Planning your landscaping gives you the opportunity to not only boost curb appeal and add value to your home but to take an eco-friendly position on gardening. More homeowners are recognizing and creating a garden for pollinators to attract wildlife and enhance the local ecosystem.
Thinking about planting a pollinator garden this year? We’re giving you insights into what they are, how they’re beneficial, design suggestions, and the best pollinator garden plants to choose from. Bring on the bees and butterflies!
What Is a Pollinator Garden?
So exactly what is a pollinator garden? Part of many sustainable gardening practices, a pollinator garden is landscaping designed specifically to include plants that provide food and shelter to animals that spread pollen.
These pollinator gardens attract wildlife such as:
Due to rapid urbanization, the use of chemical pesticides, and the widespread usage of non-native plants, pollinator populations have been on the decline for decades. This impacts the economy and environmental factors on a grand scale. Planting a pollinator garden in your outdoor space helps revive this population and contribute positively to the local eco-population.
Benefits of a Pollinator Garden
Why should you think about creating a garden for pollinators? Before you start worrying that your outdoor space will become unusable due to bee populations or other wildlife moving in, have no fear! Your pollinator garden won’t become overrun but will provide necessities to help support wildlife in your area. It’s important to recall their critical place in the balance of your local ecosystem.
Some of the benefits a pollinator garden offers your Upstate NY home are:
- Support for honey bees: Planting a pollinator garden provides support for local honey bees! These are the most significant pollinators in the world and have a major impact on the environment.
- Better air quality: Native plants in a pollinator garden will help improve the air quality around your home. They’re great for absorbing local air pollutants and keeping the air fresh.
- Natural pest control: Pollinators are experts at natural pest control. Instead of harmful chemical pesticides, you can rely on nature to take care of things. For example, pollinators like Lady Beetles eat aphids and Tachinid flies help manage populations of pests like caterpillars, stink bugs, and gypsy moths.
- Plant diversity: Pollinator garden plants improve the diversity of your garden while using native plants that will thrive in your area. This is important for areas like Upstate NY which experience harsh winters and hot summers. Plant diversity also adds to the overall look of your landscaping, boosting curb appeal and the aesthetics of your backyard.
- Pollination for food sources: Pollinator gardens are especially important for contributing to the pollination of local food sources. Some crops require pollination in order to produce food that we harvest for our own meals. It’s all part of the cycle of which we are a part.
Designing and Planting a Pollinator Garden
When you choose to garden for pollinators, it helps to know the best practices on how to design your landscaping. Whether you’re just starting out and using our NVS Project Planner or consulting one of our professional landscapers in the Capital Region, there are some helpful ideas and tips to follow.
Some recommended pollinator garden design practices are:
- Choose native plants that thrive in your local climate
- Pick plants that attract and support pollinators
- Practice companion planting to attract pollinators and repel pests
- Plant a pollinator garden with plenty of sun exposure and protection from wind
- Group flowers of the same type to better attract certain pollinators
- Use a succession of blooming flowers to support pollinators across multiple seasons
- Include a water source, like a backyard water feature
When you’re planting a pollinator garden, be sure to eliminate or drastically reduce the use of chemicals. Ideally, your pollinator garden should be eco-friendly and chemical-free. If you have to use a chemical, make sure you look for the most environmentally safe one and apply it as sparingly as possible.
Pollinator Garden Maintenance
Pollinator gardens often consist of relatively low-maintenance outdoor plants for your home. To maximize their effectiveness, be sure to follow best upkeep practices for your native plants as well as seasonal maintenance recommendations.
Where most landscaping needs fall and spring landscaping cleanup, pollinator gardens are a little different. Bees, birds, and butterflies all use old organic materials as part of their nests. Seasonal cleanup in spring should be a little later, allowing bees and other pollinators to emerge on their own. In the fall, remove plants that may have died, add mulch, and protect areas that may be used for adding more pollinator garden plants in the seasons to come.
Best Pollinator Garden Plants
You know why pollinator gardens are important and where in your yard you want to plant one, now let’s talk about which plants to choose! The best pollinator garden plants will be native to your area. This allows them to support the local pollinator population best and thrive in the climate. Choosing the wrong plants could result in more maintenance and upkeep as well as being less beneficial for area wildlife.
Some of the best pollinator garden plants include:
- Wild Geranium: Blooming early in the growing season, wild geranium plants are very hardy and adapt to growing across many USDA hardiness zones ranging from the Midwest to the Northeast region of the United States. Their pink flowers add a pop of color to your landscaping and they’re known for attracting many different types of bees. Requiring medium amounts of watering, they’re also shade-friendly.
- Narrowleaf Mountain Mint: A mid-season bloomer, these pollinator garden plants have narrow leaves that support fragrant flower clusters. Very hardy plants, this type of mint attracts butterflies, bees, and birds making them especially popular for pollinator gardens in Upstate NY. They require low-to-medium amounts of watering and are ideal for low-maintenance gardens.
- Cardinal flower: These native plants produce scarlet red flowers from July through the fall, making them ideal pollinator garden plants for late-season bursts of color. A favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies, they’re a taller plant that requires a good amount of watering and moist soil. The Cardinal flower is also very hardy, growing in zones spanning a large amount of the United States.
- American basswood tree: Pollinator gardens may also include landscaping around trees to add visual appeal. The American basswood tree is also known as the “bee tree” because its fragrant flowers (which bloom mid-summer) are extremely effective at drawing in bees. These are larger trees, so be sure plants at their base are shade-friendly. They require relatively little maintenance and medium levels of watering. American basswood trees range from the Midwest to the New England areas.
- New England aster: As the name suggests, New England aster is one of the best pollinator garden plants for Upstate NY landscaping as they can thrive in the local climate. Their purple blooms show up very late in the season, usually arriving in the late fall. They can grow up to 6 feet in height and need medium amounts of watering. The New England aster plant is a favorite amongst honey bees.
Planting a pollinator garden is beneficial for your landscaping and surrounding ecosystem. These plants can add pops of color to boost curb appeal while they support wildlife! This year, start your spring landscaping projects with a pollinator garden for your outdoor space. Contact the NVS Landscapes team to get the outdoor look you’ve always wanted and a garden the local pollinators will appreciate.