If you want to help pollinators out in your garden, considering elements such as color, scent, shape, and bloom time will help you maximize the benefits your garden can deliver.
Pollinators need our help more than ever. More than one-third of our food requires pollination, so life would change drastically if we did not have their help.
Observe pollinators when you walk outside in nature. Notice which flowers attract bumblebees or solitary bees, and which attract butterflies and other pollinators. Those are some of the plants you might want to incorporate in your garden.
Here is more information for you to consider:
In a study from the 2016 Annals of Botany Pollinators, they found that while there are combinations of stimuli that attract pollinators, color is the one they strongly rely on to make their foraging decisions. The study mentioned pollinators have well-developed color vision, which in most cases covers a wider range of the spectrum than human vision.
Bees have the ability to see color faster than humans, which allows them to spot food at high speeds. They can see blue, green, orange, and yellow, but find red difficult especially against a green background.
Butterflies have more of a problem seeing color and are considered nearsighted. They see white, pink, purple, orange, and yellow but are challenged when it comes to red and green.
Hummingbirds see more like us, so red is not a challenge for them and is often the color they choose. They are happy not to compete for the nectar as they are the only ones that can see red clearly. They also see the other colors too!
There are many flowers that use their scent to attract pollinators. There are no two scents that are the same. These complex fragrances are a mixture of compounds and essential oils that flowers release into the atmosphere.
The pollinator detects the flower’s scent and heads towards it. Bees and flies are attracted to sweet scents, while beetles are attracted to a musty, spicy, or fruity scent.
The level of a plants’ scent is highest when the plant is ready to be pollinated and when potential pollinators are active. During the day you will find flowers that have a strong scent attract bees and butterflies. For those flowers that have a stronger scent at night, they will attract moths and bats. Flowers that are young and newly open do not have pollen ready for pollinators and therefore, produce less scent and are not attractive to pollinators compared to older flowers.
The shape of a flower does have an impact on the pollinators that visit your garden and how often they come back. While it is true pollinators are attracted to a wide range of flower types and shapes if you select flower shapes that are of benefit to pollinators you can have more of an impact and help them collect nectar and pollen from the plant.
Bees are attracted to a variety of shapes and sizes of flowers. They hold onto the flower with their feet and feed on the nectar while collecting the pollen. Bumblebees have similar tastes to hummingbirds. They like tubular-shaped flowers, and they have no problem getting into too hard-to-reach locations. They do feed on other flowers as well.
Butterflies prefer a broad landing surface, such as Coreopsis, Sunflowers, or Yarrow. They like a place they can easily hang out and dine.
As previously mentioned, hummingbirds prefer tubular-shaped flowers, such as a Honeysuckle vine or a trumpet vine, which goes along with the shape of their beaks. They need space to hover under or above the bloom while they feed.
Here are some specific flowers that are great for pollinators. https://www.bloomingsecrets.com/blog/help-pollinators-by-planting-these-flowers
A wide variety of plants are needed in the garden so there are blooms from early spring to late fall. The best way to attract pollinators and keep them coming back is to plant clumps of flowers, rather than single plants. Also, make sure you have included plants that are native to your region. These plants will grow better because the conditions are optimal for them as natives have adapted to your local climate, soil, and native pollinators. One last thing to remember is to try growing some night-blooming flowers for the moths and bats.
While they are beautiful many of the new and modern hybrid flowers, especially the double flowers do not have pollen, nectar, and fragrance. Best to avoid or limit these flowers in the garden, as they are beautiful to us, they don’t help pollinators at all.