Have you ever seen a beautiful summer garden filled with butterflies and wondered why they all flocked to the same place? It may seem at first glance that the butterflies gathered in the garden by happenstance. But it’s more likely that what you were admiring was a pollinator garden, designed to attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators.
Pollinators include some animals – however most are insects – that spread pollen from flower to flower. Pollinator gardens tend to be colorful, as butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators are attracted to vibrant color. They’re also typically filled with plants that are native to the area and either pesticide free – or use only natural pesticides. You could say that pollinator gardens aren’t just good for insects and birds – they are good for everyone and the planet, too.
Why are pollinators important?
Pollinators play an integral role in the food we eat, as they help plant seeds and move pollen. In fact, one-third of the world’s crops are pollinated by insects. Also, many fish, birds and mammals rely on insects for food, so pollinator gardens help the ecosystem continue. Pollinator gardens serve as a nesting site for pollinators, and since they are natural and chemical free, they create more areas in the community that are healthier and safer.
How do I plant a pollinator garden?
Before we get started, it’s important to note what pollinators we’re focusing on attracting the garden. While many insects and birds can pollinate – including moths and bats – we’ve shared tips on how to attract butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and caterpillars.
Choose plants that attract pollinators
This, of course, is essential. In Cincinnati, many pollinator plants are available at greenhouses and gardening centers across the city. In fact, you might just have a few in your yard right now. Below is a short list of pollinator plants and shrubs to plant, based on when they bloom.
Blooms in the spring: Red maple, blackberry bushes, lilac shrubs, Baptista, Virginia bluebells, violets
Blooms in the summer: Butterfly bush, hydrangea, salvia, Russian sage, purple coneflower
Blooms in the fall: Bluebeard, goldenrod, perennial sunflowers, lantana, dahlias
You’ll want to plant pollinator flowers, shrubs, etc. in clusters so that the garden is easy for pollinators to find. In fact, you could even choose a planter or a window box for your pollinator garden (provided you stick to annuals). Also, leave some weeds and avoid picking out wildflowers or older growth around the plants. This way, insects in the garden can thrive.
Attract preferred guests (a word about bees)
Want to attract butterflies and hummingbirds, but not sure about bees? That’s understandable. After all, bees sting, and some of us can even have an allergic reaction if we’re stung. But bees are incredibly important for our ecosystem. In fact, they are considered the most important pollinators of all. Native bees – like mason and leafcutter bees – are critical for pollination. Contrary to popular belief, they do not live in colonies, but rather solo. They’re not aggressive, either.
So, when you see a group of bees around your pollinator garden, don’t be alarmed. Instead, pat yourself on the back for attracting them. Have a bee allergy? If so, you probably already know how to protect yourself. Just remember to wear long sleeves and pants to tend to the garden. And have medicine on hand if needed.
Be sure to welcome other pollinators as well, including ladybugs, beetles, lacewings and praying mantises.
There are many reasons to be as chemical free in the garden as you can. Not only should pesticides be kept away from any food growing in the garden but fertilizers can make their way into wetlands, streams and rivers as well. Instead, use products like diatomaceous earth and neem oil. Always read directions carefully when using pesticides and research organic pesticides that are harmless for pollinators.
Add complimentary plants
Your pollinator garden can also include plants that aren’t necessarily going to attract birds and insects. However, they just might keep pests away from pollinator plants in the garden. Dill and basil, for example, protect tomatoes by keeping hornworms away. You could also add vegetables, herbs and edible flowers to the garden for more variety.
Gardens of any kind are a great way to make your custom home even more stunning. For more landscaping ideas, reach out to the team at Classic Living Homes.