Of course, the species of plants you select for your pollinator garden must be based on the environmental conditions of your site. The amount of sun exposure, soil type, and water availability are all important considerations here. Just like other living things, these conditions are super important determinants of plant success (consider the different habitat requirements of penguins and roadrunners!).
Listed below are two designs – one for full sun and one for shade. For a full sun site that does not stay wet throughout the year, the design below would provide pollen and nectar across the majority of the growing season, and offer ample diversity in flower shape to meet the capabilities of numerous bees species. And in addition to offering nectar to moths and butterflies, many of these plants will host growing caterpillars, including:
- Glorious Flower Moth (Schinia gloriosa) on Dense Blazing Star;
- Spring Azure (Celastrina “ladon”), Mottled Duskywing (Erynnis martialis), and Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta) on New Jersey Tea;
- Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) and the Ozark Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio joanae) on Golden Alexander;
- Pearl Crescent Butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) on Smooth Aster;
- … this list of pollinator interactions is large!!
For a shady site, like in a space under the shade of a tree, check out the shade design on the above right. These plants will brighten up a shady nook, offer blooms at different times, and offer habitat to over-wintering pollinators (but only if you leave the leaves!). The spring fiddleheads are edible, the foam flower leaves are semi-evergreen, and the wild geranium is considered to be a keystone species as it could host up to 26 different species of native moths and butterflies. You may even find some developing northern pearly eye butterfly caterpillars growing on the bottlebrush rye 🙂
If you have more space, consider also planting native shrubs and flowering trees, which provide important spring nectar and pollen before many wildflowers bloom! By far, the most beneficial trees for pollinators are the oaks (Quercus spp.). There are also many flowering trees and shrubs that can also add a dynamic and structural component to your pollinator garden, providing interest across the seasons.
- Pictured above are the Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Downy Serviceberry (Amelanchier arborea), Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), and Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana), which blooms in the late fall!).
These designs were created by Carolyn Davies, one of Pollinate Collingwood’s Directors. Check out Thickett EcoScaping, her design consultation website.