pollinator garden plants; what to plant in a pollinator garden; top 10 plants for pollinators

Pollinator Garden Plants: Why Should You Grow Them?

Your garden’s productivity largely depends on pollination, and wind alone is not enough to pollinate your plants. Actually, about 85% of plants require insects to facilitate pollination.

So, if you live in urban areas, where green spaces and insect pollinators are scarce, unlike in the wild, you will need to grow your pollinator garden.

It’s very easy to grow a pollinator garden; you require minimal space, plus the pollinator plants are readily available.

So, in this article, we shall look deeper into the benefits of growing pollinator garden plants. Also, we shall see the best plants to include in the pollinator garden and how to grow these plants. But before then, let’s begin with the basics!

What is Pollination?

low growing pollinator plants; pollinator plants by season; pollinator garden ideas
Fig. 1: Pollinators and pollinator plants; Image Source: Google Scholar

Pollination refers to the transfer of pollen by pollinators from the male part of a flower (anther) to the female part (stigma).

Methods of Pollination

Several things facilitate pollination, which include:

  • Wind
  • Insects
  • Mammals
  • Birds

Why Insect Pollinators are Essential

Most plants, e.g. broccoli, blueberries, apples, squashes, cucumbers, and tomatoes, rely on insect pollinators only to produce their vegetables and fruits.

Meet the Pollinators

The most commonly known pollinators include bees, butterflies, flies, birds (e.g. hummingbirds), bats, wasps, moths, beetles, and small mammals.

Let’s now see each of these pollinators in detail:

Bees

There are hundreds of bee species globally. One example of these species is the native bee. Native bees don’t make honey but are important for pollination and other horticultural purposes.

Bees have hairy bodies, which help them to carry pollen between flowers. These insects feed on the nectar in flowers, and in their pursuit of nectar, they unknowingly transfer pollen between plants.

Flowers that attract bees include yellow, purple, blue, and white flowers.

Butterflies

Many adult butterflies feed on nectar, and in the process, they pollinate plants while others live on the fat reserves they acquired in their larvae stage.

Hummingbirds

Like bees, hummingbirds feed on nectar, carrying pollen from flower to flower in their forage. Also, these birds have a sharp eye for color, and you will often find them on yellow or red-colored flowers.

hummingbirds feed on nectar; pollinator garden plants; how to make a pollinator garden
Fig. 3: Hummingbird; Image Source: Unsplash

Wasps

Wasps help with pollination and pest control. Some adult wasps are predators, while others feed on nectar, thus helping with carrying pollen from plant to plant.

Beetles 

Some beetles, like the checkered beetle, are good pollinators. Also, when you see beetles around, then your environment is healthy!

Moths

Not all moths are pollinators. The hummingbird clearwing moth is among the few moth species that pollinate plants.

Pollinating moths are attracted by the same plants that attract other pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Flies

Again, not every fly you see is a pollinator. The hoverfly is a good example of a pollinator.

Pollinator flies are attracted to all types of flowers, and in particular, these flies love wild roses.

Creating a Pollinator Garden

Here are the factors you can consider when creating a pollinator habitat:

Location 

Choose a sunny, sheltered place for your pollinator garden. If you can’t get such a place, don’t worry, you can opt for plants compatible with the conditions of your location.

Additionally, remember that plants in shady places take longer to spread than those in sunny areas.

Food

Most pollinators feed on nectar and pollen. So, ensure you’ve got flowering plants every season to keep pollinators coming. Also, include different types of flower colors and shapes (e.g., tubular, open, and cup-shaped) in your pollinator garden.

Avoid over-hybridized plants, like those with brighter colors, bigger blooms, and plants with excessive disease resistance.

Plant each species in clusters of about three plants for easier foraging.

Additionally, avoid using pesticides in your pollinator garden to ensure food safety for your pollinators.

Diversify pollinator plants

Different types of pollinators prefer different types of plants and different flower structures.

For example, bats and moths will love flowers that primarily open at night. On the other hand, hummingbirds will access nectar that is inaccessible to other pollinators using their long beaks and tongues.

You can grow at least 20 different types of pollinator plants. This way, you will ensure there is pollen and nectar for the different types of pollinators.

