Groovy Plants Ranch is buzzing with butterflies, hummingbirds, bumblebees and other pollinators, and we couldn’t be happier. The earliest bees arrived in early March and flitted about the hellebores on our nursery tables. Now, more pollinators are popping about the colorful lantana and salvia. As the weather heats up we anticipate the pollinator show will grow even more spectacular. Dozens of hummingbirds will zing from plant to plant; bumblebees will bounce about the rows of perennials and monarch caterpillars will climb our multiple milkweed varieties.
We invite you to come enjoy the show and shop for pollinator plants to create your own backyard wonder. Gardening for pollinators is so fulfilling. It supports the ecosystem and improves the health of all plants -- so critical to wildlife, humans and a livable planet.
Here are a few pollinator gardening tips from the GPR team.
Spring to Fall Blooms: Support pollinators with a variety of plants that bloom sequentially through the seasons. For example, start with early bloomers like snowdrops, marsh marigolds and hellebores then move on to dianthus, allium, salvia and catmint. For the summer, support them with phlox. Remember keep the supply going through fall with late bloomers like goldenrod, asters and helenium. For a list of proven pollinator plants, see pollinator plant trial results from the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden.
Plant Anatomy: Yes, we love all the newfangled hybrids, but be aware some features like doubled flowers and pollen-less varieties are not as attractive or beneficial to pollinators.
Native Plants: Look for more ways to use native plants in your gardens. The “native plants” label can be a bit confusing to plant shoppers since some national plant marketers may sell plants that are native to one region of the country but not another. At Groovy Plants Ranch, we’re striving to grow and sell more quality local natives, especially rarer ones like royal catchfly and wild bergamot. Check out this native plant finder for your region.
Pest Control: At Groovy Plants Ranch, we use only natural pest controls to minimize plant damage yet still produce high quality plants. We also encourage you to use the least toxic products, read labels, apply them properly and even learn to tolerate plant damage knowing you’re supporting families of pollinators. We’ve found a healthy backyard insect population tends to balance itself out and keeps certain pests in check. To learn more, see the Xerces Society.
Host Plants: If you want colorful butterflies, grow plenty of host plants for adults to lay eggs and feed their caterpillars. Last summer, Jared and daughter Lili spied a female monarch on a milkweed plant flying from leaf to leaf to deposit eggs like tiny specs of sugar. Other host plants include pawpaw tree (zebra swallowtail), sunflower (painted lady), fennel and dill (black swallowtail) and violets (fritillaries). Be mindful, the caterpillars will eat the plants so you may want to place them at the back of the border or alongside other plants to hide their eaten foliage. Check out this field guide for Ohio Butterflies and Moths and more resources at the Lepidopterists’ Society.
Annuals: Annuals may only live one season, but they offer continuous blooms and an ongoing supply of nectar for pollinators from May to October. Plus, they’re easy to add throughout the garden and bring pollinator habitat even to patios and balconies.
Perennial Plants: Pollinators love our perennials and this year we have a bigger selection than ever with over 600 varieties and 40,000 plants. Our perennial production manager Craig Powell has been working with perennials for over 30 years and brings lots of expertise to the way we grow perennials. Unlike box stores, we overwinter perennials outside to boost their hardiness, grow them at 40 degrees to minimize the need for pest control and plant new crops early to be well-stocked on the season’s hottest plants. No doubt, perennials make a smart garden choice since they return year after year. Try a few pollinator-friendly perennials like liatris, salvia, echinacea pallida, anise hyssop, calamint, mountain mint and great-blue lobelia.
Herbs: Don’t forget the value many herbs offer to pollinators, especially bees. Some of the more common ones include basil, borage, catnip, chamomile, coriander, fennel, lavender, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme. We like to let a few go to flower for the bees to enjoy. For more info, see the Herb Society of America.Trees and shrubs – Woody plants provide another layer of habitat for pollinators. Many spring flowering trees and shrubs provide a welcomed source for early foragers since they tend to bloom in early spring. Several also host important butterfly and moth caterpillars.
Andrea Wood —
Great post!! Thank you! Is there a particular variety of sunflower that is a great pollinator, and thrives best in our area? We are in USDA Hardiness Zone 5.