Even though we’ve had some warmer temperatures lately, real spring is still a little way off. That means it’s still a good time to dream and plan for your garden. Let’s talk about pollinator gardening, and some of the things to include in a good pollinator garden.
Pollinators play a very important role in our food production and ecology. When we think about pollinators we often think of honeybees and butterflies. They are very important for pollination, but the truth is that there are also tons of other critters that are important pollinators. Bats, hummingbirds, native bees, wasps, moths, and more all play an important role in pollination. Since we have such a diverse group of pollinators, it’s important that we have a diverse habitat in our pollinator garden for them.
Most pollinator plants like full sun. Full sun is at least 8 hours of sun each day during the summer. If you don’t have full sun in your spot then the plants that you choose will need to reflect that. Many pollinators like to spend some time basking in the sun with some protection form the wind. A soil test is also a good idea before starting a pollinator garden to see if you need to add any lime or fertilizer to the soil. A well-drained soil is also ideal.
Native plants are the best choice for your pollinator garden. They tend to be better adapted to our soils and our native pollinators. It’s important to have a diversity of plants in your pollinator garden. Different flower shapes, flower colors, plant size, and plant shape are all important. It’s important to have a diversity of plants so that you have blooms for Spring, Summer, and Fall.
There are a ton of different plants that you could put in a pollinator garden, so I can’t mention them all here. It is important to make sure that the plants you choose are well suited to your site for sunlight, water drainage, and USDA zone. Here are some plants that I would recommend.
Some good spring blooming plants are wild indigo, Bee balm, lyre leaf sage, bearded tongue, tulip poplar, serviceberry, sweetshrub, eastern redbud, fringe tree, Carolina silverbell and bottlebrush buckeye. Many of these plants are more trees and shrubs. As I mentioned earlier you want a diversity of plant size too.
Summer blooming plants are easier to find that spring blooming. Cosmos, blackeyed Susan, coneflowers, coreopsis, St. John’s wort, sweet pepperbush, milkweed, yarrow, passionflower, mountain mint, and sourwood. This list has a mixture of perennial and annual. Many pollinator plants are able to reseed themselves. For some, if you give them a little help dispersing the seed, they do even better.
Fall blooming plants are very important as pollinators try to store up that last bit of energy before the frost comes. Goldenrod, asters, joe-pye weed, and ironweed are all some important fall bloomers. Goldenrod, joe-pye weed, and ironweed have beautiful blooms and are often seen along the roadside. These have the misfortune that they are thought of as weeds by some people, but really, they are great pollinator plants.
One challenge with native pollinator plants can be finding seed to plant. Work with other plant lover neighbors to see if they have plants that you like and if they would be willing to share seed with you. If you have questions about a pollinator garden contact your County Extension Office or email me at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.vvv