By Jean Shildneck, Marketing Lead, Kennedy’s Country Gardens
“Individuals can influence pollinator populations through choices they make when they farm a plot of ground, manage large tracts of public land, or plant a garden. Each of us can have a positive impact by providing the essential habitat requirements for pollinators including food, water, shelter, and enough space to allow pollinators to raise their young.”
~ Selecting Plants for Pollinators: A Regional Guide for Farmers, Land Managers, and Gardeners, North American Pollinator Protection Campaign
Homeowners can have a positive impact on songbird and pollinator populations by providing the essential habitat requirements including water, food, shelter, and enough space to allow them to raise their young. A variety of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowering plants will support wildlife in your yard.
Larger trees planted at the border of your property provide a safe starting point for visiting birds. Plant shrubs in clumps or hedgerows so birds can observe the yard while hidden from the view of cats, hawks, and other predators.
The trees, shrubs, and vines in the list below provide summer nesting sites and winter shelter. They also provide food (for birds and pollinators) in the form of leaves, seeds, berries, nectar, and sap.
Plant perennials as essential food sources for birds & pollinators.
Plant larval food plants for butterfly and moth larvae as an integral part of a successful pollinator garden.
Plant native species plants. Native plants have developed a symbiotic relationship with native wildlife and they have the added benefit of requiring less water and care. Conservation groups and U.S. federal agencies including the National Wildlife Federation, the Audubon Society, the Nature Conservancy, the EPA, the USDA, and the DOT have advocated the increased use of native plants to support biodiversity and a healthier ecosystem.
Plant a vegetable or herb garden and beds or containers with colorful annuals and bulb plants. Many flowering annuals, including annual herbs and vegetables, as well as spring-flowering bulb plants, provide important food sources for pollinators and their larvae.
Leave a wild space or meadow as part of your landscape and consider leaving some flowering “weeds” in your lawn. Many wildflowers, as well as plants frequently thought of as weeds, provide important food sources for pollinators and their larvae. Weeds/wildflowers that are beneficial to pollinators include dandelion, clover, milkweed, thistle, violet, nettle, vetch, aster, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod, daisy, and monkeyflower.
Provide fresh water. Natural and human-made water features such as running water, pools, ponds, and small containers of water provide drinking and bathing opportunities for pollinators and birds. Shallow water is best for most pollinators and many birds; add stones, gravel, and small branches to create landing platforms.
Provide shelter for nesting and overwintering pollinators. Leave some brush piles, stumps, leaf litter, and open sandy soil. Build or purchase a bee house to encourage solitary bees to nest on your property.
Avoid using pesticides, even organic. If you need to spray to control an infestation of pests, spray in the evening when pollinators are less active.
Learn more about the many beneficial moths, wasps, flies, and beetles that help pollinate plants and control pests in your garden.
Additional Tips for Planting Perennials to Attract and Support Pollinators
Plant in a sunny spot using sun-loving plants. Most pollinators love the sun.
Plant many different colors, shapes, heights, and fragrances. Pollinators come in different sizes with different tongue lengths and are attracted to different plants.
Plant in clumps. Clusters of individual species attract more pollinators than scattered flowers and allow them to feed more efficiently.
Plant for three-season color aiming for blooms from early spring to late fall and at least three species in bloom in each season.
At the end of the blooming season, allow spent flowers to remain on the plants, as the seeds are an important food source for overwintering birds.
Information compiled from North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, Old Farmer’s Almanac, National Pollinator Garden Network, North American Pollinator Protection Campaign, Xerxes Society, Pollinator Partnership, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Wildlife Federation, Nature International Journal of Science, Plymouth County Extension Service, and other sources.
Plants for Pollinators and Birds
Actaea (Black Cohosh)
Ageratum (Floss Flower)
Allium (Ornamental Onion, Chives)
Armeria (Sea Thrift)
Asclepias (Milkweed, Butterfly Weed)
Astilbe (False Goat’s Beard)
Baptisia (False Blue Indigo)
Centaurea (Bachelor’s Button, Cornflower)
Centranthus (Red Valerian)
Dianthus (Carnation, Pinks)
Dicentra (Bleeding Heart)
Echinops (Globe Thistle)
Eryngium (Sea Holly)
Eutrochium (Joe-Pye Weed)
Filipendula (Queen of the Prairie)
Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)
Gentiana (Bottle Gentian)
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Knautia (Widow Flower)
Kniphofia (Torch Lily)
Lobelia (Cardinal Flower)
Lobularia (Sweet Alyssum)
Monarda (Bee Balm)
Oenethera (Evening Primrose)
Papaver (Poppy Penstemon (Beardtongue)
Perovskia (Russian Sage)
Phlox (Garden Phlox)
Physostegia (Obedient Plant)
Pycnanthemum (Mountain Mint)
Rudbeckia (Black Eyed Susan)
Salvia (Meadow Sage)
Scabiosa (Pincusion Flower)
Scutellaria (Hooded Skullcap)
Spiranthes (Ladies Tresses)
Vernonia (Ironweed Veronica (Speedwell)
Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile)
Cleome (Spider Flower)
Dianthus (Carnation, Pink)
Fuchsia (Lady’s Eardrops)
Gazania (Treasure Flower)
Ipomoea (Morning Glory)
Mirabilis (Four O’Clocks)
Nicotiana (Tabacco Plant)
Trees & Shrubs
Abies concolor (White Fir)
Buddleia (Butterfly Bush)
Callicarpa bodinieri (Beautyberry)
Caryopteris (Blue Beard)
Castanea sp. (Chestnut)
Celtis occidentalis (Hackberry)
Cercis (Eastern Redbud)
Chamaecyparis thyoides (White Cedar)
Corylus avellana (Hazelnut)
Eleagnus commutate (Silverberry)
Hamamelis (Witch Hazel)
Hibiscus (Rose of Sharon)
Ilex glabra (Inkberry)
Ilex opaca (American Holly)
Ilex verticillata (Winterberry)
Junglens nigra (Black Walnut)
Juniperus virginiana (Eastern Red Cedar)
Kalmia (Mountain Laurel)
Lindera benzoin (Spicebush)
Malus (Apple, Crabapple)
Morus rubra (Red Mulberry)
Myrica pensylvanica (Bayberry)
Picea pungens (Colorado Blue Spruce)
Prunus sp. (Cherry)
Prunus virginiana (Chokecherry)
Pseudotsuga menziesii (Douglas Fir)
Pyracantha coccinea (Firethorn)
Quercus sp. (Oak)
Rhamnus frangula (Fernleaf Buckthorn)
Rhododendron (Rhododendron, Azalea)
Rhus sp. (Sumac)
Rubus (Blackberry, Raspberry)
Salix discolor (Pussywillow)
Sassafras albidium (Sassafras)
Sorbus Americana (American Mountain Ash)
Taxodium distichum (Bald Cypress)
Tsuga Canadensis (Canadian Hemlock)
Vaccinium (Blueberry, Huckleberry)
Viburnum trilobum (Cranberry Bush)
Groundcovers & Vines
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry, Kinnikinnick)
Campsis radicans (Trumpet Vine)
Mahonia aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia Creeper)