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

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 Balm
Beebalm (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:

Hummingbird Plants

  • Luminous Pineleaf Beardtongue Penstemon pinifolius Luminous

    Starting at $10.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Straight Up Red Texas Yucca Hesperaloe parviflora Straight Up Red PPAF

    Starting at $11.99

    Sale: $10.19

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Elfin Pink Beardtongue Penstemon barbatus Elfin Pink


    Sale: $8.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Amistad Friendship Sage Salvia Amistad


    Sale: $10.79

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

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

Pollinator Plants

  • New Mexico Hummingbird Mint (Hyssop) Agastache neomexicana

    Starting at $9.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Coronation Gold Yarrow Achillea filipendulina Coronation Gold


    Sale: $8.49

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Moonshine Yarrow Achillea Moonshine

    Starting at $8.99

    Sale: $8.09

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Golden Spur Columbine Aquilegia chrysantha

    Starting at $9.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Purple Dome New England Aster Aster novae-angliae Purple Dome


    Sale: $9.89

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Blue Glow Globe Thistle Echinops banaticus Blue Glow

    Starting at $10.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

  • Pfitzer Red Hot Poker Kniphofia uvaria Pfitzer Hybrid Mix

    Starting at $10.99

    Per Plant - 5" deep pot

Text and Photos By David Salman

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