Pollinator Garden – Important for Plant Life and Insect Life

A pollinator garden is an area where plants and animals coexist to help each other grow.
Pollinator Garden - Important for Plant Life and Insect Life
Pollinator Garden – Important for Plant Life and Insect Life

There is a substantial decline in pollinators. If you own a garden or building one, creating a pollinator garden is essential for growing fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

Creating a pollinator garden is a simple process. Get to know your local pollinators. Plant pollen and nectar producing plants to attract pollinators such as bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, beetles, and other pollinating insects.  Provide them with shelter and nesting sites.

Pollinators are an integral part of our ecosystem and our food supply. Pollinators are essential for the reproduction of most flowering plants, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and flowers. They are responsible for cross-pollination which increases the variety of food available to humans.

Without the help of pollinators, the pollination of fruits and vegetables would be very complicated. Some flowers can be pollinated with the help of wind. However, not all. With the absence of pollinators, you would have to take a small brush and touch each individual flower… One by one… Multiple times… And hope that this will work. This is not a fun process, trust me!

In this article, you will learn the best pollinators, the best plants for a pollinator garden, and how to create a pollinator-friendly landscape.

So let’s jump right in:

How to Create a Pollinator Garden
Best Pollinators
Best Plants for a Pollinator Garden
Benefits of Pollinator Garden

How to Create a Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden - How to Create a Pollinator Garden
Pollinator Garden – How to Create a Pollinator Garden

A pollinator garden is an area that is intentionally created to attract and support native pollinators.

Pollinator gardens provide an opportunity to bring pollinators closer to where they are needed most. This will both provide a habitat for these beneficial insects and increase their numbers. A pollinator garden can be as big or small as one needs it to be.

Here are a few tips that will help you in creating a successful pollinator garden.

Pollinators love native plants. Pollinators are more familiar with the native varieties of flowers. So, learn about the native plants of your area and include them in your pollinator garden. Add daytime blooming flowers for daytime fliers and nighttime blooming flowers for night fliers.

Avoid planting “double-flowered” plants. “Double flowered” plants are varieties of flowers that have an abundant number of petals. Due to the number of petals, pollinators cannot reach the center of the flower, where the pollen and nectar are found. These are popular varieties of roses, camellias, carnations, and many more.

Plant flowering shrubs. Flowering shrubs have an abundant amount of flowers. So, planting flowering shrubs will attract pollinators, birds, and other beneficial insects. These flowering shrubs are also great for privacy and windbreak.

Eliminate Pesticide use. Pesticides can kill the beneficial insects of your garden alongside pests. Avoid using pesticides if you are planning to welcome pollinators. But, if necessary, use the least toxic chemical.

Keep some of your garden untidy. A garden with some weeds (nettles, thistles, daisies, dandelions), slightly taller grass than usual, and plenty of clovers will attract bees, butterflies, and other beneficial insects. A well-maintained and short lawn has the least attraction to pollinators. So, limit grass mowing, or mow in sections.

Introduce larval host plants. Add plants for caterpillars to eat. Some leaves will get eaten, but most of the plants can handle caterpillars. Also, this is a natural process of a pollinator garden.

Provide nesting sites for pollinators. If you want pollinators to make a permanent residence in your garden, provide them with nesting sites. Dead trees or branches can serve as nesting sites for bees. In your pollinator garden, you can also place ready-made nests like bee hotels or insect hotels for native pollinators.

Mix early and late blooming varieties. To ensure a continuous supply of nectar, plant early and late blooming plant varieties. This way, pollinators will keep visiting your garden throughout the growing season.

Leave some soil exposed for solitary bees. Many species of bees are solitary nesters. Solitary bees do not live in colonies, but they tend to live close to one another. They make holes in the ground, use dead trees or insect hotels as their nesting sites. If you cover every inch of ground with mulch, there’ll be no space in the ground for these solitary nesters. So, avoid mulching everywhere, leave some of the soil exposed for the homes of these solitary nesters.

