If you want to encourage pollinators to visit your garden, choose plants that will attract them. You can expect to see an increase in wildlife, including butterflies, bees, and hoverflies. The pollinators will not only add beauty to your garden, but they will also help increase crop yields.
We can help pollinators survive not just in summer, but all year round by growing familiar plants, even if we only have a window box.
PLANT UP A FEAST OF PLANTS FOR POLLINATORS
Without pollinators, plants wouldn’t be able to reproduce, which would be detrimental to plant and food production. Planting flowers that attract pollinators in our gardens not only helps them, but also makes our gardens more beautiful.
IVY (HEDERA HELIX)
The common English ivy is a good choice for a wildlife garden because its dense habit provides shelter for hibernating bumblebees, butterflies, hoverflies, and moths.
This plant can be grown as a self-clinging climber on a garden fence or wall, or as ground cover. In winter, it has striking spherical flowers which give structural interest, followed by black berries which are loved by birds.
There are some types of evergreen plants that love shade, and some that have variegated leaves that prefer sunnier spots. If you want a splash of yellow in your foliage, go for the ‘Goldheart’ variety, or if you want silver, go for the ‘Gloire de Marengo’.
This evergreen has spiky green leaves and is usually known for being a good winter garden plant. In summer, tiny white flowers will appear, and fall will bring scarlet berries.
Although it may not be immediately apparent, holly is one of the best plants to grow if you want to attract pollinators to your garden. The ‘Holly Blue’ butterfly, for example, hibernates in holly foliage, and the plant’s dense growth provides winter shelter for bees.
The holly is a plant that is either male or female. If you want berries, you should plant a female or self-fertile form. The variety ‘Pyramidalis’ is a female plant that bears lots of berries and is suitable for a small garden. It grows to a height of 20ft (6m).
Holly does well in both sunny and shady areas, although it prefers moist soil. It is a low-maintenance plant that makes a great hedge, and it is much better for wildlife than other types of garden boundaries. You should prune holly in late spring, but be careful not to move it around too much – it doesn’t like being transplanted.
These small, jewel-like flowers are a sign that spring is on its way and everyone loves them. They look great planted in large, colorful swathes in lawns and come in a range of colors from pastel to bright.
The white ‘Joan of Arc’ with orange stigmas is one of the best bee-friendly plants. The tommasianus has striking purple shades and is great for naturalizing (spreading) in grass or gravel.
This text describes how to grow and care for crocuses. To grow crocuses, plant corms in well-drained soil in a sunny spot in September.
To prevent squirrels from eating the corms over winter, place them in a location where the squirrels cannot reach them. Ideally, the corms will grow to be 3-5 inches tall.
SARCOCOCCA (SWEET BOX)
This evergreen small-leaved shrub known for its stop-you-in-your-tracks perfume is a great option for a sensory garden. Alluring to bumblebees, it is a welcome addition to the garden during a drab time of year.
One of the best varieties of Brugmansia to grow is ‘Confusa’, which has glossy dark green leaves, tiny white flowers, and black fruits. ‘Ruscifolia’ is a good variety to choose if you want red fruits, and ‘hookeriana var.digyna ‘Purple Stem’ is a taller variety with pink-tinged flowers that can grow to a height of 5 feet.
Sarcococca is a low-maintenance shrub that can tolerate shady conditions and still look good even when it’s not in flower. It can be grown in the ground or in large containers near the house, and makes an attractive low hedge around taller shrubs.
Although the winter-flowering clematis is not as well-known as the varieties that bloom in the summer, it is still important because the bees that visit its flowers in the spring need its nectar.
Clematis urophylla ‘Winter Beauty’ is an evergreen clematis that grows 10-15ft (3-5m) tall and has small, pale, bell-shaped blooms. Clematis cirrhosa var.purpurascens ‘Freckles’ has cream flowers with a heavy spattering of red freckles inside and grows to 6-10ft (2-3m).
