Planting for Pollinators

By Jamie Sloan, Account Manager- Salem, OR
DeSantis Landscapes, Inc.

A happy, balanced natural environment is not only seen in thriving vegetation and blooms, but also in the abundant presence of pollinators. Pollinators are vital for a thriving ecosystem. They help pollinate over 75% of crops worldwide. Without them the world would lose flowers, wildlife, fruit, and food sources of countless varieties. The good news is we can help create environmentally stable spaces that welcome the proliferation of pollinators. Their importance is essential for plant reproduction; however, an alarming decline in their populations are being reported worldwide. Pollution, chemical spray and pesticide use, radiation from cell phone towers, landscape conversions for human use, habitat loss, fungus, mites, and climate changes are direct threats to pollinator production.

Bees, which are an extremely threatened species, are a predominant pollinator; however, there are other species to consider. Birds, such as hummingbirds, beetles, bats, moths, butterflies, wasps, praying mantis, and other insects also play a crucial role in the laborious task of plant pollination. There are many plant varieties that are preferred by pollinators as a food source. Consider the plants you enjoy, as well as beneficial ones for other species when selecting plants for a pollinator garden. Introducing a variation of color, bloom structure, fragrance, height, and native plants is ideal for any garden. Diversity is key.

Planting native species is ideal for pollinators. There are many non-native plants that are beneficial, but may be deemed as noxious to some, ex. Dandelions. The following are plants that attract native pollinators and other beneficial insects. Flowers: asters, alyssum, baby blue eyes, basil, cilantro, cosmos, crimson clover, fuchsia, impatiens, marigolds, nasturtiums, stonecrop sedum and sunflowers. Should you have interest in shrubs and trees, you may consider species that include dogwood, fruit trees, raspberries, red maple, sumac and willows. Planting flowers that bloom at different times of the year provides nectar and pollen sources throughout the growing season. Planting native varieties such as Oregon grape and willows are ideal for early season pollination. Providing a clean water source is also encouraged. A birdbath is ideal, and adding rocks helps to prevent accidental drowning in case wings get submerged. Also, remember to plant in clumps, as it is more attractive to pollinators than singular plantings.

Large commercial big box stores and garden centers will not immediately notify consumers of the pesticides that have been applied to their plants before sale. Many are treated with neonicotinoids or neonics, which is a death sentence for bees and most beneficial bugs. An alternative is to shop at locally owned nurseries, and ask before you buy. However, if you are feeling super green, then sowing and growing your own is the most organic approach to gardening. If you must use a pesticide then take time to read the label and use only when necessary. Follow correct application rates, and then apply in the late day or evening when most of the beneficial insects have finished the bulk of their work. Consider alternative ways to control pest and disease issues before reaching for the convenience of a quick fix.

Planting a pollinator garden can be done at any scale size, from crops to containers. A small space could be a sanctuary for traveling pollinators. So, don’t let overwhelm paralyze you into another year of wishful thinking. Our knowledgeable staff at DeSantis Landscapes can help you with ideas, selections, design, and even full installations for your own beneficial sanctuary. We can certainly help you get out there and enjoy nature!

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