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Attracting Pollinators into Your Garden: Plants that Birds, Bees and Butterflies Love

June 17, 2019
Written by Aaron

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’re probably well aware that bees have been falling on hard times lately. As their populations decline, our gardens suffer too, as we rely on pollinators to help our plants produce food. The good news is that we can make things easier on the bees by adding bee-friendly plants to our yards and gardens. Some flowers are like bee magnets, luring them in from far and wide with their bright colours, fragrant aromas and delicious nectar.

Bees aren’t the only pollinators you want to attract, however. As it turns out, butterflies and hummingbirds aren’t just lovely to look at— they can help out the pollination process as well! Check out our list of flowers that attract bees and other pollinators, for a lush garden full of beautiful winged wildlife here in Simcoe.

Flowers for Bees

Just like we have our own favourite go-to snacks we can’t say no to, bees have favourite flowers that they love to feast on. Adding these plants to your landscape will definitely generate some buzz… pun intended!

Monarda: The vibrant magenta flowerheads with peculiar spiky petals are wildly popular among bees, earning it the very appropriate nickname, “Bee Balm.”  Not only does it look fabulous, but monarda smells pretty incredible too. The foliage has a strong orange-bergamot scent that attracts pollinators of all sorts.   

Thyme: This fragrant, edible plant produces tiny flowers that bees seem to race for. Plus, you’re left with tons of delicious, savoury herbs to spice up poultry dishes, soups, roast veggies, and more!

Echinacea: Single-headed flowers in bright sunny colours tend to have much more pollen than double-headed flowers, like geraniums, so echinacea is one of the best flowers for attracting bees. Plus, their large size makes them easy to perch on.

Snapdragons: On a sunny afternoon, when bees are on the hunt for something to eat, snapdragons release 4X more fragrance. Not only does this bring in nearby bees, but the scent clings to them after they’ve left, so when they get back to the hive, all their bee hive-mates will start to crave some of that good stuff.

Flowers for Hummingbirds:

There’s something so thrilling about spotting a beautifully iridescent hummingbird flitting around your garden. These tiny busybodies help spread around pollen, but they’re particular about the kinds of flowers they like. Generally, they prefer tubular flowers that produce nectar, so they can insert their skinny beaks and take a sip. While there are many different varieties that they enjoy, their all-time favourite flowers are bright red. Foxglove, Columbine, Delphinium, and Salvia are a few nectar-producing flowers that are available in red, and are sure to bring all the birds to the yard.

You can also attract hummingbirds by hanging a hummingbird feeder full of pre-mixed sugary nectar. Try to avoid purchasing red-dyed nectar, and instead opt for a red-coloured feeder. The chemical dyes aren’t great for their system, and the red container should be just as appealing to them.

Best Plants for a Butterfly Garden:

Is there anything more picturesque than butterflies dancing around from flower to flower? A lovely bonus is that they also carry pollen on their wings, but at the very least, they’re a delight to look at. Here are a few sure-fire faves for butterflies:

Zinnia: Puffy, spherical blossoms add a little whimsy to your garden, and they bloom well into fall, so you can enjoy their rich colours well into the end of the gardening season. They’re particularly popular among Monarch butterflies, so you’ll likely be visited by some of these beauties if you add some zinnias to the garden.

Milkweed: This is another one that the monarchs can’t get enough of. Their caterpillar babies love it too, so planting a milkweed garden could end up creating the perfect breeding ground for these stunning orange butterflies.

Butterfly Bush: With a name like that, is it any surprise that butterflies love it so much? The cone-shaped clusters of petals come in all sorts of beautiful shades of purple, pink and red. Planting a mix of different colours together will result in a spectacular arrangement that looks like an explosion of colourful fireworks, sure to attract pollinators!

Extra Tips for a Pollinator Friendly Garden:

To attract pollinators to your yard with even greater success, keep these tips in mind:

  • Avoid chemicals and pesticides. The common chemical treatment RoundUp is directly linked to the decimation of the bee population. Keep things safe and non-toxic by opting for more organic solutions to control pests and weeds.
  • Don’t plant too many hybrid flowers. Hybrids tend to produce fewer seeds and less pollen, so they don’t have as much nourishment to provide for hungry pollinators.
  • Plant native species. Familiar flowers that grow naturally in Simcoe are a trusted food source for birds and bees, and the best part is, they’re super low-maintenance and easy to care for.
  • Keep your dandelions around. People often treat them like weeds, but the truth is, these sunny yellow flowers are a favourite food source for bees. Skip the hassle of pulling these fast-growing plants from the ground, and the bees will be very grateful!

Selecting the best colourful, aromatic, nectar-producing or pollen-heavy plants will attract pollinators like an ice cream truck attracts neighbourhood kids! They’re fun to watch, and they help maintain the natural processes of plant life, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

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