CO-Horts Blog

Friday, March 6, 2020

Gardening for the Home Team (Pollinators, That is)

By Sherie Caffey, CSU Extension-Pueblo County Horticulture Agent

Lately it has been pretty cold outside, but soon enough days will be getting longer, temperatures will be getting higher, and we will start to see the first signs of life from pollinators in our gardens. Of course our gardens bring us joy, but they are also very important for our native animal pollinators. Keep these creatures in mind when you are gardening and they will reward you with their presence!

Honeybees come to mind when you think of a classic pollinator. Honeybees are not natives of North America, but we do have plenty of species of native bees! Honeybees are social and live in hives, but 70% of Colorado’s native bees are solitary and nest in the ground in bare soil. We also have many species of native butterflies that we will see visiting a busy pollinator friendly garden. One of the most exciting critters to see fluttering around your flowers has to be the hummingbird. We have a few species that will pass through Colorado at some point in the year.

These native pollinators have evolved to pollinate plants that naturally occur in our area. This is why if you are trying to cater to native pollinators, it’s best to plant native plants. These plants will provide the nectar and pollen needed by our pollinator friends, and will also thrive in our area with a lot less water and maintenance. An ideal pollinator garden will have at least three species of plants blooming at all times during the growing season. Grouping individual plants of the same species together also encourages pollinators to visit and saves them the energy of flying from plant to plant. The more variety you can add; the more diverse pollinators you can attract.

Plants aren’t the only consideration you should make when planning a pollinator friendly garden. In addition to pollen and nectar, pollinators will also appreciate a water source. Fill a bird bath with clean water, and add some rocks for butterflies and bees to land on. Pollinators also need shelter, consider adding a butterfly or mason bee house, or a hummingbird feeder, and leave plenty of bare soil for ground nesting bees. Always be very cautious with your use of chemical pesticides and herbicides in areas that you hope to have pollinators visiting.

So if you are looking to add some plants to your landscape, plant for the home team pollinators! You'll have a beautiful, lively, colorful garden that works for you and our native pollinators.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post! As I begin to clean up the dead stalks of last year's growth in the perennial garden, I wonder if I should store them on the property until eggs in the stalks hatch. In past years, I would compost them or take them to Hageman's but I think that must have destroyed many native bee eggs. Any recommendations for spring cleanup?
    Also, I am wondering your favorite source for a nice handout listing good pollinator plants for this area. There is a short one for xeric native plants for the front range and foothills by the Colorado Native Plant Society at My favorite so far is but still looking for a tidy list to print and hand out.
    Thanks again.