If you’ve ever taken a moment to sit and watch the way that insects and birds navigate their surroundings, it might seem that they meander from flower to flower aimlessly. In reality, they’re on an important mission — one that we relate to well — and that’s to get food! During this process they spread pollen throughout the environment, fertilizing our favorite plants, and allowing the production of over 75% of the world’s crops. Although their goals might be different than ours, the act of pollination is an incredibly important process that sustains life on earth! For this reason, it’s important to encourage healthy habitats for our pollinator friends. Here’s how you can make that happen right at home:
Unfortunately, some of the most effective pollinators are often regarded as pests, and measures are actually taken to keep them out instead of encouraging them to visit! Here are some of the best pollinators you can attract to your yard: Bees: Perhaps the most popular pollinators, bees are known for the busy buzzing from flower to flower and their ability to carry pollen on their fuzzy bodies. Bees fertilize more plants than any other known pollinator! Butterflies: Butterflies are avid travellers, great at spreading pollen far and wide. They have an affinity for nectar-bearing flowers in bright shades of pink, red, orange, and yellow. Moths: These nocturnal pollinators are responsible for fertilizing flowers that tend to open up later in the evening, like morning glory and gardenia. Beetles: Beetles are our pollinator army on the ground. They’re one of the first critters of the season to visit flowers and spread pollen, so you can be dang sure they know what they’re doing. Birds: Though insects are the most up close and personal with plants, birds are also efficient pollinators. Hummingbirds are fabulous pollinators that feed off of flower nectar like bees and butterflies. They have a magnetic attraction to bright red, tubular flowers.
The benefits of having pollinators around are obvious — they encourage more blooms, fruits, and veggies to grow successfully in your garden. If you want to see more of these busy critters, you’ll have to make your landscape welcoming for them. Follow our simple tips to make your garden more pollinator-friendly:
The first step: nurture native species to your region. These guys don’t get by on the foreign plants found in some gardens, they depend on the natural environment for sustenance, especially Pennsylvania native species like Bee Balms, Butterfly Weed, Goldenrod, and Asters.
It’s also important to include a variety of different plants in your garden. Pollinators range from ground critters to winged insects to flying birds, and each species has different preferences. Including an assortment of flowers keeps a steady flow of different pollinators visiting all season long. This encourages pollination of all plants in your garden, as opposed to just a select few. Plus, variety adds interest and beautifies your landscape!
Provide pollinators with a fresh water supply. Unless you live close to a natural source of water, pollinators won’t stick around long. After stopping for food, they’ll soon be off to find something to wash it down with. We know to treat our guests better than that, so make sure they’ve always got access to a fresh drink! Bird baths are an excellent option, and we have an assortment to choose from here at Lehigh Valley Home & Garden!
Lastly, keep the environment safe by avoiding the use of harmful chemicals. Although pesticides and herbicides might be targeted towards specific nuisances, they often harm beneficial organisms too. If you want to keep pests out, use barrier methods instead.
PLANTING A POLLINATOR GARDEN
Pollinators don’t flock to just any flower— they have standards, you know! Aside from encouraging native species to grow in your garden, include some of these other plants that pollinators can’t get enough of:
Salvia: This diverse plant family includes a little bit of everything, but nothing beats perennial salvia. With these tall spikes of lavender-blue blooms in your garden, you’ll see more bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds! Salvias are easy to care for — just give them a sunny area and water when it hasn’t rained in a while.
Bee Balm: With a name like that, it’s no secret that bees love these energetic flowers! This summer-blooming wonder displays long, tubular petals and vibrant colors, catching the attention of bees and hummingbirds. It stands about 3 feet tall, perfect for sitting in the background of perennial flower beds. Bee balms enjoy some shelter from the afternoon sun and grow best in moist soils.
Thyme: Thyme isn’t only a delicious herb to season your favorite dishes with. The dainty purple flowers are also popular among honeybees and other beneficial bugs. Plus, thyme plants are about as hardy as they come, making it an easy addition to your landscape.
Foxglove: Known for their gorgeous, cascading flowers and bright colors, foxgloves are a magnet for hummingbirds. They’re drawn to the tubular shape of these blooms, as well as the buffet of nectar found inside. Choose from a rainbow of colors, but opt for shades of red if you really want to catch the hummingbirds’ eye. Foxgloves are hardy flowers and thrive in a wide range of conditions, but give them some afternoon shade for the best results.
Milkweed: This Pennsylvania native produces excessive amounts of nectar, encouraging high traffic and effective pollination of the rest of your garden. As a native species, this plant is extremely hardy and even thrives in disturbed areas, like roadsides, trail paths, and gardens.
When you think about it, we owe a lot to these everyday creatures that we often take for granted. Pollinators play a vital role in our ecosystem and deserve our appreciation and protection. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to make your garden a pollinator-friendly one, and we’re happy to help you along!