Home of the Practically Perfect Pink Phlox and other native plants for pollinators

Monday, March 14, 2011

What's In Your Garden

For Pollinators?

Lindera benzoin aka Spicebush the host plant for Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly
Back in January, in the midst of more snowfalls then we had seen in years, the garden catalogs starting arriving and my plant lust began anew. I gently stopped myself from ordering all manner of plants with the following questions:
  • Will they survive the difficult conditions at Clay and Limestone?
  • Is this plant a nectar or pollen source for pollinators?
  • Is it a host plant for pollinators?
  • Is this plant available locally, therefore, more likely to survive the extremes of the Central Basin?
  • Will this plant add to the diversity of my pollinator friendly garden?
  • Is there a native plant that makes more sense then that seductive exotic?
That's not to imply that all the plants in my garden meet the above criteria. Some small trees, shrubs and perennials are planted just because I like them. For instance, Bat faced cuphea was planted in containers near the front door. No way, would an iffy, albeit beautiful exotic, take up valuable garden space that's reserved for natives. I was doubly delighted to discover that it was visited the Bumbles, smaller bees and a few hummers.
A bat faced cuphea with a visitor
Now, that it's officially spring at Clay and Limestone and the local nurseries are beginning to stock that seductive plant material, it's time to assess 'real' garden needs! In a garden like mine, with shallow, nearly neutral clay soil over limestone bedrock, plant real estate is valuable!
Tommies drew the eye and honeybees!
My plan is simply to:

Provide plenty of nectar and pollen rich plants
  • Primarily from my garden region.
  • A range of shapes and sizes to attract hummers, butterfly, a variety of bees, flies,
  • long bloom season
  • evening blooming and scented flowers for moths and bats

Provide host plants
  • Sedges and grasses for skippers
  • Fennels, dills, parsley for the swallowtails
  • milkweeds for the monarchs
  • asters for pollinating beetles

Container plants
  • Aromatic herbs~coriander, catnip, mint, parsley, lavender, fennel and dill
  • annuals~marigold, phlox, bachelor's button, zinnia, cosmos, salvia
  • perennials~bee balm, columbine, iris, coneflower, lobelia, delphinium, summer phloxes, salvia

Yes, that's a pollinator visiting witch hazel 'Diane'

So what is on my list?
  • Asclepias verticillata (adaptable and tough native, it's a food and host plant with good fall color)
  • Helianthus 'Lemon Queen'~reports she can take a bit more shade
  • Lobelia siphilitica~see photo!
  • Sedges~
  • Native grasses
  • Opuntia~for visiting bats
  • Herbs~rosemary, dill, fennel and borage
  • Annuals when they are available ~sweet alyssum, cleome, Calliopsis, Coreopsis tinctoria, salvias (Scarlet sage, Blue anise sage, Autumn sage and Pineapple sage), lantana, sunflowers and zinnias ( I scatter seeds, but, sometimes planting them is better!
  • Native shrubs~Lindera benzoin, ilex, illicium and vaccinium (blueberries)

Lobelia siphilitica with bee
Tell me please~What's in your garden or on your shopping list for pollinators?


PS Of course, you already know what I am going to say. If you want to attract pollinators~Never, never, never, ever, use pesticides in your garden.

This post is part of a series on native pollinators in the garden~ Earlier posts and their links are listed below for your convenience.

Part I~Now Is The Time To Bee-gin Thinking About Bees ( here)
This Is The Place To Bee ( here)
If You Could Plant Only One Plant In Your Garden~Don't (here)

Must Bee The Season of The Witch (here)
Go Bare In Your Garden (here)
We can't All be pretty Pollinators (here)
Eye, Eye Skipper, Big Eyed Pollinators (here)

Other bee posts you might want to read~
Count Yourself Lucky To Have Hoverflies (here)
Bumblebee Hotel (here)
Still Taking Care Of Bzzness (here)
My Sweet Embraceable You (here)

This post was written by Gail Eichelberger for my blog Clay and Limestone Copyright 2011.This work protected under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. Hi Gail,
    On my list (in my fridge stratifying in damp sand) is Yellow Pimpernel and Honewort for Swallowtails, and Early Meadow Rue and Violet Wood Sorrel for bees.


  2. Heather, That's a great list!

  3. Fantastic criteria for your shopping list. While many of my purchases this year were vegetable plants I did make room for borage strictly because I heard it was a great pollinator plant.

  4. Let me see . . . I have lots. Well, my 'Annabelle' hydrangea is the one which pollinators love best. How about goldenrod, daisies, Black-eyed Susans, tall garden phlox, tommies cause of you, single roses, bee balm, butterfly bush, butterfly weed, etc., etc. and don't forget the weeds. :)

  5. Hi! Happy to see bees in your post. I have also posted on bees today. Funny, your bees look like they are wearing fur coats. Must be the cold weather.

