June is National Pollinator month, and it’s the perfect time to give bees, butterflies, and birds a little recognition. Pollinators are such an important part of getting our gardens to grow.
Did you know, Honeybees alone are directly responsible for pollinating one-third of the food we eat? They help fertilize flowers, carrying pollen from one plant to another in exchange for food.
So how can we give back to the creatures that do so much for us? We’ve compiled a few easy ways you can celebrate pollinators in your garden:
1. Plant a pollinator-friendly garden with plants
To keep your garden beautiful, you can attract pollinators by planting nectar-rich flowers that appeal to them. Try adding native plants to an existing garden or creating a whole new garden specifically for pollinators. Choose plants that bloom at different times throughout the year, providing long-term food and shelter. To keep blooms going, be sure to fertilize with Van Wilgen’s slow-release fertilizer and Bloom Booster.
Adding Echinaceas and Rudbeckias to the perennial border is one way to attract Swallowtails and Painted Ladies. Plus, providing host plants like parsley and dill is great to keep these two returning. The butterflies will use the herbs to lay their eggs and provide for young caterpillars, repeating the cycle.
Pollinators are also attracted to a wide variety of other perennials, annuals, and shrubs including Lantana, Verbena, Vermillionaire, buddleia, zinnia, Black-eyed Susan, Butterfly Weed, Nepeta, Yarrow, Foxglove, Lupine, and Lavender just to name a few. You could easily fill an entire garden with pollinator plants, so stop by the Garden Center for additional plant recommendations.
2. Build a bee hotel
Solitary bees, bees that live alone and not in hives, need a place to make their nests. Welcome these gentle bees to your garden by adding a bee hotel. Solitary bees don’t make honey and rarely sting. Females lay their eggs inside a small hollow tube and then they patch the door with mud. You can DIY or purchase a bee hotel here at the Garden Center to encourage pollinators to check in to your garden.
3. Create a butterfly-friendly space
In addition to nectar-rich plants, such as butterfly bush, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure butterflies pay you a visit year after year. Butterflies love warm sunny spots, so you can add a few big, flat rocks to sunny areas for butterflies to bask and sunbathe on. You can also add a butterfly house or hibernation box in your butterfly haven. Place it several feet above the ground in a lightly shaded area. Butterflies will seek refuge in the narrow openings of the house where predators can’t enter. A butterfly house also provides protection from wind and rain in summer storms. To be a good backyard host, place your butterfly house near nectar-rich plants.
Butterflies also love mud puddles on a sunny day (especially after a good rain) and drink the salt and minerals from the soil, which they later pass to females during mating. Salts and minerals greatly improve the health of a butterfly egg, ensuring generations to come. You can make your own at home, by adding sand and water to a saucer and placing it in your garden; you can even add a pinch of salt.
4. Increase feather pollinator population
Insects aren’t the only pollinators around town. Hummingbirds are also great pollinators. Hang a hummingbird feeder in your yard to encourage our feathered friends to stop by. The plants that are pollinated by Hummingbirds tend to produce more nectar than plants pollinated by insects, hanging a feeder will pay off in the long run.
Butterflies like heat and bright light. If your garden is sunny, you’re halfway home! Butterflies are attracted to reds and purples and butterflies see the best in the bright sunny garden. The sun also provides warmth and heat, as butterflies need this energy for their metabolism. Focus your efforts on the sunny side.
Add herbs to your planting scheme! If you have an herb garden already, you’re on your way! Adding ‘umbelifers’ like parsley, cilantro, dill, and fennel are great plants that provide spice for you and food for caterpillars. Fennel and dill can be added to your vegetable beds and even added to your perennial borders. All of the oregano are great additions to your garden because their flowers provide nectar to many species of butterflies! The flowers of catnips and catmints also attract a wide range of butterflies! Be sure to plant extra for yourself and your caterpillars.
The simple addition of a Buddleia/butterfly bush will give your garden a “butterfly soda fountain!” Butterfly bushes produce three times more nectar than any other summer flower! With a Buddleia, you will get a summer’s worth of flowers and a magnet that will attract the greatest number of butterflies. There are many varieties to pick from, with different heights available, making Buddleias the perfect choice for every garden. All varieties are fabulous at attracting butterflies and other pollinators. Adding one to your herb garden will also direct butterflies to your host plants and give you that classic “colonial garden” look.