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Pollinator Week: Penn State Extension: Planting Pollinator-Friendly Gardens
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By Constance Schmotzer, Penn State Extension

One of the most important ways you can help pollinators is by provisioning your yard with plants that provide pollen and nectar. To attract butterflies, you will also need to include a variety of larval host plants for caterpillars to eat.

-- Choose plants native to your region. Native plants share a long evolutionary history with their pollinators, so including a wide variety of natives will make your garden a favorite destination for pollinators. Choose carefully to match the site conditions; natives will flourish without the addition of fertilizers and pesticides.

-- Choose nectar- and pollen-rich flowers with a range of shapes, sizes, and colors. Diversity is the key to a good pollinator garden. Because each pollinator has its own techniques for sourcing nectar and pollen, flowers should be as varied as the pollinators that visit them.

Generalist pollinators can visit a wide variety of flowers. Others, referred to as specialists, need a very different diet and may only be able to feed from one or two kinds of plants.

Gardeners should strive to provide plants for both generalists and specialists. Choose plants with large, compound inflorescences of flowers, such as Joe Pyes, goldenrods, and milkweeds, to attract the most diversity of pollinators.

-- Avoid modern hybrids. Many garden plants have been manipulated for larger blooms and a show of color and may have lost their ability to produce nectar and pollen. In the breeding process, some flowers may become so complex that pollinators can’t locate the nectar. When buying annuals, purchase older heirloom varieties known to have nectar and pollen.

-- Have several different plants in bloom from early spring through late fall. Some pollinators emerge in early spring, while others don’t appear until mid-summer, but they all need pollen and nectar while they are active and rearing their young. To maximize the effectiveness of your pollinator habitat, have a variety of plants in bloom throughout the season. Overlapping bloom times will ensure there is always something in your garden to provide nutrition for pollinators.

-- Plant in drifts. Pollinators are more likely to find plants in gardens that provide larger drifts of color. When you purchase plants, get at least three or more of one kind—more if you have the room—and plant them near one another.

-- Avoid landscape fabric and mulch. Instead, place plants closer together. Plants of varying heights planted close together will form a weed barrier far superior to a bed of mulch. The bonus is that you will have room for many more blooms for pollinators.

-- Save perennial garden cleanup for spring. Pollinators overwinter in different life stages: eggs, larvae, pupae, and adults. Some overwinter in hollow stems, while others attach to plants or overwinter in the leaf litter. To protect overwintering pollinators, don’t cut down your perennial gardens until spring (early April), and keep beds of leaves intact through the winter.

Larval Host Plants for Butterflies and Moths

Without host plants for butterfly larvae (caterpillars) to eat, there will be no butterflies! So don’t forget to provide this vital food source. Many butterfly larvae can only feed on one or two specific host plants—particularly native trees, shrubs, and perennials—that are vital to their survival. Here are some examples:

-- Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed.

-- Spicebush swallowtail caterpillars feed mainly on spicebush and sassafras.

-- Black swallowtail caterpillars depend on plants in the parsley family.

These caterpillars will eat the leaves of their host plants, so don’t panic when you see some holes. It just means the plants are doing their job.

Many lists of larval host plant are available online. Dr. Douglas Tallamy of the University of Delaware has compiled a list of plants that support the most butterflies and moths at Bringing Nature Home.

Purchasing Native Plants

Because the majority of plants sold at garden centers come from Europe and Asia, you may have to do a little searching to purchase native host plants for butterflies. Call the Master Gardeners at your local Penn State Extension office or go to the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society website for a resource list.

NewsClips:

PennDOT Asks Public To Plant Pollinator Gardens In Erie

Olson: Honeybees Suffered High Losses Last Winter, Including In Toomey’s Backyard

Related Pollinator Week Articles:

Non-Native, Invasive Plant Species Are Ecologically Castrating The Landscape In PA, But There Is A Solution

House Passes Resolution Designating June 17-23 As Pollinator Week In PA

Bay Journal-Crable: PennDOT Hopes Plantings Will Put Pollinators On Road To Recovery

DCNR Good Natured Blog: Hand Pollination Used For Rare Orchid When There's A Lack Of Pollinators

Pollinator/Native Plant Resources

There are lots of resources available to help property owners landscape with native plants, and now is the best time to start planning for Spring projects.  Here are just a few of the resources available--

-- DCNR Landscaping With Native Plants

-- Game Commission: Common Beneficial Plants Found In Wildlife Habitat

-- U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service: Native Plants For Wildlife Habitat And Conservation Landscaping

-- Chesapeake Bay Sustainable Landscape Professional Directory

-- Brandywine Conservancy: Forested Riparian Buffer Planting Guide

-- Audubon PA: Bird Habitat Recognition Program

-- National Audubon: Native Plants Database

-- Xerces Society For Invertebrate Conservation

-- Gardening For Butterflies: Penn State Extension

-- Planting For Pollinators: Penn State Extension

-- Center For Pollinator Research, Penn State

-- Pennsylvania Pollinator Protection Plan - Learn Why Pollinators Are At Risk In PA

-- Ernst Seeds - Pollinator Habitat Restoration

-- Million Pollinator Garden Challenge

You can also check with land trusts, watershed groups, PA Audubon and Trout Unlimited Chapters, county conservation districts or other groups near you to see how they can help.

Related Stories:

Senate Hearing: Non-Native, Invasive Plant Species Ecologically Castrating The Landscape, But There Is A Solution

Manada Conservancy Offers Native Plant Landscape Design Service [Recommended]

Feature: Recognizing The Value Of Native Plants For Pollinators - Dr. Doug Tallamy

Agriculture, Penn State Release PA Pollinator Protection Plan Recommendations

Pollinator Population Is Going Down In PA Due To Pesticides, Parasites And Pathogens

PennDOT Launches New Pollinator Habitat Plan; Adopt And Beautify For Pollinators Program For Citizens Who Want To Help

Sen. Yudichak, Cong. Barletta, Author Caroline Jones Celebrate The Launch Of We Saved The Bees And The Butterflies Children's Book

(Reprinted from the Penn State Extension website. Click Here to sign up for updates from Penn State Extension.)

[Posted: June 17, 2019]


6/23/2019

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