Gardening for Pollinators

Pollinator gardens feature native plants with a variety of bloom times. They add color and interest to the landscape while also helping to conserve and attract native pollinators. Pollinators such as hummingbirds, bumble bees, day moths, and flower beetles keep gardens healthy and the landscape abuzz with activity.

They are also essential to the production of billions of dollars of agricultural crops annually. Keeping the insects, mammals, and birds that pollinate our plants healthy is vital to every conservation issue you can imagine. Few habitats can maintain themselves without an army of pollinators to keep their plants reproducing.

Here are a few simple tips for creating a pollinator garden to bring color and wildlife to your yard:

  • Use native plants and provide a variety of heights, colors, and bloom times for nectar.
  • Minimize or eliminate pesticide use, especially those containing neonicotinoids.
  • Create shelter: bee boxes and twig bundles, brush shelters, dense shrubs, standing dead trees, pocket meadows. patches of sandy ground
  • Include water: shallow containers, wet sand or mud.
  • Provide larval food plants for caterpillars.
  • Allow a few wild patches and unmanicured natural areas.
  • Full sun should cover at least half of your pollinator garden site. Provide basking structures (rocks, fences, logs, etc.).

Excellent websites for learning more about pollinators are the Xerces Society and the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign (NAPPC). Both sites provide fact sheets for gardeners and land managers, and as well as pollinator-themed curricula for teachers.

Sun-loving native plants for attracting pollinators in Northern Virginia

Shrubs: Shrubby Saint Johnswort, Sumac, Elderberry, Summersweet, Meadowsweet, Steeplebush, Wild Blue Indigo, Silky and Gray-stemmed Dogwood, Highbush Blueberry, Button Bush, Hercules’ Club, Devil's Walking Stick

Vines: Coral Honeysuckle, Passionflower, Carolina Jasmine, Cross Vine

Wildflowers: Goldenrods, Wild Bergamot, Cardinal Flower, Pickerel Weed, Mountain Mint, Joe-Pye Weed, Ironweed, Wild Senna, Cup Plant, Purple Coneflower, New England and New York Aster, Blue Giant and Purple Giant Hyssop, Milkweeds (Common, Purple, Swamp and Butterflyweed), Showy Tick Trefoil, Dogbane, Wild Geranium, Golden Alexander, Helianthus

Groundcovers: Creeping Mint, Violets, Creeping and Moss Phlox, Wild Strawberry