Ideas & Inspiration
How to Create a Garden Buffet for Pollinators
Learn how to create a garden buffet for pollinators with colorful blooms in your small, medium or large space garden. Flowers, shrubs and other blooming plants do much more than add color and beauty to our gardens — they support and sustain pollinators.
Bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators play a vital part in the ecosystem. They’re the unsung heroes in fertilizing plants and ensuring the production of seeds. They help carry pollen from one plant to another. Even a small garden can make a big impact once it becomes pollinator-friendly.
There are so many beautiful flowering perennials and annuals, shrubs, herbs and trees that attract pollinators. To attract pollinators to your garden, select flowers and herbs with yellow, red, orange or blue petals and a fresh, mild and flowery sweet scent.
Pollinators get much of the nectar and pollen they need from native plants. Nurture the native flowers, trees and shrubs you already have and think native when adding long-lived plants to your landscape. Try butterfly bush, redbud trees, lilies, yarrow and more.
Plant flowers that bloom at different times, so butterflies, bees, hummingbirds and other pollinators can find nectar throughout the season. Use annuals and perennials, flowering shrubs, vines and trees. Among garden-size bloomers, anise hyssop and blanket flower bloom intermittently for months so pollinators check for new blossoms daily. These flowers tend to reseed themselves and are low-maintenance.
Other options include milkweed, salvia, zinnia, tickseed, sedum and more.
- Choose a location. Select a sunny location. Add your garden to existing ones or grow a special pollinator-friendly garden.
- Remove weeds. Once you determine your planting area, remove all weeds. Learn ways to whack weeds and start the season off right.
- Go bright. Select flowering blooms in bright colors that have nectar and sticky, scented pollen. Pollinators typically go for red, orange, yellow, pink and purple. They love plants with flat flower heads or blooms that grow in clusters.
- Plan your garden. Plan your garden by arranging masses of flowers and blooms that can easily be spotted by butterflies and other pollinators. Plant tall flowers near the back of the garden. Pollinators love tall blooms such as coneflower, zinnia, sunflower, black-eyed Susan, butterfly bush and aster, to name a few. These tall flowers present a landing-like platform for pollinators. Salvia, yarrow, snapdragon, catmint, penstemon and lamb’s ears are perfect choices for medium-size blooms. Plant the shortest plants, such as viola, verbena and herbs lavender, rosemary and oregano, in the front of your garden. If you’re planting in a container or against a wall, such as the above, try using flower seeds, a pollinator garden seed mix or a butterfly garden seed mix that you direct sow in your garden or container. These pre-mixed seeds come with multiple varieties of flowers, including zinnia, tickseed and others that bloom at intervals all season long. Use our frost date calendar as a guide to know when to plant your seeds and flowers.
- Plant blooms. To plant, dig a hole with a garden shovel the depth of the plant’s root ball. Use gardening gloves to protect your hands. Gently remove the plant from its container and place in the hole. Cover roots with compost and pat firm so the plant stands tall. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch on top for extra protection against weeds and to help keep plants moist.
- Water well. Be sure to keep your garden watered well. For planters, water with a garden hose with a watering wand or a watering can. For larger gardens, use drip irrigation, soaker hoses or other timed irrigation systems.
- Fertilize. Boost your blooms in your garden buffet for pollinators by adding plant fertilizer. Feed according to fertilizer instructions. Use organic fertilizer for blooming edible herbs.