Identify your native species. For a better understanding, try to recognize the species of pollinators that are visiting your garden. It will be a real gamechanger if you add species-specific plants to your pollinator garden.

Best Pollinators

A pollinator is an animal or insect that moves pollen from one flower to another. Among all the pollinators, these are the best:

Solitary bees

Pollinator Garden - Solitary bee
Pollinator Garden – Solitary bee

Solitary bees are non-aggressive and social bee species. These pollinators do not live in colonies but tend to live close to one another. Solitary bees make holes in the ground, use dead trees or insect hotels as their nesting sites. They do not produce honey and have no queen, meaning they have nothing to protect (just their own life). Therefore, they are not aggressive. Some solitary bee species are Mining bee, Leafcutter bee, Mason bee, Carpenter bee, Alkali bee, Sweat bee. [1]

Bumblebees

Pollinator Garden - Bumblebee
Pollinator Garden – Bumblebee

They are much bigger than other bee species. These super-pollinators have round bodies with thick hair and pollen baskets on their legs. They live in colonies that can be between 50 and 500 individuals. Bumblebees use different nesting sites every year. Most species form a colony underground in the abandoned rodent burrows. Some of the bumblebee species are American bumblebee, Common Eastern bumblebee, Buff-tailed bumblebee, Bombus Lapidarius. [2]

Butterflies

Pollinator Garden - Butterfly
Pollinator Garden – Butterfly

These are daytime fliers and are primarily attracted to colorful blossoms. Butterflies have large and often colorful wings.  Adult butterflies will lay eggs on plants that will feed the hatched caterpillars. The caterpillars will grow in size and then pupate. After the metamorphosis, the adult butterfly will climb out of the pupae. Some butterfly species are American Swallowtail, Monarch, Red Admiral, Western Tailed Blue, Cabbage White. [3] [4]

Wasps

Pollinator Garden - Wasp
Pollinator Garden – Wasp

These predatory, narrow waist insects not only will protect your garden from pests but are also good pollinators. Wasps are capable of biting and stinging. Usually, they would not sting unless they feel threatened. Sometimes they will build their nests hidden near human pathways. So, when a human passes their nest, they feel threatened and defend their home. Some of the wasp species are Yellow Jacket, Northern Paper Wasp, Mud Dauber, Parasitic Wasp. [5]

Hoverflies

Pollinator Garden - Hoverfly
Pollinator Garden – Hoverfly

These pollinators have colors of a wasp and are often seen hovering around flowers. These flies do not sting or bite. They only mimic stinging bees and wasps as a defense mechanism. The adults pollinate the flowers while feeding on pollen and nectar. The larvae, however, feed on insects like aphids, mealybugs, thrips, and other plant-sucking pests. Also, hoverflies are not the only flies that will pollinate your garden. Other flies pollinate the flowers too. Some of the hoverfly species are Drone fly, Scaeva Pyrastri, Syrphus Ribesii, Melanostoma Scalare. [6]

Moths

Pollinator Garden - Hummingbird Moth
Pollinator Garden – Hummingbird Moth

Most of the moth species are nocturnal. Moths and butterflies have similarities. However, they are not members of the same insect order. Similar to butterflies, adult moths will lay eggs on plants that will feed the hatched caterpillars. The caterpillars will grow in size and then make a cocoon or bury themselves in the ground. After the metamorphosis, the adult moth will climb out of the cocoon or out of the ground.

Though many moth species are considered pollinators, some have no mouthparts. They do not eat. These moths live to mate and lay eggs. Some can even cause significant damage to crops. Species of pollinator moths are Yucca moth, Peppered moth, Cinnabar moths, Elephant Hawk moth, and many more. [7] [8]

Beetles

Pollinator Garden - Beetle
Pollinator Garden – Beetle

Beetles are one of the first ones to visit your garden and flowers. Beetles are essential to garden pollination. Some of the beetles that pollinate the flowers will eat garden pests too. But some of the beetles will eat through leaves and flower petals on the way to the pollen and nectar. They would also excrete their waste wherever they eat. So, not all beetles that pollinate are actually beneficial to your garden. Some will do more damage than benefit. Species of pollinator beetles are Soldier beetle, Sap beetle, Checkered beetle, Longhorn beetle, Anthicidae family beetle, and many more. [9]

Best Plants for a Pollinator Garden

To create a pollinator garden, you have to know what plants attract what insects. Those plants will invite the pollinators, and in return, these insects will ensure that you have a good crop and plenty of seeds every year.

