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Plant for pollinators this year

A native bumble bee burrows into the flowers of a native bee balm. © Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Looking for something beneficial and incredibly easy to do in the landscape this summer? Make pollinating insects a priority.

There are many plants that will fill this desire, including annuals and perennials. Some are even easy to grow from seed.

Roughly $4 billion of our food relies on pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, beetles and other insects. The insects pollinate the flowers of plants to produce the vegetables, grains and fruits that comprise our diet.

Here are some tips from the Xerces Society, a 40-year-old international, not-for-profit organization that fosters the conservation of invertebrates (insects) and their habitats.

  • Flowers clustered in 4-foot-wide clumps attract more pollinators than plants scattered as onesies throughout the landscape.
  • Select plants for a succession of blooms from spring through fall. Native plants tend to attract the most pollinators.
  • Different shaped flowers attract different pollinators.
  • Eliminate pesticides from your landscape. Pesticides are a major threat to pollinating insects.

In spring, pollinators depend on flowering trees and shrubs, but they also visit early blooming perennials, including crocus, anemone and primrose (Primula). They also spend time with poppies (Papaver), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), dianthus, peas (Pissum sativum) and viola.

In summer, herbs join the list, including basil (Ocimum basilicum), borage (Borago officinalis), cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) and thyme (Thymus). In the perennial category, good choices are coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), bee balm (Monarda) and tickseed (Coreopsis).

Asters, hyssops (Agastache), dahlias, salvias, zinnias and sunflowers (Helianthus annuum) are made for the fall buzzers.

Try your hand at growing the following annuals from seed by sowing them directly to the ground in spring: chives, peas, squash (Cucurbita moschata), cosmos, larkspur (Consolida ajacis), sunflowers, spider flower (Cleome hassleriana), zinnia, forget-me-nots (Myosotis), snapdragons (Antirrihum majus) and hyacinth bean (Lablab purpureus). Read and follow the seed packet instructions.

Even if you don’t have a large landscape, you can grow a garden for pollinators. Instead of mixed containers, plant pots with a single species of plants, such as all marigolds (Tagetes), zinnias or cosmos. Cluster the pots on your porch, deck, patio or balcony. Even a window box can be planted this way.

To solidify your commitment, take the Pollinator Protection Pledge and order a Pollinator Habitat sign for your garden.

 

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