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Three Tips to Attract Pollinators to your Garden

Larry Shapira, Merrifield Plant Specialist & Professor Emeritus NVCC

Gardening connects us to nature and gives us an opportunity to enjoy and experience America’s number one hobby. With the right plant selections, you can attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators for the duration of the growing season.

Here are three tips to attract pollinators

  1. Select a diversity of plants that have a variety of flower shapes, colors and sizes
  2. Choose plants that flower at different times to provide pollen or nectar for the entire growing season
  3. Plant in clumps rather than single plants to better attract pollinators

A few of my favorite pollinators are:

Butterfly bush (Buddleia): A.K.A. Summer Lilac. Hardy, vigorous shrub for sunny locations. Fast grower. Blooms mid-summer. Pink, white, lilac, blue, or purple flowers

Lantana  Grows as a summer annual. Blooms all summer; many varieties, often bi-colored. Very attractive to hummingbirds. Full sun.

Coneflower (Echinacea). Easy-to-grow perennial that grows in clumps. Showy flowers are white, crimson, or purple. New introductions include yellows and oranges. Summer blooming.

Aster (Aster x frikartii). Widely-adapted perennial that blooms late summer. Prolific bloomer with lavender to blue-violet flowers. Full sun.

Bee Balm (Monarda). A reliable, old-fashioned, summer-blooming perennial. Flowers range from scarlet to white or pink. Very showy.

Finally, not only is planting to attract pollinators a great way to assist nature, it is also a fun way to get children involved in gardening!

Coneflower and Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly

Plant List for Butterfly Gardens

Flitting from flower to flower in search of nectar, butterflies are absolutely wonderful in the garden.

Unfortunately, because of the loss of habitat and the indiscriminate use of pesticides, the butterfly population is declining.

But with just a little bit of effort, you can encourage more of these delicate beauties to visit your garden – and extend their stay.

Choose a sunny location protected from wind. As butterflies are near-sighted, it’s best to create a large patch of flower species boasting vibrant colors and sweet scents. Select plants of differing heights, colors and bloom times to attract butterflies throughout the season.

Butterflies enjoy sweet liquids, such as nectar from flowers, which supplies them with an energy source.  Annuals provide nectar all summer, while perennials provide it when they’re blooming.

As you might expect, Butterfly Bush and Butterfly Weed are great plants to attract butterflies. But they’re not the only ones. Here are some other plants that butterflies truly love:  Astilbe, Black-Eyed Susan, Catmint, Coneflower, Daylily, Salvia, Tickseed and Yarrow.

In addition to growing a butterfly friendly habitat, make caterpillars welcome in your garden. True, caterpillars feed on plants. But without caterpillars there would be no beautiful butterflies. Watching a caterpillar change into a butterfly is one of the most fascinating things about butterfly gardens.

Caterpillars can be very discriminating in the plants they feed on.  Pipevine Swallowtail feed exclusively on Pipevine, Monarchs on Milkweed and Fritillary on Violas. So if you want to watch these butterflies, select plants for both the larvae and adults.

Annuals

Common Name Botanical Name
Cosmos Cosmos
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana
French Marigold Tagetes
Heliotrope Heliotropium
Hardy Hibiscus Hibiscus
Lantana Lantana
Mimulus Mimulus
Petunia Petunia
Salvia Salvia
Snapdragon Antirrhinum
Sunflower Helianthus
Verbena Verbena
Violet Violet
Zinnia Zinnia

Perennials

Common Name Botanical Name
Anemone Anemone
Aster Aster
Astilbe Astilbe
Beardstongue Penstemon
Bee Balm Monarda
Bellflower Campanula
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia
Blanket Flower Gaillardia
Bleeding Heart Dicentra
Blue Beard Caryopteris
Butterfly Bush Buddleia
Butterfly Weed Asclepias
Candytuft Iberis
Cardinal Flower Lobelia
Catmint Nepeta
Cinquefoil Pontentilla
Cornflower Centaurea
Creeping & Summer Phlox Phlox
Dame’s Rocket Hesperis
Daylily Hemerocalilis
Foxglove Digitalis
Globe Thistle Echinops
Goldenrod Solidago
Hardy Geranium Geranium
Hardy Mem Chrysanthemum
Hollyhock Alcea
Iris Iris
Joe Pye Weed Eupatorium
Lavender Lavandula
Lily Lillium
Onion Allium
Pincushion Flower Scabiosa
Plumbago Ceratostigma
Red Hot Poker Kniphofia
Rockcress Arabis
Rosemary Rosemarinus
Salvia Salvia
Speedwell Veronica
Stoke’s Aster Stokesia
Stonecrop Sedum
Sundrops Oenothera
Sunflower Helianthus
Tickseed Chelone
Verbena Verbena
Whorling Butterflies Gaura
Wormwood Artemesia
Yarrow Achillea

Trees

Common Name Botanical Name
Chaste Tree Vitex
Cherry Prunus
Crabapple Malus
Fringtree Chionanthus
Golden Rain Tree Laburnum
Silk Tree Mimosa
Yellowood Cladrastis

Vines

Common Name Botanical Name
Clematis Clematis
Dragon Lady Crossvine Bigonia
Hardy Passion Vine Passiflora
Honeysuckle Lonicera
Morning Glory Ipomoea
Trumpet Creeper Campsis
Wisteria Wisteria