Plant for Pollinators
You know that patch of lawn in your yard? The one that requires monthly fertilizing, weekly mowing, and nearly daily watering in the summer?
Now imagine it as a beautiful, low-maintenance meadow of flowers that provides homes and food for butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees.
Meet the pollinator garden: a little piece of paradise at home.
What are pollinators?
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 food.
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’s easy to create a garden that provides them with the nectar they need that’s also beautiful enough to be your front yard. Here’s how to design your own.
Five Easy Steps
Step 1: Identify a spot
The more sun the area gets the better. Even a small space helps!
Step 2: Select plants
Keep a few things in mind when choosing plants for pollinators. What season will the flowers bloom? Try to include a selection of plants so that something will be blooming in each season. What shape will the flowers be? Flower shape affects 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.
Download a list of pollinator plants for your area here.
Step 3: Arrange and plant!
A little extra water at this time will help your plants get established. Mulch to keep the moisture in. And remember, avoid pesticides and herbicides – they kill pollinators.
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.
Explore our Pollinator Garden
Come and visit Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s pollinator garden near the Kids’ Zone slide to see how beautiful and vibrant a pollinator garden can be! The Zoo’s pollinator garden includes many types of perennial, drought tolerant, and native flowering plants.
Take a Garden Tour with Zoo horticulturalist Bryon Jones, and learn about plants from the expert! Get tips and tricks, plant stories and histories, and ask all the questions you can.