Grow native plants

Most pollinators have a strong relationship with native plants; native bees seek food more often on native plants than on non-native pollinator plants.

So, ensure you include native plants in your pollinator garden since they adapt well to your area’s climate and soil conditions and keep your pollinators around.

Leave some weeds

how to make a pollinator garden; benefits of a pollinator garden; certified pollinator garden
Fig. 2: Pollination process; Image Source: Google Scholar

Most weeds are often friendly to pollinator insects. So, just leave some parts of your garden weedy. This place can also serve as a lodging place for native bees.

However, don’t leave these weeds in the garden for too long; pull them out immediately after flowering since you wouldn’t want them to drop their seeds leading to excessive weeds in your garden.

Some of the weeds that are good for pollinators include dandelions, thistles, and bristly ox tongue.

Shelter

After spending a whole day collecting food or pollinating your plants, pollinators need somewhere to “rest.”

On that note, different types of pollinators need a different type of shelter. For example, most of the Alberta bees love bare ground where they can dig and build their palaces.

Other types of bees, like the bumble bee, prefer to live underground in places already dug by larger animals. In contrast, others live in nests abandoned by birds, cavities such as beneath rocks and hollow logs.

So, remember not to take away hollow stems, decaying wood, rocks, and fallen logs from your garden, especially during winter.

Water 

Besides feeding your pollinators with nectar, you will also need to provide them with drinking water. But how will you do this while protecting the small pollinator insects from drowning?

Well, you can pick shallow bowls, add some rocks and then add the water. But ensure that you don’t submerge the rocks since these rocks should serve as landing spots for the insects.

Also, you will need to replace the water often to ensure the watering bowls don’t become breeding sites for mosquitos.

Pollinator Garden Plan Recommendations

Small balconies

If all you have is a little balcony, you can use containers to grow a pollinator garden.

Besides container gardening being perfect for limited spaces, it’s also ideal for beginner gardeners.

The best plants to start with in your pollinator container garden are herbs – but you will need to flower them.

Patios, Decks, and Terraces

All these are places you can grow plants that will attract beneficial insects, whether the spaces are tiny or big.

You can adorn these places with potted flowers, small shrubs, climbers that can go up a wall or trellis, or even make a wall of vegetables or herbs.

Backyard gardens

You can turn your yard into a pollinator garden thriving with flowers, fruit trees, shrubs, rose bushes, and edibles.

Also, mow your lawn less often, and when you do, ensure you leave some spots to grow wilder.

Benefits of Pollinator Gardens

As I mentioned earlier, the key benefit of having a pollinator garden is improved crop productivity. However, there are more benefits to growing pollinator plants, as seen below.

  • Plants help to purify the air; pollinator plants included
  • Pollinator gardens beautify spaces
  • The gardens help in promoting mental health
  • Pollinator gardens are important for stormwater management
  • Pollinators help in eliminating pests in a garden
  • Pollinator gardens are great learning places for kids

Conclusion

Many people will often ignore the need for pollinators and blame other things for a poor harvest.

While bad climate, pests, and low-quality seeds can lower your garden’s productivity, it’s good to note that poor pollination can lower your garden’s produce too.

And talking about the quality of seeds, you can’t compromise on that either. The article below guides you on identifying healthy seeds and how to sow them: The Ultimate Guide on How to Plant Seeds

Resources

  1. A beginners guide to growing a pollinator garden
  2. Natural processes affecting pollinator health
  3. Climate-resilient pollinator gardens
  4. Attracting and maintaining pollinators
  5. Pollinator power
  6. Pollinator gardens and their importance
  7. Pollinators and plants
  8. The importance of pollinators
  9. Benefits of pollinator diversity
  10. Value of urban pollinator gardens
Robert Silver

Robert Silver

Robert Silver is a writer, speaker and certified master gardener who has been sharing his landscaping experiences through personal blogs. Taking it to the next level, Robert Silver has come up with this progardeningblog.com to shine a light on new planters and experts, discussing plants, landscape projects and much more. He has published numerous research articles on horticulture that have helped many people attain fruitful outcomes.