For 2020, Classic Blue is the Pantone Color of the Year. We thought we would take a look at different blue plants you can grow that would also attract pollinators.  Pollinators are crucial to the production of most fruits, nuts, and berries which people and wildlife depend on.  Pollinator populations are declining so it is important to help increase them.

Flowers are the real attention-getters to attract pollinators.  These plants use their bright colors to encourage pollinators to visit.  While blue flowers are not typically the color many pollinators are attracted to there are some blue flowers that have the nectar pollinators are searching for.  Flowers in the violet-blue range produce the highest volumes of nectar.

According to the US Fish & Wildlife Service, here are some things you can do to in your garden to help pollinators:

 

  • Plant a garden using native flowering plants
  • Choose a variety of colors and shapes that will attract a variety of pollinators
  • Select plants that flower different times of the season to ensure nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season
  • Plant in clumps rather than a single plant to better attract pollinators

We are going to look at blue flowers that you can grow for bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds:

 

Bees

Bees are the best-known pollinators and it is very important to make them welcome in the garden.  Nearly eighty percent of all crop pollination comes from honeybees.  Bees are attracted to bright blue and violet colors as well as bright white, yellow, and ultraviolet. They also like flowers that have fresh, mild, or pleasant scents.  Bees do not see red and use scent, rather than sight, to find flowers from a distance.  Here are 4 blue flowers that are great for attracting bees to your garden:

Bachelor Button – this is a true blue flower and is also known as cornflower.  This flower is a cutting garden favorite.  It is a hardy annual with fringed flowers.  This plant prefers full sun or half sun/half shade.  These flowers grow 2 to 3-foot tall. It is easy to grow from seeds. 

Borage - this pretty flower is an annual herb; known as starflower and is native to the Mediterranean.  The blooms typically appear in June and July. The leaves are cucumber flavored and edible. It also has medicinal purposes.  Plant it in well-drained soil.  Plant Borage near strawberries and it will attract bees and increase your fruit yield. 

Caeruleum Allium – this eye-catching blue flower is an ornamental onion that produces globes of star-shaped flowers.  It is also known as blue onion or Persian onion.  This perennial plant grows 14-16 inches tall. The plant performs best in full sun or half sun/half shade. 

Pride of Madeira – This shrub produces conical blue flower spikes. It is also known as Echium candicans. The evergreen shrub can grow 5 – 6 feet tall and 6 – 10 feet wide.  The eye-catching flowers appear in late spring through summer.  It is low maintenance and drought tolerant.  A great selection for water-wise gardeners.

Butterflies                                                                                 

Butterflies enjoy bright colors, especially bright red and purple flowers. They also like yellow, orange, and pink.  They are attracted to flowers with a faint but fresh odor.  Besides being an important pollinator, they are also fun to watch as they flutter around a garden.  Here are our blue flower selections for butterflies:

Butterfly Bush Buddleia – this shrub is irresistible to butterflies. Another name for this plant is Summer Lilac. It produces many flowers but can reseed aggressively, so beware.  Breeders have been working on developing sterile cultivators to take care of this issue.  It will generally bloom from summer to the first frost.  Plant this shrub in the spring or fall in full sun exposure and well-drained soil.
 
Caryopteris – a small to medium woody shrub has attractive blue flowers and is fragrant.  The plant is native to the Himalayas and East Asia.  It blooms in late summer through fall. Plant it in well-drained soil in sun to partial shade.  The flowers bloom on the current season’s growth and need to be pruned in the spring.  The photos are a variety of Caryopteris from Proven Winners called Beyond Midnight.

Morning Glory – an annual climber with heart-shaped leaves and trumpet-shaped flowers.  Morning glory can be grown on a trellis or pergola or can be used as a groundcover. The vine can grow 15-feet in one season and self-seeds fairly easily.  Morning glories bloom best when planted in full sun. 

Sea Holly - Sea holly plants are low-maintenance and have blue-green stems with masses of small, metallic blue flower heads.  These plants are similar to globe thistle flowers.  The plants are very tough and tolerant of dry conditions.  To the delight of butterflies, the perennial flowers bloom summer to fall. 

Hummingbirds

Hummingbirds prefer scarlet, red, orange, pink, fuchsia, or purple flowers. They also like tubular-shaped flowers that accommodate their long bills.  Hummingbirds prefer flowers with lots of concentrated nectar.  Nectar is the only reason a hummingbird visits a flower. These are our blue flower picks for hummingbirds:

Catmint – Nepeta species – Catmint’s blue flowers look great with other flowers in the garden.  This variety of Catmint is long blooming and is an easy to grow herb and perennial.  This variety has attractive gray-green foliage.  In May, the plant explodes in lavender-blue flowers.  This plant is part of the mint family.  Catmint prefers full sun but can still thrive if there is afternoon shade.

Columbine – another easy to grow perennial flower that blooms in the spring. The bell-shaped flowers are a favorite of hummingbirds. This flower does well in most types of soil as long as it is well-draining.  They enjoy full sun but don’t like it very hot. In hotter regions of the country, look to plant it in a sunny location that gets afternoon shade.  Regular deadheading of the plant is needed to encourage additional blooming.

Lupine – this wildflower has flowering spikey heads that grow 1 – 5 feet tall. They typically bloom from May to July. Lupines can be annuals and also perennials. This flower is a member of the pea family.  The plant prefers full sun and does not like to be moved.  The flower benefits from deadheading.

Salvia – also known as Sage. This long-flowering plant grows well in hot dry conditions.  The plant comes in a variety of bloom shapes, colors, and fragrances.  It has tubular flowers that are loved by pollinators especially hummingbirds.  There are over 900 different varieties of Salvia and some of them are annuals and some are perennials.

Why not try adding some of these blue flowers to your garden!

Caryopteris photo courtesy of Proven Winners and Salvia photo courtesy of Green-Fuse Botanicals.

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