  6. Opuntia for visiting bats! I'll definitely be looking into that. Wish I had as organized a plan for the pollinators as you - should be a wonderful summer for all :)

  7. I have a lot of these plants already..whew! The PPPP that you sent me in loaded with buds....

  8. I see lots of pollinators visiting my garden, but have never systematically made a list of the plants they like. I have given more thought to attracting birds than to attracting pollinators. Thank you for the gentle nudge.

  9. The buzzers and others are all over here, but adding more natives is high on the list, especially various Lobelias. Those meet my criteria! :-)

  10. Oh yeah, some shade tolerant sedges in a damp area. Definitely. I just want to bolster my milkweeds this year. Who knows what's going to ome back in a month.

  11. I have the spicebush (lindera) but it is in a dry spot and I think I'm going to move it this week to my mother's property. Maybe it will be happier there.

  12. You remind me, I have milkweed seeds. They started life as part of a flower art demonstration, but I wanted the seeds ... now I just have to find out when, and where to plant them.

  13. We're heavily focusing on pollinators this year, and actually vetoed some hybrid blooms because they were pollen sterile! I ask you, what use is a pollen sterile flower to a bee!? Anyhoo, we're currently thinning out part of our garden, removing unfavorables, and leaving the natives. In between the existing natives, our shopping list primarily consists of an assortment of native Salvias, and a variety of native Ceanothus. After seeing the bees mugging the little bit of Ceanothus we have last year, it was clear that we need to plant more...much MUCH more! ;) In addition to that, we've been planting swaths of rosemary, as it's one of the few plants that bloom here in winter, and it's a fantastic nectar source for bees.

  14. Look at all the bees you have already! It's much too chilly here for any kind of insects yet, but I hope I'll be ready for them when they come. I was happy to see that I have many of the plants you've listed here. And I do have lots of clover in the lawn, which may not win me any "beautiful lawn" awards, but the bees sure love it.

  15. If I buy any plants for pollinators it should be more winter bloomers. Maybe a witch hazel. Great photos!

  16. I want a witch hazel. They aren't popular in this area so I will have to either order one or find one at a nursery out of town. I was so excited Saturday to see my first pollinator in the garden. It was a bee mimic or fly on the crocus. I will do a post about it. I hope someone (hint hint) can tell me what it is. Cheers...

  17. Exciting list Gail - I have asclepias standing by ready to be sown as soon as I have room, Dahlia 'Bishop's Chrildre', apparently nectar heaven, growing away strongly, sunflowers, verbenas, cleome, zinnias either sown or ready to sow as soon as I have space. I've also got more Knautia macedonica, it was mobbed all last year by bees and hoverflies, and self seeded well so I will spread more of it around, both here and at the allotment. You are the inspiration for a lot of this!

  18. I think your wonderful post deserves much thought and I will respond in a post linked back to this magnificent post Gail...you have my creative juices flowing and the brain whirling now...thx

  19. The native bees are out now, which makes sense since the Redbud is about to bloom, and the bees go crazy over it!

    I want to add more Redbuds, get Blue Toadflax going again, and make sure there's plenty of Gerardia around. How is the fragrance of your Lindera?

  20. Sweetbay, On warm, sunny days it's lovely. But, it's been raining and cold for the last many. It would be very happy on your moist garden site.

    Donna, I look forward to reading it

    Brooke, Thank you! I am gratified to hear that others are inspired.


  21. Last year only natives were added here, and it will be the same this year (other than containers and the veggie garden.) I'm not buying plants, just seeds, so we'll see what comes up!

    Loved this post Gail, and all of them you've written in your pollinator series. We need our pollinators, and they need all the help we can give them.

    You're making a difference - keep spreading the word!

  22. Wonderful "requirements" for your garden!

    I'm adding more Joe Pye and Ironweed for the pollinators, especially the butterflies. I've sown seeds of several milkweed varieties. The butterflies love the bottlebrush agastache, such as my 'Blue Fortune', so I will increase that one. The hummingbirds love my salvias, and I'm planning to divide and conquer more space with those. Also, I'm adding more of the large perennial lantana 'Miss Huff' to the butterfly garden to fill up space (less maintenance) and give the pollinators another favorite. Last, but not least, I will sow plenty of zinnia seeds for the butterflies do love the blooms so much.

  23. You asked about A. ciliata ~ I was planning to try it at the top of my hill, which is basically sand, but in other places too, in case it just needs good drainage and not necessarily sand. And I found this ~ check it out!


"Insects are the little things that run the world." Dr. E O Wilson