The Nectar Garden: The Importance of Planting a Haven for Pollinators

by David Salman

Hot Lips Salvia with Monarch Butterfly
Hot Lips Salvia has nectar-rich hot-pink/red flowers to attract butterflies.

To say pollination is an important process would be an understatement.  A large number of the Earth’s edible plants create their fruit and seeds with the help of pollinators moving pollen from plant to plant. And we humans, along with the rest of the world’s animals, depend on this essential food cycle for our survival.

Pollinators (such as native bees, bumblebees, honey bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds) need flowers for pollen and nectar. And the flowers need them, to help accomplish the pollination process that sets the seeds and fruits so the plants can propagate themselves.  A healthy pollinator population means the area of the Earth on which they live is also healthy. Pollinators are the pulse of the planet.

bee landing on penstemon
Penstemon has nectar-rich blooms, attractive to bees and butterflies.

As gardeners, we are involved in the pollination process even if we don’t think about it.  And that’s because we love planting flowers!  So when we plant an abundant garden or landscape and care for these plants in an organic environment, it provides for us humans too.  This helps to complete the web of life.

To plan and plant a nectar garden for pollinators, we need to provide three basic elements:

  • Shelter – buildings and gardens provide places where insects and hummingbirds can live
  • Water – a source of water is essential.
  • Food Source – the plants that feed themselves and their young.

The fun part for gardeners is, of course, planting the plants that provide for the pollinators.  We do this with two groups of plants; the food plants for caterpillars (moths and butterflies) and nectar sources for adult moths and butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

  Herbs – provide an excellent source of leaves for caterpillars. Always plant extra so there is enough for you and the caterpillars. And don’t forget Milkweed (Asclepias) for Monarch caterpillars.

  Flowering perennials, shrubs and trees - provide nectar-rich flowers for adult moths and butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Hummingbird on Bee BalmBeebalm (Monarda) has tubular shaped flowers that attract hummingbirds.

I am an enthusiastic hummingbird gardener, so I’m always planting flowering plants to attract them.

Some of my favorite hummingbird plants in this category include:

  1. White Agave neomexicana, Agave neomexicana, New Mexico Century Plant

    New Mexico Century plant is a very cold hardy species with thick succulent silver gray leaves. The attractive foliage is edged with dark burgundy spines. Drought resistant/drought to...

    Learn More
    New Mexico Century Plant (Agave) New Mexico Century Plant Agave neomexicana
    $11.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    New Mexico Century plant is a very cold hardy species with thick succulent silver gray leaves. The attractive foliage is edged with dark burgundy spines. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More

Some of my favorite plants for butterflies, moths and all kinds of bees, I recommend:

  1. White Agave neomexicana, Agave neomexicana, New Mexico Century Plant

    New Mexico Century plant is a very cold hardy species with thick succulent silver gray leaves. The attractive foliage is edged with dark burgundy spines. Drought resistant/drought to...

    Learn More
    New Mexico Century Plant (Agave) New Mexico Century Plant Agave neomexicana
    $11.99
    Per Plant - 2.5" Pot
    New Mexico Century plant is a very cold hardy species with thick succulent silver gray leaves. The attractive foliage is edged with dark burgundy spines. Drought resistant/drought tolerant plant (xeric).
    Learn More
  2. Dinnerplate Dahlia Cambridge, Yellow Dahlia

    Dinner Plate Dahlia ‘Cambridge’ has 8-10 inch double yellow flowers stippled and streaked with red, resembling a giant, sunny bloom spun through with red paint. This plant grows ...

    Learn More
    Cambridge Dinnerplate Dahlia Cambridge Dinnerplate Dahlia Dinnerplate Dahlia Cambridge
    Regular Price $17.99 Sale $14.39
    Per Bag of 3
    You save: 20%

    Dinner Plate Dahlia ‘Cambridge’ has 8-10 inch double yellow flowers stippled and streaked with red, resembling a giant, sunny bloom spun through with red paint. This plant grows to a stately 36-40 inches, making it a great choice for mid-summer color where height is desired. Plant tubers in the spring in compost enriched garden soil once the soil has warmed. Dahlias need full sun (at least 6 hours/day). Enjoy flowers from mid-summer through fall. Great as cut flowers, pollinators love them too. Hardy in zones 8-10. Grow as annuals elsewhere.

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Text and Photos By David Salman

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