LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
Gardens come alive with the buzzing of bees, fluttering butterflies and graceful hummingbirds each spring and summer. In June, we celebrate National Pollinator Month in the U.S., honoring these tiny but vital creatures and highlighting the significance of pollinator gardens in preserving our ecosystems.
Bees, beetles, butterflies, birds, bats, moths, wasps and many other insects play a crucial role in fertilizing flowering plants by transferring pollen from one flower to another. This intricate dance of nature ensures the reproduction of countless plant species, including those that provide us with food, fibers, medicines and beautiful landscapes.
To celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of pollinators, individuals, communities and organizations throughout the country are creating and maintaining pollinator gardens. These vibrant havens are designed to provide nectar, pollen and shelter to attract and support these essential creatures throughout their life cycles.
Pollinator gardens are carefully crafted with a diversity of native or cultivated flowering plants, shrubs and trees that offer an abundant supply of nutritious food and suitable habitats. They serve as sanctuaries where pollinators can find food and vital habitat while also enhancing the natural beauty of our surroundings.
In recent years, the decline of pollinators has become a growing concern. Loss of habitat, pesticide exposure, climate change and disease have taken a toll on their populations. However, pollinator gardens help combat these challenges and ensure the survival of these wildlife species.
During National Pollinator Month, communities are encouraged to participate in various events and initiatives that promote the creation and conservation of pollinator-friendly habitats. Look for local workshops, plant sales and educational programs — or consider organizing your own to educate people of all ages about pollinators and ways to support them.
By cultivating pollinator gardens, individuals not only contribute to the conservation of these creatures but also experience the joy of witnessing nature's delicate harmony up close. Children can learn about the interconnectedness of all living things and develop a deeper appreciation for the natural world through these engaging experiences.
Want to make your own pollinator garden? Whether you have a vast backyard or a tiny balcony, even a few well-chosen native and colorful flowering plants can make a big difference. Every flower and every patch of suitable habitat is an invitation to pollinators to thrive and fulfill their vital ecological roles.
Here is a list of recommended pollinator plants suitable for Louisiana and USDA hardiness zones 8 and 9:
— Butterfly bush (Buddleja spp.). These flowering shrubs known for their vibrant blooms attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds and come in an array of colors.
— Milkweed (Asclepias spp.). The primary food source for monarch butterfly larvae, milkweed is essential for supporting monarch populations. It also attracts a variety of other pollinators. Look for the native species available in many retail garden centers.
— Salvia (Salvia spp.): Try Salvia nemorosa and Salvia leucantha, which both produce beautiful spikes of flowers that are highly attractive to bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
— Lantana (Lantana spp.). This heat-tolerant plant comes in a wide variety of colors. Plants bloom throughout the summer and fall with nectar-rich flowers.
— Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.). These are not only visually stunning but also provide a valuable food source for bees and butterflies. Look for varieties such as Echinacea purpurea and Echinacea pallida.
— Bee balm (Monarda spp.). These plants produce vibrant, showy flowers that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. They also release a delightful fragrance in the garden.
— Agastache (Agastache spp.). Also known as hyssop or hummingbird mint, Agastache plants produce long-lasting blooms that are irresistible to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
— Verbena (Verbena spp.). This is a low-growing perennial with clusters of tiny, colorful flowers that attract a wide range of pollinators, including butterflies and bees.
— Coreopsis (Coreopsis spp.). Plants feature daisy-like flowers in shades of yellow, orange and red. They are highly attractive to bees, butterflies and other pollinators.
— Penstemon (Penstemon spp.): With tubular flowers, penstemon is particularly favored by hummingbirds. Bees and butterflies also visit these plants for their nectar.
By planting a diverse range of flowers, you can provide a food source for a wide range of pollinators. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Bees collect pollen from blanket flowers. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Beetles are important pollinators in the garden. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter
Bee balm (Monarda spp.) is a sweet treat for pollinators. Photo by Heather Kirk-Ballard/LSU AgCenter