Bring beneficial bees, butterflies, and birds to your garden by growing flowers and plants that they love. We can do our part to provide plants that will feed and shelter these wonderful species. We have all heard about the disappearance of some bee and butterfly species. These are necessary for food production on the planet and will pollinate our little corner of the world.
Native plants are the best to attract pollinators. Use annuals and perennials to provide blooms and seeds all throughout the season. Perennials like Butterfly Weed, Bee Balm, and Butterfly Bush provide bee and butterfly attracting flowers all summer. Annuals like Asters, Salvia, Lavender, and Sunflowers attract bees with their riotous color. They need more than flowers though, so provide a mix of shrubs, trees, grasses, and vines too. These provide shelter as well as food. Practice organic gardening and never use chemicals on plants meant for butterflies, bees, and birds.
Butterflies are very color orientated. They prefer purple, yellow, pink, orange, and red. Plant in bunches to be found easily. They like tubular cluster and flat top blooms. You will also need to provide the caterpillars shelter. You may end up with some tattered leaves from hungry caterpillars but it’s worth it for some beautiful and useful butterflies. Plant extras to hide the damage if necessary. If you can leave a weedy patch or two, monarch caterpillars only feed on milkweed plants; other types eat grass, thistle, clover, and leaves.
Bees like areas that are natural, overgrown, and even weedy, so let it go! Resist the urge to have everything be perfectly neat. Again, native species are the best choice for bees. Color preferences are yellows, purples, and blues. As with butterflies, have ever blooming plants to ensure season-long nectar and pollen.
Birds are excellent pollinators and carry pollen on their heads and wings to spread around the garden. You can attract birds with good quality seed mix. Planting nut and seed producers also brings the birds to your yard. Don’t deadhead everything. Let some go to seed, especially in the fall to provide food over winter.
All pollinators appreciate fresh water year- round. Keep the birdbath clean and filled with fresh water. A few flat rocks in a sunny spot provide a place for butterflies to bask in the sun. Flowers that are very fragrant and white or pale yellow in color will attract night feeding moths.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH & DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO