Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Gardening for Pollinators by Donna Duffy

Pollinators on Opuntia bloom, photo by Donna Duffy

June 19th - 25th is National Pollinator Week! It's never too late to add pollinator-friendly plants to your landscape. Following are landscaping tips from the Colorado Native Plant Society and the USDA Forest Service to help you get started.

Photo by Donna Duffy
Use a variety of plants that bloom from early spring to late fall. Include at least three different species of plants blooming at the same time all season. A diversity of plants increases the pollinators and predator-prey balance.

Plant at least three of the same species together instead of planting one of each species scattered throughout the garden. This helps the pollinators save energy while searching for plants.

Minimize the use of modern hybrid flowers, especially those with “doubled” flowers. Often, plant breeders have unwittingly left the pollen, nectar and fragrance out of these blossoms in order to create the perfect bloom for humans.

Eliminate pesticides whenever possible. If you must use a pesticide, use the least-toxic material possible and follow label instructions exactly. Spray at night when bees and other pollinators are not active.

Include larval host plants in the landscape. These plants will be eaten, so place them where you can tolerate the damage. Check out CSU’s publication: Attracting Butterflies to the Garden to identify which plants you need to include.
Asclepias speciosa (Milkweed), host plant for Monarch butterflies

Leave some areas of bare soil for ground nesting bees, which are the bulk of our native bee population.

Leave some dead limbs around. Dead tree limbs provide essential nesting sites for native bees. You can drill holes of varying diameter about 3-5” deep to encourage nesting.

Use more native plants in your landscape, they attract native pollinators. Check out native plant resources such as Low Water Native Plants for Pollinators and Native Herbaceous Perennials for Colorado Landscapes. Both of these resource provide information about native plants that are available locally and adapt well to home landscapes. Pay attention to the latin name of the plant to ensure that you get the native species and not one of the hybridized cousins.