Melinda's How-To: Garden to Attract Pollinators

Create a beautiful space you and the pollinators will enjoy.

Whether planting a garden, enjoying the beauty of your landscape or sitting down to a delicious meal, you have bees, butterflies, and other pollinators to thank.

What Pollinators Need - Food

  • Select a variety of plants with different shapes, colors and bloom times so there will be nectar and pollen to feed a diverse group of visitors throughout the season.
  • Include herbs, milkweed, grasses and other plants for their young, such as caterpillars, to feed upon.
  • Use native plants whenever possible. These provide the greatest appeal and benefit for the insects and birds. But cultivated flowers also do a good job attracting and feeding our pollinators.
  • Plant in masses whenever possible. This creates a bigger impact of color for you to enjoy and reduces the distance the pollinators must travel when gathering food.
  • Supplement their diets with a bit of rotten fruit in a saucer or a sugar water feeder.

  • Just A Few Plants to Consider
    • Annuals such as Pansy, Alyssum, Ageratum, Angelonia, Begonia, Cuphea, Fuchsias, Heliotrope, Impatiens, Lantana, Nasturtiums, Nicotiana, Pentas Sunflowers, Tithonia, Verbena, Licorice Vine, Sweet Potato Vine, Cardinal Vine & Morning Glory
    • Perennials such as Hellebore, Marsh Marigold, Skunk Cabbage, Peony, Pasque Flower, Phlox, Columbine, Bleeding Heart, Brunnera, Iris, Perennial Geranium, Bellflowers, Astilbe, Walker’s Low Catmint, Calamintha, Veronica, Daylily, Salvia, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Russian Sage, Cimicifuga (Actaea), Coneflowers, Rudbeckia, Mum, Aster, Goldenrod, Japanese Anemone, Toad Lily, Ornamental & Native Grasses
    • Bulbs – Crocus, Squills, Tulips, Daffodils, Hyacinth, Grape Hyacinths, Iris, Alliums, Lilies
    • Herbs – Parsley, Dill, Fennel, Oregano

What Pollinators Need - Water

  • Add a birdbath, fountain, pond or other water feature. You’ll enjoy the sound and beauty and the pollinators will appreciate the drink.
  • Add a few sticks or stones or use water features with sloping sides to make it easier for the pollinators to take a sip.
  • Create a puddle by filling a bucket or shallow container with sand and moisten as needed. Add a pinch of sea salt or wood ash for added nutrients and wait for the bees and butterflies to arrive.

What Pollinators Need - Shelter

  • Trees, shrubs and other vegetation provide shelter from weather and predators and spaces to raise their young.
  • Create multiple layers of vegetation to provide shelter for a variety of pollinators and cover as they move through the landscape gathering food.
  • Leave healthy perennials intact and standing for the winter. These provide food for the birds and winter homes for many beneficial insects.
  • Leave a few out of the way bare patches of soil for ground nesting bees.
  • Provide additional housing with nesting boxes and birdhouses.

Go Pesticide-Free

  • Avoid insecticides and fungicides that can harm the pollinators you are trying to attract. Indiscriminant use of weed killers can kill the plants the pollinators depend upon.
  • Always match the plants you choose to the growing conditions and provide proper care. The plants will be healthier and better able to tolerate pests and environmental stress.
  • When problems arise, tolerate a bit of damage whenever possible. A few holes in the leaves won’t threaten your plant’s health.
  • Use an eco-friendly pest management strategy when control is needed. Sanitation, barriers, traps, strong blasts of water and hand picking can help minimize pest damage.

Watch for these Pollinators

Bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are some of the better-known pollinators. But moths, beetles, flies, bats and some birds also help pollinate our gardens.  Include some of the following plants to bring these lesser-known pollinators into the garden.

  • Moths – strongly scented pale or white flowers that open late afternoon or night
  • Beetles – may not be the most efficient pollinators. They are generalist but most often found pollinating large strongly scented flowers like magnolia and yellow pond lilies
  • Flies – are generalist like beetles and tend to pollinate small flowers that bloom in seasonally moist habitats. Watch for them on annuals, bulbs, goldenrod, skunk cabbage, pawpaw, and members of the carrot family
  • Birds – mainly hummingbirds, carry pollen on their beaks and feathers
  • Bats – pollinate over 500 species ofnight blooming flowers with musty or rotten odor



 Written by gardening expert, Melinda Myers. Melinda Myers is a nationally recognized gardening expert with more than 30 years of horticulture experience. She is a wealth of knowledge and we are pleased to share Melinda’s Gardening How-To with you!