Gardening for pollinators (tips)

What To Plant:
•Choose native species whenever possible. Some non-native garden plants and even common weeds are important foraging resources for generalist pollinators where natives are absent. But some pollinators feed only on specific native plants. And for overall ecosystem health, native plants have a much higher conservation value.
•Plant large drifts or clumps of flowers of the same species rather than scattering them here and there throughout landscape. Most bees tend to forage on one species at a time — which is better for the plant, too, as it ensures that the pollen will be spread among plants of the same species. Keeping food resources close together also makes it easier for bees to find pollen and nectar and get back to provision their nest without expending energy traveling great distances, as does providing the flowers they need in close proximity to their nesting habitat.

To ensure a steady food supply for resident and migrating pollinators, it’s also important to have plants in flower from April through October.

Butterfly Flowers: Butterflies are attracted to many colors (but are mostly attracted to the red, orange and yellow end of the spectrum) – the flowers they visit for nectar are usually found in clusters to provide a good landing platform for the butterflies, which  walk around on the flower clusters probing for nectar with their strawlike tongues. The best butterfly blooms have a floral tube that is tailored to the length of the particular species’ tongue.

•Butterflies have a weak sense of smell, and the blooms they visit are typically odorless.

Bee Flowers: Bees can see primarily those colors at the blue end of the spectrum, including ultraviolet. For this reason, the flowers they favor are typically shades of blue and purple (but also white or yellow) – Bees can recognize pattern as well as color, and the flowers they visit frequently have “nectar guides” on their petals—radiating lines or concentric circles, often UV, that guide the insect into the flower – in addition, bee flowers are often sweetly fragrant.

•Some flowers, like our native blue lupine, are particularly suited for pollination by bumble bees, with modified lower petals that serve as sturdy landing pads.

Moth Flowers: Nocturnal moths and other night-flying pollinators are attracted to white or pale-colored flowers that are visible in the dark; in fact, some of these blossoms open only at night. The flowers often have deep tubes to match the length of the moth’s tongue. Because the moths hover, the flowers they feed on have no landing platform.

•Moths have a great sense of smell, so the flowers they favor have a strong, sweet scent, especially useful for luring pollinators at night.

•Native plants in our region that are pollinated by moths include sacred datura and evening primrose.

Hummingbird Flowers: Most birds can see the same colors as humans, but hummingbirds tend to favor red or orange blooms. The flowers are typically long and tubular, adapted for a hummingbird’s long, narrow bill and tongue, and they often (although not always) point downward so that the hovering hummingbirds have easy access.

•Because hummingbirds, unlike many insects, have a poor sense of smell, the flowers they visit usually are not fragrant and include:  wild columbine, cardinal flower, red bee balm, and coral honeysuckle.

Creating Pollinator & Native Plant Gardens