Ways to Build a Patriotic Pollinator Garden

A pollinator garden is helpful in so many ways. Sitting and watching the various pollinating insects and birds can be both calming and soothing. Watching their industrious and methodical gathering of nectar can be a great stress reliever. Pollinator gardens also help to maintain important insect populations.

Bees pollinate more than 130 different food crops and 90% of flowers worldwide. With dwindling bee populations, creating spaces for these outstanding little workers to have a safe, insecticide-free place to refuel is more important than ever. Monarch butterfly populations have also been dwindling, and while neither is considered an endangered species yet, many organizations are providing habitat for monarchs, bees, and other at-risk pollinators.

Constructing a pollinator garden doesn’t have to be a huge task. I just love a pretty raised bedroom garden overflowing with flowering plants. And since many of the top pollinator plants are fast multipliers, containing them makes maintenance so much easier and less time-consuming.

With Memorial Day right around the corner, we thought it would be fun to build a patriotic pollinator garden. There are loads of red, white, and sapphire flowers that are frequented by pollinators.

In fact, sapphire is a favourite colour for bees, and hummingbirds and butterflies often favour red flowers. Throw in some white accents for depth and contrast, and you will have a wonderful patriotic garden that will bring the pollinators far and wide.

Pollinator Garden Basics

There are a few important keys to building a successful pollinator garden. If you want to draw butterflies, especially, there are specific types of plants that will not only bring them to feed but keep them coming back to lay eggs as well.

Nectar Plants

This is the most necessary component in a thriving pollinator garden. Flower nectar is the main food source for bees and butterflies, and it provides hummingbirds with the energy they need to forage for insects. Nectar has a high sugar content, and some types of nectar actually improve butterfly fecundity (which means more butterflies).

Host Plants

If you want to keep the butterflies returning to your garden, planting their host plants is a surefire way to make that happen. Each butterfly has one or two plants that serve as larval food, and it is on those plants that they lay their eggs.

You don’t usually plant these host plants because they are pretty. For the better part of the summer, they will be short on foliage. But these plants are what make it possible for butterflies to safely go through their entire lifecycle right in the comfort of your garden.

Water Source

Having a water source is vital for keeping pollinators happy. If you live near a pond or lake or already have a birdbath nearby, these are great water sources. If not, think about adding a small water feature to your garden.

I use hanging birdbaths filled with river rocks to provide water for my honeybees, and they really appreciate it on hot summer days. All pollinators need water to quench their thirst and cool themselves. If your garden has one on hand, there is no reason for them to look elsewhere.

Location

Most popular pollinator plants prefer full sun, and they produce the most flowers with this type of exposure. Try to choose a spot that gets a lot of sunlight early in the day. The morning sun offers all the same benefits without the harsh heat of afternoon sunlight.

Variety

It’s a good idea to include a variety of plants, particularly ones that bloom at different times. The ideal pollinator garden will have blooming flowers continuously through the spring, summer, and fall.

Proximity

Pollinators expend a ton of energy flying around collecting nectar. If they find a place where they can collect a lot of nectar without having to fly around a lot, they can conserve energy, and they will continue to choose that place to feed.

Think about keeping many plants close to one another. Using a raised bed makes this easy, which is another benefit of this type of gardening.

Think Native

There are tons of plants that feed bees and butterflies. Honeybees, in particular, are not native to the United States, so they have no specific need for native nectar. This is not the matter for butterflies.

Butterflies tend to thrive best in spaces where they have access to native plant species. Butterfly host plants are usually native species. Adding native species of plants to your pollinator garden means less work in the long run, as many of these plants are reseeding or perennial and adapted to your specific climate.

Avoid Pesticides

This is integral to maintaining a healthy pollinator garden. Most pollinators are insects, so using insecticides will harm and potentially finish them.

Red Flowering Pollinator Plants

To start off, pick a pollinator plant with red blooms. The following plants have beautiful red flowers and will attract many different types of pollinators to your garden – butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds, to name a few! But be forewarned, red won’t bring most bee species to your garden as they cannot see that color; we’ll have other flowers meant specifically for them after.

Scarlet Beebalm

Botanical Name: Monarda didymium

Plant Type: Perennial
Bloom Time: June-August
Height: 2’-3’
Zones: 4-9
This member of the mint family is more appealing to hummingbirds and butterflies than honeybees because of its color. Most honeybees don’t see red, so it appears black to them, which indicates peril. However, it’s quite beneficial to a few native bee species that do see red!

Beebalm has fragrant foliage and brilliant crimson tubular flowers arranged in tufts. These tufts resemble fireworks, and they will bloom just in time for the 4th of July.

Salvia x ‘Maraschino’

Botanical Name: Salvia x ‘Maraschino’

Plant Type: Perennial
Bloom Time: Summer and Fall
Height: 3’
Zones: 6-10
Most types of Salvia have long and prolific blooming seasons. This hybrid, a cross between Salvia greggii and Salvia microphylla, begins in early summer and blooms through the fall.

It is cold hardy and produces bright red flowers on tall spikes that attract many hummingbirds. It is fast growing and flowers freely. This pollinator-friendly plant is quite drought-tolerant as well.

Rajin’ Cajun Ruelia

Botanical Name: Ruelia elegans ‘Rajin’ Cajun’

Plant Type: Perennial
Bloom Time: May – First Frost
Height: 12”-16”
Zones: 8-10
Rajin’ Cajun is a flower powerhouse. In USDA zones 9-10, it can almost bloom year-round if the temperature doesn’t drop below 28 degrees. However, in hardiness zone 8, it is a perennial that dies back in winter but comes around in spring and blooms early and for a long period. In much of the rest of the US, it’s grown as an annual.

Hummingbirds and butterflies love this long-lasting nectar source. While not a native plant in the US (it’s native to Brazil), it’s a common sight in pollinator gardens because it has the tubular flowers that hummingbirds love most!

Red Clover

Botanical Name: Trifolium pratense

Plant Type: Perennial
Bloom Time: May-August
Height: 2”
Zones: 4-11
Red clover is a prolific bloomer that is food for bees and butterflies alike. Clover is a nitrogen fixer, so it enriches the soil for other plants, making it a very desirable plant for the pollinator garden.

In addition to being a nectar plant, it is also one form of larval food for the Eastern Tail sapphire and Common sapphire Clouded Sulphur butterflies. While native to Europe, Asia, and part of the African continent, it is widely naturalized in the United States and is a common cover crop choice!

Common Poppy

Botanical Name: Papaver rhoeas

Plant Type: Annual
Bloom Time: April -June
Height: 9”-18”
Zones: 2-10
It wouldn’t seem right to leave out the Common Poppy while discussing a Memorial Day garden project. After all, these flowers have held a special place in the Memorial Day tradition for more than 100 years.

They are also very appealing to pollinators as both an ample source of nectar and pollen as well. Although they are annuals, they freely self-seed, making them likely to reappear each year. These are not a native species in the US, but they are extremely popular plants and widespread in the garden trade.

White Flowering Pollinator Plants
There are a number of different pollinator plants that bloom with beautiful white flowers. The following are some of our favorite white blooming pollinator-friendly plants added you can add to your pollinator garden.

Wild Carrot

Botanical Name: Daucus carota

Plant Type: Biennial
Bloom Time: Spring-Fall
Height: 1’-4’
Zones: 3-9
Also known as Queen Anne’s Lace, wild carrot is one of my favorite cut flowers. The lacy clusters of flowers are a good source of pollen and nectar, making them popular among most types of pollinators. Their delicate, fernlike foliage adds a nice textural effect to the garden and is also a larval food for the black swallowtail butterfly.

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