CO-Horts Blog

Monday, August 12, 2019

Fall pollinator feast by Irene Shonle

Many of our gardens peter out in the dog days of summer. We go great guns in the spring, snapping up anything that is blooming at the garden center, desperate for the color after a long winter.  But we often forget that summer keeps going, long after we have wilted.
And this can be a problem for pollinators - they need to find nectar and pollen for the entire season, not just the spring.

Here are some suggestions for fall blooming plants that will keep your pollinators happy until frost:

First, some native suggestions:
Showy Goldeneye
Showy goldeneye (Viguera multiflora). These plants cover themselves in small yellow blooms that butterflies and bees visit. Bonus points: they also provide seed for small songbirds later in the season.

Tansy aster
Tansy aster (Machaeranthera bigelovii). Short lived perennials that love dry disturbed areas, and keep out noxious weeds.  Super easy.
Gumweed (Grindelia squarrosa).  Just as easy as useful as the tansy aster for pollinators - and if you plant them together, you have a vivid combination!

Goldenrod (Solidago spp.) This maligned plant is not the allergy culprit that many people believe, and it is one of the top host plants for native bees!  Easy to grow.

Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus spp.). These plants are known for their brilliant fall blooms as well as being a butterfly magnet.  Good winter interest to boot!

Spotted gayfeather (Liatris punctata). Beautiful feathery wands of purple also lure in butterflies.

Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliana). Tall and narrow, this plant is covered with showy yellow sunflowers for pollinators (and later for birds). Very drought tolerant.

And then some non-native suggestions

Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) is a bit overused, but is good for dry spots and for pollinators. Can spread a little more than you may like.

Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.). Most aren’t native to Colorado, but they are sure to draw lots of butterflies and bees.  Many, many cultivars and colors to choose from.

Catmint (Nepeta spp). I would suggest using a sterile variety such as Six Hills Giant. If you cut them back after their first flush of bloom, they usually rebloom. Bumblebees love them, and deer and rabbits leave them alone. Drought tolerant.
Catmint Six Hills Giant with a happy bumblebee

Fall blooming sedums such as Autumn Joy (Sedum spectabile). These are drought tolerant low-growing plants with clusters of pink flowers beloved by butterflies.

Zinnias - very colorful annuals (grow from seed) to attract butterflies and bees.

Mark your calendars and save the date! The 5th annual Landscaping for Colorado Native Plants will be at the Auraria Campus on Feb 29th! Leap into gardening with native plants!

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