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How to Attract Pollinators To Your Garden

If you spend much time on Pinterest or gardening groups on Facebook, you’ll see that it’s become very “trendy” (hate that word) to plant “pollinator friendly” gardens. The reason I dislike the word “trendy”, in this sense, is that attracting butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators to your gardens should not be a trend, because trends come and go. I mean come on, home gardeners have been planting pollinator friendly gardens for generations and now all the sudden it’s the cool thing to do.

I realize there are many mitigating factors as to why our bee and butterfly populations are down, but this is not the place to discuss that problem. My desire is to encourage home gardeners to do their best in their own little corner of the world. 

Hummingbird Drinking From Lucifer Crocosmia

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Does A Garden Need To Be Organic To Attract Pollinators 

Before we get to the fun part, let’s just get this out of the way. If you want to attract pollinators and keep them healthy, do not use pesticides in your gardens. If you feel that you have to use pesticides at least go with organic. Just know that organic pesticides are not discriminant about what they are killing, so proceed with caution. And some of the home remedies that are touted as being organic are not organic in the least. I use a mixture of Dawn soap and water to kill boxelder bugs. Does it work, yes. Does it harm pollinators, no. Is it organic, probably not. 

So to answer the question, does a garden need to be organic to attract pollinators, I don’t really know. I believe in order to keep pollinators healthy, it’s best not to use pesticides. How about we just all do the best we can and leave it at that. We will cover pest remedies in a later post, but for now here are just a few practical ways I do my best to stay away from pesticides:

  • I know it’s just flat out creepy, but be willing to hand pick jerk pests like Japanese beetles and other beetles. Fortunately, I don’t have near the problem with Japanese beetles in my current gardens that I had in my last home. Just take a bucket of hot, soapy water and a long handled spoon out to the garden and use the spoon to knock the nasty perverts into the bucket of soapy water. Do this in the morning and not in the afternoon. Trust me, you’ll only try it in the afternoon once and after you get dive bombed by Japanese beetles you’ll remember morning is best. If you don’t have to contend with Japanese beetles, just count your blessings.
  • Be okay with other bugs that have a short life span. For instance, four-lined plant bug is such a nuisance in my gardens in the spring. They don’t damage flowers, but they suck the sap out of leaves and the leaves end up with tiny brown spots covering them. I choose to ignore the little jerks because they don’t really harm the plant. Once they’ve moved on for the season, I just give the plant a little haircut.

Bees On Yellow Crocus - How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

Why Do We Want Pollinators in Our Gardens

Well, because we need them. I’m not going to give a big ole science lesson, because science was my worst subject, and sex education wasn’t far behind. Just kidding… sort of.  But the long and short of it is, if we want certain crops and flowers they need to be pollinated and we need the pollinators to do it. Make sense? Thanks, I knew it would.

And, really, who doesn’t want bees, butterflies and hummingbirds in your gardens. I realize bees have the potential to sting humans, but they really don’t want to. I can stand in the middle of one of my gardens with bees buzzing all around and never get stung. My son always says I’m one with nature. Bees buzzing, butterflies fluttering about and little hummers flitting by just add an element of happiness and serenity to gardens.

Swallowtail Butterfly on Coneflower - How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

How to Attract Bees, Butterflies & Hummingbirds to Your Garden

The best thing you can do to attract pollinators to your gardens is to plant flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar. Be sure to include a succession of blooms from early spring until late fall. 

Cute Stuff For Pollinators

 

What Are Native Plants and Why Do We Need Them To Attract Pollinators?

Nothing wrong with hybridized flowers, but because of the hybridization process, nectar and pollen are generally reduced in flowers that have been hybridized, so they aren’t quite as tasty and beneficial as native plants. What exactly are native plants? According to Wikipedia – “Native plants are plants indigenous to a given area in geologic time. This includes plants that have developed, occur naturally, or existed for many years in an area.” If you’re interested in learning the science behind native plants just click the Wikipedia link.

I would encourage you to do a few google searches for native plants in your area. What are considered native plants in some regions can be invasive species in other areas. You can check with your state’s Department of Natural Resources or your local cooperative extension. Just do a little research on your own before you go plant shopping and ask for “native” plants. Not all, but some native plants are very aggressive and will take over your gardens. Here’s another great post to you understand more about Native Plants.

