A garden that is predominantly planted with flowering plants, trees, or shrubs that provide homes, pollen and nectar to a variety of pollinators. Pollinator gardens often include an educational sign to help neighbors understand the benefits of leaving leaves, sticks, or “messy areas” in the garden to attract nesting bees. A pollinator garden can be any shape or size!
I am creating a pollinator garden. What flowers do you recommend I plant?
There are many possibilities. Observe flowers in your area and look for flowers that support both a great number and a great diversity of insect visitors. We suggest consulting with local plant experts to select the best bee friendly plants for your area and for your soil type. Local nurseries and master gardeners are great sources for this type of information! We encourage you to check that the plants/ seeds you buy are not treated with insecticides, as this can negatively affect bee health. Again, nurseries and master gardeners will be able to help you determine that the plants you choose are healthy for bees.
Bees benefit most if you plan your garden so there is something blooming for pollinators from early spring through the fall. In addition to flowers, pollinators also need places to nest and host plants for larvae. The Habitat Assessment Guide for Pollinators in Yards, Gardens, and Parks can help you to improve your habitat.
I have a native plant garden. Should I plant non-native species for honey bees?
Your native plants will support many kinds of native bees, and honey bees too! If you are establishing a native garden or native landscape, it makes sense to keep on adding more native plants to help bees. We’d suggest focusing on plantings that provide food all season long, from early spring through fall. We also always recommend consulting a plant expert, like your local Master Gardeners.
I have a lot of acres, and I’d like to convert them to bee habitat. What should I plant?
Planting honey bee forage crops makes sense if you have farmland or acreage where you are not trying to establish perennial plants. People have reported success planting large areas with Sainfoin, clovers, sunflowers, rapeseed, cornflowers, buckwheat, and vetch.
If you are interested in restoring acreage to a native prairie, wetland or woodland that supports many pollinators, we recommend using the Pollinator Toolbox, created by the Board of Water and Soil Resources to help you connect with resources to choose the best sites, find seed mixes, prepare the sites properly for planting, and, the often neglected but extremely important step of maintenance. Local native plant producers including Prairie Restoration, Minnesota Native Landscapes, and Prairie Moon, can help you find the best plants for your area. Site preparation is an important and challenging step in restoring native landscapes, but will save you lots of work in the future. To maintain these habitats, be aware that weed control is essential.
How can I be sure my pollinator plants do not have harmful pesticides?
Even if you ask someone working where you buy plants if a particular plant has been treated with pesticides that could harm pollinators, they may not know. ; Often, treatments can be applied before plants reach the retail market. It is best to buy pollinators plants from producers who have committed to making sure that their plants are not treated with these pesticides. You can also start many pollinator plants yourself from seed. Seeds can sometimes come with pesticide treatments already applied to the seed coating, so be sure that you also trust your seed source.
I have a pollinator garden and want to improve it. What can I do to make my garden more pollinator-friendly?
Take a survey from the UMN Master Gardeners to find out how pollinator friendly your yard is.
Evaluate your garden using this Habitat Assessment Guide from the Xerces Society and the UMN Bee Lab.
The Pollinator Toolbox from the Board of Water and Soil Resources has resources for every step to creating pollinator habitat.