Three Pollinator Plants
Imagine living in a world without flowers or fruit or even coffee or chocolate for that matter. Thanks to the wonderful work of pollinators like bees, much of the food we eat and flowers and plants we enjoy are possible. And it’s not just bees that are doing all the work. Butterflies, birds, beetles, bats, wasps and even flies are important in the pollination process. But despite the importance of pollinators, they are taken for granted all too often. Worldwide, there is an alarming decline in pollinator populations. Excessive use of pesticides and an ever-expanding conversion of landscapes to human use are the biggest culprits.
“Unique among all God’s creatures, only the honeybee improves the environment and preys not on any other species.” – Royden Brown (Best selling author and beekeeper)
Three Native Plants for Pollinators
Within the realm of gardening, one will find that many insects, birds, wildlife and plants maintain the kind of relationship we long for. Ones that are of mutual benefit to both parties involved. Pollinators help move pollen that in turn fertilizes flowers, and in return, the plant offers the insect a food in the form of pollen or nectar or both. Female bees collect the protein-rich pollen from flowers and combine it with nectar to form a food product for their larvae. In addition to bees, other insects like butterflies and wasps visit flowers just to sip on nectar—a sugary energy source. Unbeknownst to them, they also help in a small way to move pollen from flower to flower.
The size, shape, color, and bloom time of flowering plants all influence what types of pollinating insects will visit, so planting a diversity of flowers is the best way to attract a variety of pollinator species. To help support more beneficial pollinators in your gardens and landscape, consider native perennial plants. All are listed to grow to at least USDA zone 4 (-20 to -30 degrees Fahrenheit average minimum temperature annually).
This native perennial is also one of the most popular garden flowers in the U.S. It features showy daisy-like flowers from mid- to late-summer. The large central cone of the coneflower is made up of hundreds of tiny flowers called disc florets. Bees and butterflies can be seen circling around the cone, visiting each floret to sip nectar or gather pollen. These plants are happiest when grown in well-drained soils with dry to medium moisture in full sun. Coneflowers spread in clumps up to 2 ft. in diameter
This native perennial, often called Bee Balm, offers nectar and pollen to pollinators during its long mid-summer bloom period. Long-tongued bumblebees are the most frequent visitors to wild bergamot, but hawk moths and hummingbirds also visit to sip on the consistent nectar source. The plant prefers well-drained soils with dry to medium moisture in full to partial sun. Wild Bergamot’s foliage is susceptible to powdery mildew so plant where there is plenty of air circulation and sunlight.
Wild Blue Indigo
Tall spikes covered in deep-purple flowers of this species bloom in late spring, attracting bumblebees and serving as a host plant for some moths and butterflies. Accessing the nectar inside the closed pea-like flowers is challenging for most pollinators, but the size and strength of bumblebees enables them to pry the flowers open and reach the nectar reward. Wild blue indigo grows best in well-drained soils with dry to medium moisture and in full or partial sun.
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