Planting Wild Flowers

Planting (insecticide free) flowers may be the ONE most important thing you can do to help pollinators. Flowers provide food in the form of nectar (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein) to bees and other pollinators. The insects in turn provide cross-pollination, an essential service needed to ensure genetic diversity.

  • Plant clumps of the same type of flower, pollinators prefer visiting one type flower at a time which is beneficial in ensuring cross-pollination.
  • Plant a diversity of flowers for different types of bees and other pollinators. It is recommended 8 or more species that bloom at the same time. Some bees are small with short tongues while other bees have long tongues. Different types of flowers will be attractive to different species of bees.
  • Plant flowers that bloom in early spring to flowers that bloom in late fall to ensure a food supply for all bees when they are active.

Plants can be pollinated a variety of ways: insect pollination (entomophily), bird and bat pollination (zoophily), wind pollination (anemophily), water pollination (hydrophily) and even self-pollination. However, insect pollination relied on by many plants is one of the most effective and reliable ways to ensure successful pollination. Flowering plants known as angiosperms have gone to great evolutionary lengths to attract their preferred pollinators and native plants to North America have developed special relationships with the native bees and some native bees have created exclusive partnerships with some flowers. Keep an eye out and it will quickly become evident which visitors are attracted to your favorite flowers

This season by season guide focuses on native plants that tend to be perennials and biennials. Perennials do not bloom in the first year and only have a bloom time for a period of up to two weeks to three weeks.

Annuals will bloom throughout the flowering season. Some beneficial annuals that are commonly planted include cosmos, zinnias, morning glories, foxglove, salvia, nasturtiums, petunias among others. Also, keep in mind pollinators enjoy many garden variety plants including many herbs: oregano, basil, thyme, sage, parsley, angelica and chives as well as garden vegetables: tomatoes, squashes, melons, beans and sunflowers and if allowed to flower broccoli, lettuce and carrots.

For a comprehensive guide to native plants that grow in your area find a pollinator guide for your area at the Pollinator Partnerships website, http://www.pollinator.org/guides.

Spring:

Early spring is a time of woodland ephemerals that bloom on the forest floor, many of these flowers can grow well in shady areas. These early blooming flowers attract spring flying bees such as mining bees (Andrena spp.), bumble bee queens (Bombus spp.) and blue orchard bees (Osmia spp.)

Bloodroot growing at Slabsides
Bloodroot growing at Slabsides

Trout Lily
Dutchman’s Breeches
Columbine
Bloodroot
Hepatica
Spring beauties
Virginia bluebells
Violets
Wild geraniums

Common non-natives: dandelion and garlic mustard

Spring is also a time in which trees blossom providing a pollinator’s feast.

Pussy Willow
Pussy Willow

Service Berry
Red maple
Pussy willow
Spicebush
Dogwood
Apple, pear, cherry and other fruit trees.
Black locust
Wild rose, blackberries, raspberries, etc.
Blueberry
Elderberry
Mountain Laurel
Mountain azaleas

 

Late spring / early Summer

As the forest canopy closes and shade out the ephemerals other flowers begin to bloom. Late spring and early summer bring on a whole palette of flowers.

Beardtongue – Digger bees

Bergamot
Bergamot

Lupine
Black eyed susans (Rudbeckia)
Mullien
Milkweed
Butterfly weed
Jewel weed
Coreopsis
Coneflower (Echinacea)
Blazing star

Late summer / early fall

Late summer to early fall comes a hardy bunch of flowers that herald the end of the growing season with a grand finale.

Joe Pye Weed
Joe Pye Weed

Goldenrods
Joe pye weed
Asters
Boneset
Sunflowers

Late fall

Witch hazel

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