As promised yesterday, here is Christy Erickson's guest post. About Christy: SavingOurBees was created by Christy Erickson. She is committed to collecting and distributing the most accurate and up-to-date resources on the bee crisis and information on how to help in your own community. Christy lives in Dallas. After trying a friend's "homemade" honey, she began learning more about backyard beekeeping and its role in sustainability.
As declining bee populations are putting worldwide biodiversity at risk, pollinator gardens are surging in popularity as an easy way to make a big difference for nature’s pollinators. These gardens provide necessary food, shelter, and water for the bees that pollinate everything from wildflowers to vegetables to livestock fodder. Pollinator gardens are a great way for the average person to contribute to wildlife habitat restoration while also bringing beauty to their home.
Planting a bee garden is a fun project, but the hardest part is deciding which plants to include. Gardens should include as much variety as possible when it comes to flower shape, color, and size. They need flowers that offer plenty of pollen and nectar to foraging bees, as opposed to hybrid flowers with intricate bloom structure. Most importantly, an effective pollinator garden needs flowers blooming in spring, summer, and fall to provide bees a home.
To get started planning the perfect plant list, here are five flowers sure to be a hit in any pollinator garden.
Scarlet bee balm is a rockstar in the pollinator garden. Featuring show-stopping red blooms, this minty herb is adored by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds alike. It’s also a perennial, so it will keep blooming year after year.
Scarlet bee balm is native to the eastern U.S., the Pacific Northwest, and Canada. It’s hardy to USDA planting zones 4-9. Bee balm grows best in full sun to partial shade and blooms in mid to late summer. Since it’s prone to powdery mildew, gardeners in humid climates should opt for full sun. It likes moist, fertile soil and will readily spread to create a lush patch.
Borage’s star-shaped flowers are loved by bees, but that’s not the only way this plant is useful. Borage deters pests like the hornworm and cabbage worm from the vegetable garden and its leaves and flowers bring a refreshing, cucumber-like flavor to cold drinks, salads, and soups. While it’s an annual, borage readily self-seeds.
Borage grows well in USDA Hardiness zones 2-11. It’s a low-maintenance plant that likes full sun or light shade in a well-drained soil. Depending on the climate, borage can bloom from late spring through late summer.
Lavender is a must for any pollinator garden. It’s easy to grow, a hit with bees, and has countless uses. Fragrant lavender flowers are perfect for a decorative bouquet, a soothing bubble bath, or a flavorful dessert. Gardeners can reap a sizable harvest while leaving plenty of flowers for pollinators to enjoy.
Lavender is hardy in USDA zones 5-10, but performs best in arid climates where the soil can dry out between waterings. In moist locales, planting in containers lets gardeners control soil moisture for optimal results. With so many lavender cultivars, it’s possible to find plants that bloom in spring, summer, or fall.
Sunflowers’ large blooms are a beacon for foraging bees, and with hundreds of tiny flowers on a single sunflower, bees have no shortage of pollen and nectar to collect. When the flowers die back, the hollow stem becomes a nesting site for native bee species.
Sunflowers are easy to grow in nearly any region, and most varieties bloom from midsummer to mid-fall. They’re hardy as an annual in any USDA hardiness zone, but smaller, quick-growing varieties are best suited to climates with a short growing season.
Woodland Phlox lets you make the most of shady areas of the garden. This wild perennial can thrive in dappled sunlight, spreading across the ground to create a fragrant cover of violet blooms.
Woodland Phlox is native to woodlands in the eastern U.S. It can be grown in USDA zones 2-9. This spring-blooming plant prefers moist soil high in organic matter, much like the forest floors it calls home.
Savoring Kentucky thanks Christy Erickson for her work and for sharing this post.