How can I help pollinators at my own home?

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It is fun and easy to provide native pollinator habitat at your own home!


You can incorporate native plant species into your existing garden space, or create a whole new native plant garden at your home. No matter what size habitat you can provide, it will help make a difference! 

Here are some tips: 

  • Whether you are adding native plants to an existing garden or planting a whole new pollinator garden, pick out species, or types of plants, that are native to your area.  
  • Reduce or eliminate your pesticide use in your yard. These products harm the beneficial butterflies and bees you are trying to attract, too.
  • Plant a variety of plants that bloom throughout the entire growing season. This will provide a buffet for the pollinators all season long.
  • Provide areas of bare soil between plants, so our native ground-nesting bees have places to make their homes.
  • Include host plants so butterflies can lay their eggs and so their caterpillars also have a food source.  You can find information here about some common host plants and the butterflies who need them.
  • Provide a shallow water feature.
  • Leave leaf litter and dead plant material for shelter. Some of our native bees use the stems of the plants to over-winter their larvae.

You can find a list of native plant species at:

 

Where can I purchase or obtain free native plants and seeds?

There are several places to obtain native plant seeds and plants, and even places that have free resources available. 

 

Be on the lookout for imposters!

Native plant species are plants that have grown naturally in an area since before settlement by Europeans. A population of native plants has genetic variation that helps the species to survive the different conditions that are found in that region. Natural selection favors plants adapted to the climate, soil, and other conditions. One of the selective factors on native plants is by pollinators--individual plants that pollinators find more attractive are more likely to get pollinated, and therefore reproduce.

Most native plant species available in garden centers are cultivars, or cultivated varieties, of native plants. These plants have been selected by humans for some specific trait, such as flower color, leaf color, flower shape, growth habit, or size that humans find attractive or convenient. These are usually sold with the species and a name in quotation marks, such as butterfly milkweed, Asclepias tuberosa 'Hello Yellow'. These plants are often exact copies of the parent, grown from cuttings or divisions, rather than by seed production. They therefore lack the genetic diversity of native plants grown by open pollination.

True natives are chosen by nature. Once humans start selecting plants, the needs of pollinators may not be met. Research has shown that some cultivars do not produce enough nectar to be attractive to pollinators, some flower colors are not visible to pollinators, and sometimes flower structure (such as double flowers) may make nectar difficult to reach. Leaf color may be related to leaf chemistry, making some plants inedible by larvae of pollinators, so plants selected for leaf color may be useless to pollinators. Be cautious of any plants advertised as "insect resistant", since they won't provide food for pollinators.

Native plants that can be traced to a local remnant are the ideal for pollinator gardens. Next best would be from remnants further away. While it may not always be possible to find the species you desire, cultivars should avoided in a pollinator garden if possible.

My yard is shady. What can I plant?

Although many of our native plants are sun loving flowers, there are still plenty of native plants you can put in your yard.  Here is a list of some common ones, and where you can find them.