Here are samples of some of the best plants for specific pollinators:

Fruits and Vegetables Flowers Shrubs and Hedges Weeds
Solitary beesFruit trees
Cucumber
Strawberry
Blueberry bush
Gooseberry bush
Sunflower
Clover
Borage
Lavender
Aubretia  
Laurel hedge
Pyracantha
Butterfly bush
California lilac
St. John’s Wort  
Dandelion
Thistle
Daisy
Ivy  
BumblebeesFruit trees
Blueberry bush
Tomato
Nasturtium
Currant
Sunflower
Poppy
Lavender
Catmint
Clover
Rhododendron
Honeysuckle
St. John’s Wort
Dandelion
Thistle
Ivy
ButterfliesElderberry
Fennel
Dill
Carrot
Chives
Sunflower
Forget-me-not
Calendula
Lavender
Laurel hedge
Butterfly bush
Buttonbush
Meadowsweet
St. John’s Wort
Dandelion
Spanish
Nettle
Wireweed
Ivy
WaspsFruit trees
Raspberry
Passion fruit
Sunflower
Orchid
Hyacinth
Dogbane
Laurel hedge
Cotoneaster tree
St. John’s Wort
Dandelion
Ivy
HoverfliesFruit trees
Dill
Radish
Carrot
Caraway
Sunflower
Lavender
Cosmos
Foxglove
Sweet alyssum
Bird Cherry
Mexican Orange
Laurel hedge
Dandelion
Yarrow
Bugleweed
Knapweed
Ivy
MothsFruit trees
Raspberry
Gooseberry
Dragon fruit
Sunflower
Petunia
Bee Balm
Foxglove
Jasmine
Dogwood
Pussy Willow
Blue Mist
Honeysuckle
Gardenia
Dandelion
Milkweed
Ivy
BeetlesDill
Fennel
Radish
Mustard
Oilseed Rape
Sunflower
Water Lilly
Orchid
Bougainvillea
Kalanchoe
Magnolia
Laurel hedge
Cycad
Sweetshrub
Spicebush 
Dandelion
Goldenrod
Thistle
Daisy
Yarrow

Benefits of Pollinator Garden

Pollinator Garden - Benefits of Pollinator Garden
Pollinator Garden – Benefits of Pollinator Garden

Let’s have a look at the benefits that pollinator garden has.

  • A pollinator garden establishes the connection between you and the environment in your own backyard.
  • Pollinator garden provides a natural habitat to pollinators. These beneficial insects will keep visiting your garden and will pollinate your crops. In return, they get shelter and a continuous food supply in the form of nectar and pollen.
  • By attracting pollinators to your pollinator garden, you will also attract beneficial predatory insects.
  • Some insects that feed on nectar and pollen will also feed on garden pests.
  • Most of food crops in the world need insect pollination. Without these beneficial insects, the food crops won’t be able to reproduce.
  • The pollinator garden is helpful in the revival of pollinator species that are in decline.
  • A pollinator garden is a great educational tool for kids and adults. Pollinator garden provides real-life examples of how tiny insects make food for us.
  • A pollinator garden can give people basic food growing skills.
  • Pollinator garden educates that we shouldn’t be afraid of all “creepy crawlers.” Some of them actually are helping us.

Final Thoughts

Planting a pollinator garden is the best effort to conserve the pollinator’s habitat. Along with bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, moths, and beetles, you can attract hummingbirds and bats, as they are also pollinators. These gardens are easy to establish and maintain. Best of all, pollinator gardens are great for the ecosystem. So, take a step to dedicate some of your space to these small insects and enjoy your favorite fruits, vegetables, and flowers.

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