“I’ll show you the best plants for pollinators,” says Hazel
Attract bees, butterflies and hoverflies by growing plants laden with nectar. reveals annuals and perennials that pollinators will make a beeline for
The life and soul of a garden is its wildlife. As well as the chirping of the birds, we enjoy the presence of beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies and hoverflies, which pollinate our plants and keep us company while we garden. Without the background humming of bees and the sight of butterflies flapping over the flowers, it would be a far less enriching experience.
As these beloved insects continue to struggle worldwide due to habitat decline, pollution and pesticides, we gardeners can lend a helping hand by planting flowers that provide them with food. Or, more specifically, their favourite delicacy: nectar.
however, when it comes to nectar, not all plants are created equal. While these insects will make a beeline for some flowers, they’ll fly past others without a second glance. Sometimes this is because they cannot reach the nectar – for instance, if a plant has been bred to the extent that petals bar access, or if the length of the flower does not suit their feeding apparatus. But often they will bypass a plant simply because its nectar content is low.
A study by the University of Sussex showed how pollinators rate over 30 different plants. And surprisingly it was not always our native wildflowers that came out on top. Many ornamental garden plants that had been hybridised or brought in from overseas fared as well – or better. Achillea, single dahlias, borage and perovskia were all popular, with agastache, wild marjoram, catmint, salvia, hyssop, viper’s bugloss
(Echium vulgare) and lavender varieties (including Lavandula x intermedia ‘Gros Bleu’) coming out on top.
There’s still time to get plants in the ground that will provide late-season nectar. Seeds of many late-summer and autumn-blooming annuals loved by wildlife (like calendula, sunflowers and
Tithonia rotundifolia) can be sown now. Nectar-rich late-flowering perennials (heleniums and asters) can be planted, as can containerised dahlias like ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ – available from nurseries.
But if you plant just one autumn nectar source this month, make it an ice plant (Hylotelephium spectabile
‘Brilliant’ or ‘Mr Goodbud’). This will provide sustenance for bees and butterflies from August to November.
Sow annuals such as calendula and herbs like marjoram for a garden that is alive with butterflies and bees from summer through to autumn