Spring Planning – February, 2014

Even if your garden is still covered with snow, the garden catalog season has arrived. Like us, you’re probably leafing through page after page of glossy wildflower photos thinking about what to plant this year for your bees and butterflies. Here are a few tips to maximize the impact of your plant choices:

  • When buying wildflower seed, look for companies that identify the origin of the seed they sell, and purchase as close to home as possible. Many wildflower species have a huge native range, and selecting from locally adapted sources will ensure your plants are most likely to thrive.
  • A pollinator meadow should, by definition, be a case study in companion-planting. Diverse wildflowers, native legumes (like lupines and prairie clovers), and native grasses, when planted together provide the best habitat, and weave themselves into a tight, living mat that can help reduce places for weeds to grow.
  • Consider less common species. Successful pollinator gardens have a stable foundation of reliable workhorses (those low maintenance plants that bloom and bloom and bloom!). Less common native plants however tend to attract the less common bees and butterflies. Some of the less common species we are excited about include native thistles (Cirsium spp.); wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia) in the Midwest, East, and South; Leavenworth’s eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii) in the Southern Plains; and the drought-tolerant bladderpod shrub in California and the Southwest (Isomeris arborea).

For more information on plant selection for your garden, check out Xerces’ regional pollinator plant lists, here.

To read previous months’ tips, please click here.