Butterfly and bee gardens have grown substantially in popularity over the past few years. They’re surprisingly easy to maintain, offer some added beauty to your home, and perhaps most importantly, they provide food for our much-needed pollinators! If you’re looking to create a pollinator garden of your own, but don’t know where to start, a great rule of thumb is to focus on plants native to your area. These five are some of the best options to keep your property buzzing and fluttering season after season!
The nectar in milkweed flowers are beneficial to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. For butterflies specifically, keep in mind that they need more than just nectar in their lifecycle. As caterpillars, leaves are also necessary food source. For example, monarch butterflies use milkweed plants to lay their eggs and to eat, because it’s actually the is the only food that monarch caterpillars can eat!
Milkweed grows best in sunny, moist spaces. It thrives in poor soil conditions, making it perfect for even the most novice gardener to maintain. Ideally planted in the spring or fall, these flowers will encourage a beautiful flutter of activity — literally!
These brilliantly colored blossoms are sure to create a buzz within your garden, attracting bees and hummingbirds alike. The flowers of the bee balm plant have a similar shape to daisies, but their petals are long and tubular, making them especially perfect for hummingbirds.
Bee balm is a perennial plant, meaning it will bloom in your garden year after year. It does best in sunny, moist locations, but will still thrive in part shade, particularly in hotter climates. While they can grow up to four feet tall, there are some dwarf varieties if that’s what you’d prefer.
To encourage more variety of pollinator visits to your pollinator garden, sunflowers are a beautiful addition that are especially helpful in attracting different species of birds. The bright, brilliant blooms are cheery to look at with their gorgeous pops of vibrant yellow petals. When the flowers go to seed and those seeds fall from the flower heads, birds will pick up them up for food. (Speaking of food, you can also roast the seeds to eat for yourself!)
Keep in mind that, sunflowers can grow quite tall — 6 feet or more — so, plant them against the back of your house or fence. These hardy flowers grow best with full sun and can withstand most soil conditions. Be careful not to plant them too close to other garden plants like potatoes, as they can inhibit their growth.
If you’re specifically looking to support your local bee population, alliums are the perfect inclusion to your pollinator garden. Not only are they hardy and resilient, but, according to Gardener’s Worldwide, bees see the color purple more clearly than any other color! While this doesn’t mean it should be the only color you use in your garden, it does mean it’s surefire choice to support your local bees.
Alliums prefer direct sunlight and well-draining soil. They’re also drought-tolerant, which is helpful when you’re trying to cut down on water use. The only challenge is, if they’re grown from bulbs, these flowers must be planted in the fall. If they’re grown from root clumps, they can be planted in the spring, as well.
Petunias are easy, versatile flowers that will attract both butterflies and hummingbirds. While bees can be drawn to their brightly-colored blooms, their petals typically don’t provide enough space for them to land. Petunias come in an almost endless variety of colors, and can be planted along a front walkway, a planter pot, or even in hanging baskets on a porch or patio to provide optimal viewing of any fluttering creatures that come to enjoy their nectar.
While they’re annuals, they have a long flowering season that can produce blooms from spring to fall. Heat and drought-tolerant, petunias require minimal care and are highly rewarding. Just be sure to plant them after the last frost of the season, and prune them about mid-summer to keep them healthy.
Things to Keep in Mind for Your Pollinator Garden
In addition to these flowering plants, the USDA recommends including food sources other than plants to encourage bee and butterfly visitation to your pollinator garden. Overripe fruit, including bananas and oranges, or a sponge soaked in slightly salted water can make your garden even more attractive to them. Keep in mind that caterpillars will eat the leaves of some of your insect-friendly plants, so you may want to put those plants in a place that won’t create an eyesore.
For more ways to enhance your home’s pollinator population while keeping your home in tip-top shape, check out our ten best trees to enhance curb appeal!