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Pollinator-Friendly Gardening: How can a pollinator-friendly space be created where pollinators will remain active?

To begin with, you do not need copious amounts of space to create a garden that will attract pollinators. Plants can be planted anywhere, from pots and flower boxes, to actual flowerbeds. Pollinators are attracted to flowers by their colour and scent,1 not by where they are planted.

Consider designing a garden so that there is a continuing sequence of blooming plants from spring to fall. This will ensure that the garden can supply nectar and pollen for a variety of pollinators with different foraging habits and different flower preferences.2 Flowers with bright colours, especially blue, yellow, red, and violet are attractive to pollinators, and during the night, flowers' fragrances are alluring.3

When you choose flowers to grow, it is better to pick plants that are native to your region, or at least native to North America. Native plants are better adapted to their area and are therefore more able to provide for pollinator's needs than are non-native plants.4 But regardless of the origin of the plants, it is also important to try to choose old-fashioned varieties, whenever possible. Many garden varieties have been bred to look and smell attractive to humans, but often lack accessible nectar and pollen for pollinators.5

Some examples of pollinator attracting flowers are6:
  • cardinal flower
  • honeysuckle
  • bee balm
  • zinnia
  • phlox
  • mint
  • fuchsia
  • sage
  • cosmos
  • english lavender
  • nasturtium
  • lupine
  • coneflower
  • geranium
  • black-eyed susan
  • sunflower
  • angel's trumpet
  • verbena
  • aster
  • shasta daisy.
Simply keep in mind while planning an urban garden that gardens with a high density of diverse plants are most attractive to pollinators.7

Another way to encourage pollinating visitors in your garden is to install "houses" for bees. There are many approaches you could take. For example, bee-nesting blocks can be made out of a wood block by drilling a number of holes, approximately 1/4 inches in diameter, and 3-5 inches deep. Mount the block on a post or the side of a building. An ideal place would be under the eaves of a garage or shed, which gives some protection from the rain.8

Some insects like to nest in the ground, so it can be helpful to preserve open patches of undisturbed soil or bare ground with direct access for solitary flying insects.9 As dead wood can provide nesting areas for various pollinators, for example bees, wasps, beetles, ants,10 another way to encourage the nesting of pollinators near your garden is to retain dead tree branches or trees, but only if it is safe to do so. Tying together bundles of hollow twigs, such as bamboo or teasel, is another way to make a nesting site, and can be horizontally attached to a fence or a tree.11

Providing water to all wildlife is another action that can be taken. Do this by hanging a dripping bottle, or placing a small container of water out in the open. The water supplied will also specifically provide water to pollinators. Butterflies, for example, will gather and sip at shallow pools, mud puddles or even birdbaths.12 However, change the water often, as stagnant water in never healthy, and specifically encourages mosquitoes.

In creating a pollinator-friendly garden one last important aspect to address is the use of pesticides. Pesticides can be very harmful or deadly to pollinators, who will later alight on the sprayed plants and ingest tainted nectar or pollen. Pesticide use can also lead to a condition called "chemical fragmentation," when a pollinator is in a pesticide free area, but is unable to travel or forage in sprayed areas.13 Avoid using pesticides whenever possible. If you must use them, use fast-acting, short-residual options. Consider using small amounts, applied to specific spots, and only applied after sundown, when most pollinators are not active.14

Creating a pollinator-friendly garden at your urban home is a fairly simple task to undertake. However, it is an action that has the potential to make a larger impact on the environment, and most importantly, a positive impact in the lives of essential plant pollinators.


  1. "Your Urban Garden is Better with Bees." North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. http://www.pollinator.org/resources.htm
  2. "Creating a Pollinator Garden." National Gardening Association."
  3. "Pollinators in the Garden." Reiman Gardens Iowa State University: 2002.www.extension.iastate.edu/Publications/RG212.pdf
  4. "Facts from the NAS National Research Council Study: Status of Pollinators in North America." http://www.pollinator.org/resources.htm
  5. "Creating a Pollinator Garden." National Gardening Association. http://www.kidsgardening.com/growingideas/projects/jan03/pg1.html
  6. Ibid. AND www.pollinator.org
  7. "How to Build a Pollinator Friendly Garden." http://www.pollinator.org/resources.htm p 1.
  8. "Home Made Sweet Homes: how to make your own home for bees." The North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. http://www.pollinator.org/resources.htm
  9. Vaughan, Mace, and Scott Hoffman Black. "Enhancing Nest Sites for Native Bee Crop Pollinators." National Agroforestry Centre. http://www.pollinator.org/Resources/Enhancing%20nest%20sites%20for%20native%20Bee.pdf
  10. "Facts from the NAS National Research Council Study: Status of Pollinators in North America." http://www.pollinator.org/resources.htm
  11. "Pollinator Conservation: Nest for Solitary Bees." The Xerces Society. http://www.xerces.org/Pollinator_Insect_Conservation/nativebeenests.htm
  12. "Creating a Pollinator Garden." National Gardening Association. http://www.kidsgardening.com/growingideas/projects/jan03/pg1.html
  13. "Pesticides Impact Farmed and Wild Pollinators." National Biological Information Infrastructure. http://pollinators.nbii.gov/portal/server.pt?open=512&objID=850&&PageID=2898&mode=2&in_hi_userid=2&cached=true
  14. "Your Urban Garden is Better with Bees." North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. http://www.pollinator.org/resources.htm




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