Five plants to encourage pollinators
Pollinators are so important for the health of humans and the entire planet! Plant these species in your garden to attract a range of insects, from bees to butterflies.
e.g. Tufted hair grass, Deschampsia cespitosa (a nice cultivar is 'Goldtau')
Patches of grass are great places for caterpillars to spend the winter and help them hide from predators but big tussock grasses are even better as they are really important nesting sites for bumblebees. One tussock can be a nest for up to 40 common carder bumblebees. They provide a safe haven as these bees love tangles of vegetation, bits of old nests and mossy patches.
These grasses are great left standing throughout the winter in the garden, providing tall arching stems that turn golden through the later months, catching the light with old flower heads covered in dewy spider webs
Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis
Great for pollinators as well as cooking, this aromatic evergreen shrub starts flowering in early spring and right through the summer.
Hairy-footed flower bees love this plant with its two-lipped blue flowers, which provide the perfect landing pad for these bees who are just emerging from hibernation in early spring.
Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum
With fragrant tubular creamy-coloured flowers, this climber is a great nectar source for moths and butterflies throughout the summer.
The trumpet-shaped flowers are great for pollinators with long tongues, especially moths which are attracted to the sweet scent of honeysuckle at night, when it is at its strongest.
Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale
This is a pollinator's best friend as it's in flower for most of the year, from March to November. Found everywhere, these bright yellow flowers are formed from a mass of tiny individual flowers making the perfect platform for a whole range of pollinators to feed from.
Bumblebees, solitary bees and honeybees all visit dandelions for food, along with hoverflies, beetles, and butterflies such as the peacock and holly blue
They are the first and most important nectar source available in the year and are also great for pollen beetles who are important pollinators.
Buddleja, Buddleja davidii
This plant is known as the butterfly bush for good reason. It's a magnet for pollinators and often a plant in full flower will have clouds of butterflies of different species on as well as many bees.
Its panicles of small, tubular, nectar-rich fragrant flowers range from white to pale pink to deep purple. It is a fast-growing, low-maintenance shrub blooming through the summer until late in the year, often after many other flowers have finished for the year.
General tips on choosing plants for pollinators
- Skip the highly hybridized plants which have been bred not to seed and therefore produce very little pollen for insects.
- Select single flowers such as daisys and sunflowers rather than double flowers such as double dahlias. Double-headed flowers look showy but produce much less nectar and make it much more difficult for insects to access pollen.
- Plan for blooms year round: plant at least three different types of flowers in your pollinator garden to ensure blooms through as many seasons as possible.