pollinators.
- Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the seasons. This ensures pollinators will have access to nectar throughout the year.
Flowers That Attract Pollinators
What kind of flowers do pollinators like? Pansies, hyacinth, lilacs and pussy willow are popular plants that bloom in early spring. For the summer months, look for hostas, bee balm, lantana, phlox and lavender. Many of these plants are perennials, which means you can plant them once, and they will return each season.
As late summer fades to fall, plants like nasturtium, sedum and black-eyed Susan will keep pollinators busy until the days begin to get colder. Herbs like thyme, mint, sage and oregano are also good fall choices that you can harvest and enjoy at the end of the season. If possible, include some blooming plants native to your region.
If you prefer a vegetable garden, pollinators rely on many common crops for sustenance. Bell peppers, onions, broccoli and tomatoes all partially rely on pollinators to reproduce. Most berry plants, apple trees and grapevines need pollination as well.
Honeybees and Butterflies Need a Water Source
To provide hydration for your honeybees and butterflies, place shallow dishes of water filled with stones or glass beads around the garden. The stones give the bees a place to rest while they drink. For your part, you can create beautiful water features that enhance your garden. Be sure to refresh any standing water daily, if possible. Standing water can create a breeding ground for mosquitoes or bacteria.
The Rewards of Creating a Pollinator Garden
The ecosystem is a careful balance of give and take where all plants and animals play a supporting role. Pollinators are an essential part of that relationship, helping plants to reproduce. Plants provide food and a habitat for a variety of creatures, large and small. Fruits and vegetables feed wildlife and humans alike. You can do your part to support this circle of life by providing a banquet for the pollinators. In return, you will be rewarded with plants that reproduce and grow their best season after season.
At the end of the season, mason bees and other species of solitary bees need a safe place to create a nest and lay their eggs. You can buy bee houses or make your own with our instructions on How to Build a House for Native Bees. Creating a home for bees ensures that you will have pollinators the following season.