Monarch Butterfly on Meadow Blazingstar - How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden

When I started researching and looking through pictures, I ended up with a list of over 50 flowers, both annuals and perennials, covering spring through fall, that will attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. So, I made up a printable that you can find in the Gardening Resources Library that includes a list of those flowers according to what season they bloom and which pollinator they attract.  Many of the flowers on the list are native plants. Fill out the form below to gain access to all our Free Gardening Printables, including the list of over 50 Flowers Pollinators Love.

Below are just some of the flowers that made the list.

Flowers That Butterflies Love:

  • Butterfly Bush – can be invasive in some areas. Look for varieties that don’t set seed.
  • Coneflower
  • Butterfly Weed
  • Liatris – Meadow Blazingstar (pictured above) is a butterfly magnet.
  • Swamp Milkweed – host plant for monarch babies. Be careful, it can be very invasive.
  • Don’t forget herbs – Parsley & Fennel are host plants for swallowtails.

Flowers Bees Love:

  • Bee Balm
  • Catmint
  • Sedum
  • Lavender
  • Salvia

Flowers Hummingbirds Love:

  • Columbine
  • Crocosmia (Lucifer)
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Penstemon
  • Daylilies

Painted Lady Butterfly on Sedum

What About Habitats For The Pollinators

I think bee houses are another trend, but honestly, this little bee house is so stinkin’ cute and I’m going to get one. Other that buying a house for your bees, here’s what you can do for bees and other pollinators to provide a place where they can hunker down and call home:

  • Add mulch to your gardens (you’re probably doing this anyway).
  • Leave some hollow stalks up. For instance, once daylilies (or other plants that have hollow stems)  are done blooming, leave some of the stalks for a natural bee habitat.
  • Don’t be so quick to clean up brush piles, the bees like them.
  • Pollinators also like to nest in shrubs, tall grasses and low-growing plants.

If there are no puddles around your yard, be sure to provide water for the pollinators. I love this little butterfly feeding station and I’m going to use it for a little watering hole for the pollinators. This puddling stone for pollinators is cute too.  Keep the water shallow for your little buggers so they don’t drown.

Swallowtail Butterfly on Trailing Verbena

How to Plant A Garden to Attract Pollinators

I would just encourage you not to even try to attract pollinators if it’s just a fad or trend you think would be fun to try.  Gardening takes time and work. It isn’t just a one time plant some flowers type of fun weekend project. I don’t want you to end up with an eyesore patch of weeds that you regret planting.

Okay, so if I haven’t talked you out of it and you still want to plant a garden to attract pollinators, here are some articles that will help you figure out how to go about it:

Flower Gardening 101
Creating and Caring For A Low Maintenance Flower Garden
14 Plants You Don’t Want In Your Garden

We’ve covered the most popular pollinators – bees, butterflies and hummingbirds, but there are other pollinators too. Other pollinators include:

  • hummingbird moths and other types of moths
  • some types of bats (yikes)
  • soldier beetles
  • hover flies

If you’re interested in more reading on attracting hummingbirds to your garden, Melissa from Empress of Dirt has a very good article on Hummingbird Migration that includes a map to get an approximate time when they will arrive in your area.

A huge thank you to my sisters, Becky & Susan, who helped provide me with some amazing pictures of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds in their gardens.

Thanks a bunch for stopping by and taking time out of your day to read How to Attract Pollinators to Your Garden. If you’re a seasoned gardener that already enjoys pollinators in your gardens, what are your (or the pollinators’) favorite flower(s)? Are you a newbie gardener that would like to attract some pollinators to your yard? If so, leave a comment and let me know if I inspired you and if you have any questions. I love hearing from my readers!

Happy Gardening,

Joanna

p.s. Go ahead and feel free to “pin” these pictures. If you hover in the upper left-hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the little Pinterest icon. Just click it and pin away. There are also pins to share at the bottom of the page. Thanks a bunch!

p.p.s I’d love to have you follow me on Pinterest. Lots of great gardening ideas and tons of gardener’s eye candy.

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Image of a butterfly on a flower with text overlay - The Best Flowers and tips for attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your garden

Image of a butterfly on a flower with text overlay - how to attract butterflies to your garden