Plant a Paradise

pollinator garden 2Create a Pollinator Garden

You know that patch of lawn in your yard? The one that requires monthly fertilizing, weekly mowing, and nearly daily watering in the summer so it doesn’t turn brown? Now imagine that the same patch in your yard is a beautiful meadow of flowers that requires little maintenance and irrigation. Imagine that meadow also provides homes and food for amazing animals like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Meet the pollinator garden: a little piece of paradise you can have at home.

There are many different kinds of pollinators and the vast majority of them are insects. Most plants rely on pollinators to move pollen from one flower to another to create seeds. The seeds grow into new plants that are used by other animals for food and homes. People use the plants for medicine, clothing, and much of the food we eat.

As suburban lawns and houses take up more and more habitat, there are fewer resources for these important pollinators to sustain themselves during the seasons they are not pollinating our crops. Luckily, it is easy to create a garden that provides them with the nectar they need, and is also beautiful enough to be your front yard. Below are the steps to help you design your own.

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5 Easy Steps

Step 1: Identify a spot

The more sun the area gets the better. Even a small space helps!

Step 2: Select plants

You should keep a few things in mind when selecting plants for pollinators. What season will the flowers bloom? Try to include a selection of plants so that something with be blooming in each season. What shape will the flowers be? Flower shape plays a role in which pollinators visit. Butterflies prefer flat flowers, hummingbirds visit tubular flowers, and bees are most attracted to clustered flowers. Generally, hybridized flowers do not have as much nectar as heirloom or native plants. Dense gardens with diverse flower types are most attractive to pollinators. Hungry caterpillars need food too! If you want to attract specific butterflies, plant some of the plants that their caterpillars eat – like milkweed for Monarch butterflies.

Step 3: Arrange and plant!

A little extra water at this time will help your plants get established.

Step 4: Sit back and enjoy

Watch hummingbirds hover near you and see butterflies alight on flowers you grew yourself. Consider registering your pollinator garden with the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge.

Step 5: Minimal maintenance

Pollinator gardens may require occasional mulching to discourage weeds. Some watering during dry spells may be necessary depending on your plant selection. As much as possible, skip the spray! Pesticides often harm beneficial pollinators as much as the pests they target.

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More to Explore

Come and visit Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s pollinator garden near Kids' Zone slide to learn more or see an example of how beautiful and full of life a pollinator garden can be! The Zoo’s pollinator garden includes many types of perennial, drought tolerant, and native flowering plants. You could also join a Garden Tour the first Sunday of every month to learn more with the Zoo’s horticulturist.

Won't Bring the Sting

If you're allergic to bees, and are concerned that a garden will increase your risk of being stung, consider this:

  • Hive nesting bees, such as honeybees and bumblebees, usually only sting to defend their hive, not when they are foraging.
  • Most native bees are solitary and stingless.
  • Most "bee stings" are from scavenging wasps or hornets, not nectar gathering bees. Your pollinator garden will not attract these insects.

Select Your Plants

These resources will help you select plants that will attract specific pollinators.

Butterflies and Moths