As I was recently assisting another writer out with an article on the importance of honeybees, I was reminded of how important pollinators are to the world. A majority of flowering plants world-wide require pollination to make seeds for the next generation of plants. Insects and other animal pollinators are also crucial to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. I thought it would be good to remind people of some flowers that they might not know are great for pollinators.
Alstroemeria - Alstroemeria blooms are known for being used in floral bouquets but this plant is also great to grow in your garden. The plant is a perennial and goes by the name Peruvian Lilies. This low-maintenance plant produces long-lasting flowers in the summer. The lily-like flowers are streaked or freckled. The blooms come in vibrant colors of pink, purple, red, orange, and white with attractive blue-green foliage. There are dwarf varieties that are excellent for container use. They look great planted alone or mixed with other plants. These flowers will grow best in locations with morning sun and shade in the afternoon. Plant them in moist, well-drained soil. For these flowers to flourish drainage is vital. This plant is hardy for zones 6 – 10.
Blanket Flower – Blanket flower is a personal favorite of mine. It is a perennial also known as Gaillardia. This flower is native to the US prairies and is a tough drought tolerant and sun-loving plant. The dazzling colored flowers are solid or have a pattern and they come in orange, red, and yellow. The flowers bloom from early summer to the first frost. Butterflies really love these flowers. They should be planted in full sun and need occasional watering. They do not need a particular soil just make sure it is well-drained as they do not like to stay wet. These flowers grow 18 – 22 inches. These plants can also be grown in containers. As a perennial, they can be divided every few years to keep them robust. They are hardy for zones 5 – 9.
Borage – Borage has beautiful blue flowers and makes a wonderful addition to any garden. This medicinal herb is also edible. Borage is also known as starflower, bee bush, bee bread, and bugloss. As some of the other names indicate the plant is great at attracting bees. In the past, beekeepers would grow this plant to boost honey production. In the garden, Borage deters pests like hornworms and is a great companion plant to tomatoes, strawberries, and squash. In many areas, the plant will flower from mid-spring to early fall. Learn more about Borage from our recent blog post.
Butterfly Weed - Butterfly weed is a native North American perennial plant also known as Asclepias Tuberosa. The plant is named after the Greek god Asklepios, the god of medicine. Butterfly Weed is one of the showiest native wildflowers. The plant is grouped with orange or yellow flowers. As its name indicates it is a favorite flower for butterflies but it also attracts hummingbirds and bees throughout the blooming season. The small flowers are nectar and pollen-rich and bloom June to August. Butterfly weed plants spread by way of seeds, which are released from large pods in early autumn. Butterfly weed is easy to grow and thrives in bright sunlight. The plant is drought tolerant and does well even in poor, dry soil. This plant is hardy for zones 4 – 10.
Lantana – In warmer areas of the country Lantana is considered a shrub, while in other parts of the country it is an annual flower. These pretty little flowers come in a variety of colors including pink, purple, orange, red, white and yellow. Often the flowers have multiple shades of color and they are as equally spectacular in containers as they are in flower beds. Lantana is very sensitive to cold and should be planted in the spring after the threat of frost has passed in your area. It may appear to grow slowly at first but once the heat of late spring and summer arrives look out! This plant loves the heat and once established they are tolerant of dry soil conditions. Lantana is drought tolerant and when planted it does not need to be in particularly rich soil and too much fertilization will actually curtail flower production. Try Lantana in a hot sunny spot in your yard. Lantana is very attractive to bees and hummingbirds.
Penstemon - This flower is native to the prairies of the Western United States and thrives in hot, dry conditions. It is also known as Beardstongue and comes in a variety of colors including pink, blue, red, and white. It is a low maintenance perennial that grows 1 to 3 feet tall although some varieties can grow up to 8 feet in height. It looks best when it is planted in groups of 3 or more and it is a nice addition to a wildflower meadow or a rock garden. It is also very attractive to hummingbirds and grows best in garden zones 3 through 9.
Pincushion Flower - The Pincushion Flower, also commonly known as Scabiosa, has pin-like stamens which resemble needles sticking out of a pincushion. It is often used as edging to a flower bed or even in a container. There are both annual and perennial varieties of Scabiosa. The annual variety must be planted each year although it sometimes will reseed itself. Its flowers are smaller than its perennial cousins but they do offer a wider array of colors including shades of blue, maroon, pink and white. Perennial varieties of the plant typically come in blue or white. The plant flowers in the late spring and will continue to flower until the first frost if the spent flowers are removed. It also retains its gray to blue-green foliage all year round. Scabiosa grows best in garden zones 5 through 8 as it does not do well in hot, humid weather. The flowers are rich in nectar. This will attract butterflies and other beneficial insects to your garden. It typically is not bothered by diseases and is deer resistant as well.
Red Hot Poker - Red Hot Poker, also known as Torch Lily, is a dramatic back of the border perennial. It grows 2 to 5 feet tall and its flower spikes come in in shades of yellow, orange and red with most varieties displaying red/orange on the top and yellow on the bottom. Depending upon the variety they bloom from June to August and look best planted in groups of 3 or more. They are drought tolerant and once established and will be long-lasting if they find a spot that suits them. After the plants finishing their blooming season, you can keep the spikes in place for visual interest or remove them and trim the grass-like foliage for a neater appearance.
Salvia – Salvia is also known as Sages and is a perennial. This plant flowers in late spring to fall and will do well in hot, dry conditions. They come in a variety of bloom shapes, colors, and fragrances. Hummingbirds and butterflies love this plant. The flowers on Salvia come in shades of blue, lavender, pink, purple, red, and white. There are some new varieties in the coral family and you can occasionally see a yellow one. Salvias like full sun and well-drained soil but there are varieties that will also grow in part-shade. Keep the soil moist through the growing season. To keep this plant flowering, remove the faded blooms. Spring is the best time to divide this perennial and do it every 3 years before the new growth begins. Grow this plant in zones 3 – 8.
Sunflower – Sunflowers are an annual flower and easy to grow from seed. They get their name because during the day the flowers always turn to face the sun. They are not fussy about soil conditions but do benefit from some mulch and a little extra water in dry spaces. They grow best when planted in full sun and in fertile, moist well-drained soil. Make sure to support the stems as they grow taller. They are relatively pest and disease-free and while we’re all probably familiar with the 9-foot tall varieties there are some you can grow in containers too! This is another fun plant to grow with your kids!
Sweet Alyssum - Sweet Alyssum is a hardy annual flower that is used as a filler plant in containers, an edging plant, and in a flower bed. Plant it in a window box and its pleasant honey-like odor can permeate a room. It is easy to grow from seed and it is not picky about soil conditions. Its flowers are white, pink or purple and if you cut the flowers back in mid-summer it will bloom all over again. It does well in part to full sun conditions and if you plant it in just the right spot it will self-seed and come back year after year.
Here are some tips on planting flowers to attract pollinators:
- Consider what type of soil you have, site drainage, sunlight available, and other factors when selecting plants.
- For pollinators pick a variety of flower colors and shapes.
- Plant groups of flowers, rather than planting a single plant.
- Select flowers that bloom at different times of year to provide nectar and pollen throughout the growing season.
- Whenever possible select native plants. These plants are more familiar to your locality and will attract local pollinators.
- Avoid the use of pesticides. This will reduce the damage to the plant and protect pollinator from chemicals.
- Make sure you have water available. Pollinators require water. You can provide water for pollinators with a shallow dish, bowl, or birdbaths.
Photos courtesy of Jill Mazur and Pixabay.