Master Gardener: Beautiful and Useful Pollinator Gardens | Home & Garden

Tom Ingram Ask a Master Gardener

I’ve heard a lot about “pollinator gardens” lately. What is the difference between a pollinator garden and an ordinary garden? —DT

Pollinator gardens can be as beautiful as any standard garden, but they have an additional purpose: plants in pollinator gardens are selected not only for their beauty, but also for the way they attract and support pollinating insects. . Here’s why it matters.

Man currently produces around 1,400 plants for food and industrial herbal products. Of these 1,400 plants, approximately 80% of them require pollination. Additionally, more than 50% of our edible fats and oils come from pollinated plants, while almost all fruit and grain crops require pollination. Ultimately, we would be in a “world” of suffering without pollinating insects. So many gardeners are changing their view of gardens to include plants that support and encourage pollinator habitats. As master gardeners, we are all for this idea.

If you are going to start changing your perspective on your flower garden to lean more towards supporting pollinating insects, you should plan to include both nectariferous and larval plants for butterflies. Nectar is the liquid product of flowers that serves as food and fuel for many pollinators. Nectar plants are those we are likely familiar with such as Columbine, Yarrow, Aster, Agastache, False Indigo, Ageratum, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Joe Pye Weed and a host of others.

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While these and other flowers will serve to attract pollinating insects to your garden, you will need a few additional plants called “host plants” to keep them there. Pollinating insects look for host plants to deposit their eggs. The challenge for many gardeners is that we have been conditioned to try to keep insects from eating on our plants. But host plants are grown knowing full well that if you are successful in attracting pollinating insects to your landscape, they will likely be eaten right down to the stems.

Good host plants include dill, fennel, parsley, chives and milkweed. Many pollinator gardeners set aside a special area of ​​their garden for host plants, as they tend not to be as colorful as the flowers we are more used to. Personally, I like to mix.

Another thing to keep in mind when turning your garden into a pollinator garden is to try to plant your flowers in larger groups of the same flowers than you might be used to. A larger grouping of plants not only helps attract pollinators to your garden, but also provides a denser buffet, so they don’t have to waste energy moving between scattered plants in your landscape. Once they find a place where their needs are met, they are more likely to call your garden home.

Flowering time is another topic to consider when planning your pollinator garden. Since you’re trying to provide a season-long resource for your pollinating insects, you’ll want to try picking plants that bloom at different times. This saves pollinators from having to look elsewhere when your flowers are past their blooming season.

Plants that house your pollinators are another good addition. Honeysuckle is a good one because it not only provides shelter but is also a source of nectar.

Another addition to consider for your pollinator garden is something called a butterfly puddler. Puddles are like birdbaths but shallower. These shallow puddles contain not only water but also rocks for butterflies to stand on while having a drink.

Pollinator feeders also make great additions to your pollinator garden. Pollinator feeders can be as simple as a tray type bird feeder, but instead of filling your feeder with birdseed, pollinator feeders can be filled with overripe bananas or sliced ​​oranges. The uneaten rinds of cantaloupes or watermelons also provide a good source of energy in your pollinator garden.

Another thing you should consider adding to your pollinator garden is a rocky feature. It’s a fancy term for “the rocks in your backyard.” I’m not talking about a lot of small rocks but a few big rocks. These larger rocks absorb heat and can provide a good place for butterflies to warm up as they can only fly when temperatures reach appropriate levels.

Native plants should be at the top of your list to add to your garden, as local pollinating insects are the most habituated and adapted to native plants in our area. We have good information about native plants on our website ( Simply click on Lawn and Garden Help, then on Flowers.

For those interested in learning more about pollinator gardens and other garden topics, our free five-week lunch and learn series begins Tuesday, March 15 at the Tulsa Central Library. Classes run from noon to around 12:50 p.m. so you can pop in over your lunch and learn about topics like container gardening, vegetable gardening, pollinator plants and natural pest control, native plants, and conservation heirloom seeds. Just bring your lunch and enjoy. See you soon in the garden!

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You can get all your gardening questions answered by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Helpline at 918-746-3701, visiting our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th St., or sending us a email to [email protected].

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