Helping Out the Little Guys: Attracting Pollinators toYour Garden

When planting a garden, you want your plants as healthy as possible. You water them, amend the soil, fertilize them and prune them. There is something, however, that often gets overlooked, pollinating.  

Now I’m not saying you should get out there with a q-tip and take care of business, but by planting specific plants, you can naturally attract various pollinators to help keep your flowers happy. While we appreciate the beautiful blooms they produce, these flowers are really trying to attract the pollinator that can help it achieve its purpose, and in return they get a good meal.  

Planting a variety of flowering plants with different blossom shapes, colors, heights and bloom times can help continuously bring these little guys around. Hummingbirds look for red, tubular plants while bumble bees look for a landing pad like on coneflowers. By mixing it up in your garden, you can keep these guys coming back throughout the season. 

So what pollinators are we talking about? Well, there are the usual birds, bees and butterflies that a lot of gardens look to attract, but there are also bats, beetles, flies, moths and the wind. All of these different pollinators are different sizes and shapes, meaning they look for different characteristics in flowers.  

Bees look for bright white, yellow or blue flowers with nectar. They enjoy pleasant smelling blooms that are shallow in shape but can also be tubular, as long as there’s somewhere to land. Birds are much larger than bees, so they need a strong place to perch while they feed. Like with hummingbirds, birds often look for red, scarlet, orange and white blooms. They like having a place to put their beak in, so large funnel-like blossoms attract them as well.   

Bats, like birds, are larger than the insects you normally think of that pollinate plants. They also come out during the night, making what they look for in plants much different from the other pollinators. Typically the plants they look for have bowl-shaped flowers that may only open in the evening and have plenty of nectar and pollen for the bats. Bats are also attracted to plants with strong, musty odors that are admitted at night. 

Flies are another pollinator that don’t mind flowers that don’t smell the greatest.  They like pale, dark brown or purple flowers that are shallower in shape, or complex with a trap in them.   

Finally, the wind is a pollinator that many people overlook. As you can imagine, the plants that work best with wind as their pollinator have smaller flowers with plenty of pollen to blow in the breeze to the plant next to it. 

When searching the perennial section to try and find these various plants that attract pollinators, there are a few more hints at how to know you’re choosing the right ones. The first is to look and see where the bees, birds and butterflies are hanging out. If you see them swarming the monarda at the garden center, there’s a good chance they’ll swarm it at your house too.   

Looking at the common name of the plant can help tell you what it attracts as well. Butterfly bushes and bee balm spell it out in their title what they are known for. Another thing is to look for native perennials. These plants are a natural fit with our area and will naturally attract pollinators that are native to our area, too.  

Finally, you can also look at the plant tags. Often these tags will have a photo of birds, hummingbirds, butterflies or bees on them to show they attract these, or will talk about what they attract in their description. 

By incorporating some of these plants into your garden, you will attract some help in taking care of your flowers.