In 2007, the U.S. Senate designated a week in June as National Pollinator Week to increase the general public’s awareness of the importance of pollinators to food production. What is pollination? Pollination is the movement of pollen from the male flower part (anther) to the female flower part (stigma) on the same plant or between two plants of the same species. Proper pollination is critical for the development of many fruits and crops.
Approximately one third of the food that ends up on a plate is there because of pollinators. When pollination is mentioned, most people think of honey bees but there are so many other insects that help get the job done such as native bees, beetles, flies, wasps and butterflies.
Of these, bees are a very important group for pollination because they deliberately harvest pollen to feed their offspring; they visit similar flower species per foraging trip and accidentally transfer pollen along the way.
Planting a pollinator garden will encourage the presence of native pollinators. Like all living things, pollinators need food, shelter, and water. Start by selecting a sunny area in the landscape and evaluating the area for existing nest sites, nectar sources and habitat. Then add plant species to the area that will increase nectar and pollen sources for pollinator insects through the spring, summer and fall months.
See the chart below for plant suggestions. Creating a diverse habitat that consists of multiple plant species will attract multiple species of insects. Start with 8 to 10 plant species to attract a greater diversity of pollinators. If possible, group the same plant species in at least 3 feet wide masses for a greater visual impact; this will also make the flowers easier for insects to find and navigate more efficiently as they gather nectar and pollen. If pollination is desired for an edible crop in the landscape, consider planting the pollinator garden nearby. Foraging distance varies among bee species. In general, larger species (i.e. bumble bees) travel further distances than smaller bee species (i.e. sweat bees).
Next, create nesting and overwintering sites. This can be accomplished by simply leaving un-mulched areas with well-drained soil and full sun to be used by solitary ground nesting bees. Wood nesting bee species prefer rotting logs, stumps or twigs with pithy centers.
These areas can be replicated by supplying nest boxes made using untreated lumber. Drill holes 3∕32” to 3∕8” in diameter on ¾” centers. The holes should be smooth on the inside and closed at one end. Tunnel depth for holes less than ¼” wide should be 3- 4 inches deep and holes greater than ¼” wide should be 5 – 6 inches deep. Place nest boxes three to six feet high in a sheltered area on a building, against a fence or in a tree where it will receive morning sun.
Lastly, reduce pesticide use in surrounding area. If any pesticide, organic or synthetic, is deemed necessary then choose the least toxic option and apply it in the evening when pollinators are less active.
Native Plants for Attracting Pollinators.
|Common Name||Botanical Name||Season||Flower Color|
|Painted Buckeye||Aesculus sylvatica||Late Spring||Yellow / Green|
|Serviceberry||Amelanchier x grandiflora ‘Autumn Brilliance’||Spring||White|
|Pawpaw||Asimina triloba||Late Spring||Maroon|
|Eastern Redbud||Cercis canadensis||Spring||Pink|
|White Fringtree||Chionanthus virginicus||Late Spring||White|
|Flowering Dogwood||Cornus florida||Spring||White|
|Green Hawthorne||Crataegus viridis||Spring||White|
|Persimmon||Diospyros virginiana||Early Summer||Yellow|
|American Holly||Ilex opaca||Late Spring||White|
|Tulip Tree||Liriodendron tulipifera||Late Spring||Yellow|
|Southern Magnolia||Magnolia grandiflora||Spring||White|
|Umbrella Magnolia||Magnolia tripetala||Spring||Pale Yellow|
|American Beautyberry||Callicarpa americana||Late Spring||Pink|
|Oakleaf Hydrangea||Hydrangea quercifolia||Summer||White|
|Virginia Sweetspire||Itea virginica||Early Summer||White|
|Carolina Rose||Rosa carolina||Early Summer||White|
|Rabbiteye Blueberry||Vaccinium virgatum||Spring||White|
|Wild Columbine||Aquilegia canadensis||Spring||Red / Yellow|
|Swamp Milkweed||Asclepias incarnate||Summer||Pink|
|Common Milkweed||Asclepias syriaca||Summer||Pink|
|Butterfly Weed||Asclepias tuberosa||Summer||Orange / Red|
|Whorled Milkweed||Asclepias verticillata||Summer||White|
|White Wild Indigo||Baptisia alba||Spring||White|
|Wild Indigo||Baptisia australis||Spring||Blue|
|Green and Gold||Chrysogonum virginianum||Spring||Yellow|
|Blue Mistflower||Conoclinium coelestinum||Summer||Purple|
|Threadleaf Coreopsis||Coreopsis verticillata||Summer||Yellow|
|Purple Coneflower||Echinacea purpurea||Sum to Fall||Purple / White|
|Rattlesnake Master||Eryngium yuccifolium||Sum to Fall||White|
|Joe Pye Weed||Eutrochium spp.||Summer||Pink|
|Spotted Geranium||Geranium maculatum||Spring||Pink|
|Sneezeweed||Helenium autumnale||Summer to Fall||Yellow / Orange|
|Swamp Sunflower||Helianthus angustifolius||Summer to Fall||Yellow|
|Dense Blazing Star||Liatris spicata||Summer||Blue / White|
|Cardinal Flower||Lobelia cardinalis||Late Summer||Red|
|Great Blue Lobelia||Lobelia siphilitica||Late Summer||Purple|
|Wild Bergamont||Monarda fistulosa||Summer||Dark Pink|
|Spotted Beebalm||Monarda punctata||Sum to Fall||Yellow|
|Eastern Smooth Bluetongue||Penstemon laevigatus||Early Summer||White|
|Obedient Plant||Physostegia virginiana||Late Summer / Fall||Pink|
|Black-eyed Susan||Rudbeckia fulgida||Sum to Fall||Yellow|
|Brown-eyed Susan||Rudbeckia triloba||Late Summer||Yellow|
|Rough-leaf goldenrod||Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’||Late Summer / Fall||Yellow|
|Showy goldenrod||Solidago speciosa||Late Summer||Yellow|
|Stokes’ Aster||Stokesia laevis||Early Summer||Lavender|
|Blue Wood Aster||Symphyotrichum cordifolium||Late Summer / Fall||Blue|
|Spiderwort||Tradescantia spp.||Late Spring / Summer||Purple|
|Giant Ironweed||Vernonia gigantea||Summer||Purple|
|Golden alexander||Zizia aurea||Spring||Yellow|
|Coral Honeysuckle||Lonicera sempervirens||Spring / Summer||Red|
|Purple Passionflower||Passiflora incarnata||Summer||Purple|
Warm Season Annuals for Attracting Pollinators
|Mexican Sunflower||Tithonia rotundifolia|
Document last updated 2/23 by Millie Davenport.
Originally published 12/15