This plant is evergreen and blooms from late autumn to early spring. It can grow in sun or shade but prefers to be planted deeply in rich soil with the roots in shade.
Place stones at the base of your clematis plant to hold in moisture, and prune the plant back after it flowers in the spring or early summer.
The funnel-shaped flowers of pulmonaria come in pink, blue, or white, and are a perfect source of food for long-tongued bees in early spring. blooming in February or March, lungwort is an easy perennial, with evergreen or semi-evergreen foliage that is often dotted with white spots.
The text mentions two different types of wood anemones – “Blue Ensign” and “Sissinghurst White”. “Blue Ensign” has dark green leaves and grows to 35cm, while “Sissinghurst White” has pale spotted leaves and grows to 30cm. Both types are ideal for shady places and are good plants for gardens.
Lungworts can spread around by seed, but not too much. They’re easy to relocate when they do – just dig them up and replant where you want them. After flowering, the plants sometimes get mildew – just cut them back to freshen up the foliage.
Crataegus monogyna, the common hawthorn, is a year-round source of food for bees, birds, butterflies, moths, and other pollinators.
This plant provides a lot of benefits to animals including shelter, food, and a place to live.
Crataegus, also known as ‘may’, is a tree or shrub with glossy, dark green leaves. Some varieties, like C. persimilis ‘Prunifolia’, grow to 25ft (8m) and have superb fall color.
The double-flowered types may be pretty, but they aren’t as accessible to bees. Plant hawthorn in full sun if possible, but avoid wet soil types. It grows well as an informal hedge and can tolerate polluted areas.
If you learn how to grow salvias, you will be rewarded with an amazing garden plant that provides food for hungry pollinators all summer long. The long-lipped tubular flowers are perfect for long-tongued bees.
The purple-leaved sage, or purpurascens, is a good choice for fans of herbs. The ornamental type known as ‘Amistad’ is larger but also has showy purple flowers that attract bees from May to October.
To get a deep red color, try the ‘Royal Bumble’, which is shorter at 24 inches (60 centimeters). There are many other varieties of salvia in every possible color. They are also great for containers and it is very easy to take cuttings from them. Plant them in the sun or in partial shade and avoid wet soil.
Lavender is a popular plant because it smells nice and attracts bees.
Lavenders like a dry, sunny spot and sandy soil. Most lavenders come in shades of purple, such as the deep purple ‘Hidcote’ which can grow up to 2 feet tall, and the blue-purple ‘Munstead’ which only reaches 18 inches. There are also lavenders that are pale pink, like ‘Loddon Pink’, which can grow to 18 inches as well. These plants prefer a dry, sunny spot to grow in, with sandy soil.
The type of French lavender that has bunny-ears, like stoechas pedunculata, is also attractive to pollinators but less likely to survive a British winter.
Lavender grows best in full sun and poor soil. Do not feed it, and trim back plants in September. You can also take lavender cuttings to get more plants for free.
The horizontal blooms of achillea are perfect for pollinators to drink nectar from. The flowers are like small plates, made up of dozens of tiny individual blooms. They attract short-tongued solitary bees, plasterer bees, and yellow-faced bees.
The beautiful perennial wallflower Bowles’ Mauve has smokey purple-blue blooms that are 30in (76cm) high. It’s a great addition to any garden border, and pollinators love it in summer.
Erysimum is a shrubby plant that does well in poor, dry soil and flowers from March to November, attracting bumblebees, red mason bees, and carder bees.
Some other good varieties to try are ‘Winter Orchid’, which flowers in the spring with purple, pink, and orange blooms, and ‘Apricot Twist’, which has bright orange blooms. These plants will last for two to three years before needing to be replaced.
ORIGANUM (MARJORAM, OREGANO)
The scent of marjoram is irresistible to pollinators, who are drawn to its nectar-rich summer flowers. This woody perennial has dark green, aromatic leaves and, like most Mediterranean herbs, thrives in full sun and well-drained soil.
