Late summer and early fall are great times to plant perennials, making it an excellent opportunity to add more pollinator plants to your landscape.
For several years, I have become increasingly interested in attracting pollinators to my home landscape. This passion leads me to think more about plants that supply nectar and pollen for pollinating insects and birds. In addition to attracting pollinators, these same plant species attract many other beneficial insects and animals to my landscape. These insects and animals animate my landscape, allowing me to spend time admiring the flowers and being entertained by the insects and wildlife living among them. Here are a few key things to remember when planning a pollinator-friendly area:
- Select a variety of plants that will provide nectar and pollen. Ideally, try to have three different species blooming during each growing season.
- Plant each species together in 3-foot-wide masses. These masses will provide aesthetic appeal while also benefiting bees. Bees exhibit flower constancy, which means they collect pollen from the same flower species during a foraging trip. This flower constancy benefits plants because it moves pollen from the same species for pollination to occur. In addition, clumping the same plant species in one area will help the bees move efficiently from flower to flower.
- Provide nesting and overwintering sites for pollinating insects. For example, leave un-mulched areas with well-drained soil in full sun for solitary bees. For mason bees, consider placing nest boxes made of untreated wood in an area that receives morning sun.
- Reduce the use of pesticides. If any pesticide, organic or synthetic, is deemed necessary, choose the least toxic option, and apply it in the evening when pollinators are less active.
For more information, see HGIC 1727, Pollinator Gardening, Xerces Society: Pollinator Friendly Plant List: Southeast Region, and Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.