This is a great plant to use if you want to add some color to your garden. It has golden leaves and small pink flowers that bloom in the summer. This plant is perfect for small gardens or to use as a potted plant.
The variety ‘Kent Beauty’ has stems with two-tone pink flowers that trail down, reaching a height of 6-8 inches (15-20 centimeters). The variety ‘Herrenhausen’ is a decorative plant that also works well as a ground cover plant. It has a froth of pinkish-purple flowers that appear in midsummer, and it grows to a larger size of 2 feet (60 centimeters). If you keep picking the stems for kitchen use, the plant will keep producing fresh growth.
This climbing plant with its beautiful, long, tubular flowers is very attractive to long-tongued bees like bumblebees and carder bees, and also has a powerful evening fragrance which attracts moths. It looks wonderful spilling from a cottage porch or garden arch.
The variety “Belgica” flowers in pink, apricot, and yellow from May to summer, with a clove-like perfume. In winter, its jewel-like red berries are food for birds.
Halliana is a semi-evergreen honeysuckle with white flowers that age to yellow. If you’re short of space, choose the new compact honeysuckle known as ‘Rhubarb and Custard’, which only grows to 3ft (90cm) tall. Honeysuckles should be planted in full sun or light shade, in soil that retains moisture well.
This lovely wildflower blooms from May to September and is visited by Bombus hortorum bees. It readily seeds and tolerates shade. Plants are either male or female.
. Red clover is a type of bumblebee that is commonly found in the wild. It is not a plant that is typically grown in borders, but it can be found in meadow areas. This type of bumblebee is favored by bees with long tongues.
An interesting plant that flowers almost all year round, including during the winter. It can be a helpful food source for early spring queen bees and also Bombylius bee flies. Additionally, it can be very useful in cooking!
This is a rare wildflower that is only found in the UK. I have only seen it on Salisbury Plain. Some people grow it as a fodder crop because the pink flowers are so beautiful. Like most legumes, this flower is also popular with bees.
SALIX SPP., SALLOW / PUSSY WILLOW
The sallow tree can grow up to 30 feet tall and is dioecious, meaning it can be either male or female. Both male and female sallow trees produce catkins in early spring, which are very important sources of food for queens. The male sallow tree produces pollen and a little nectar, while the female sallow tree only produces nectar. You can buy dwarf varieties of the sallow tree for smaller gardens.
SALVIA SPP., MEADOW CLARY
I love the Meadow Clary, a rare meadow plant, for its pollination mechanism. When a bee probes for nectar, this triggers the stamens to curl down and deposit of blob of pollen onto the bee’s back.
SCABIOUS, KNAUTIA SPP.
The Knautia arvensis is a meadow perennial that I particularly love. It is found on chalk downland in the wild. There are many garden strains and species. I love the powder-puff blue flowers, and bees seem to love them too! They bloom in July and August.
A succulent plant that blooms in September and is attractive to male bumblebees and butterflies. It can grow to about 1′, and can spread by dividing the plant.
Although I have not personally tried Sidalcea, it comes highly recommended by others and I plan to give it a try.
TEASEL, DIPSACUS FULLONUM
A biennial wildflower that grows very tall (over 6′) and is rather spiky makes a tremendous plant for the back of a border. The dead flower stems also provide great structure through the winter. It is very popular with a broad range of bee species and flowers from July to August.
This beautiful, low-growing plant is found in the wild on rocky coastal headlands. It blooms in May and June, making it a perfect addition to any rock garden or potted plant collection.
There are many different species of thyme, both wild and cultivated. One particular species, Thymus polytrichus subsp. britannicus, is especially attractive to bumblebees. Thymes in general are also effective in attracting hoverflies and honeybees. They make lovely, low-growing plants that are perfect for pots, cracks in patios, or the front of borders.