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  • The Garden Scoop Blog
    The Garden Scoop is a collection of reflections about the Master Gardeners in Champaign, Ford, Iroquois, and Vermilion.
  • What's in Your Pocket? Blog
    What's in Your Pocket shares information on pollinator-friendly garden designs.

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Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator
University of Illinois Extension
801 North Country Fair Drive
Suite D
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-333-7672
FAX: 217-333-7683
slmason@illinois.edu

Trent Hawker
Program Coordinator, Horticulture
University of Illinois Extension
801 North Country Fair Drive
Suite D
Champaign, IL 61821
Phone: 217-333-7672
FAX: 217-333-7683
tkhawke2@illinois.edu

Jenney Hanrahan
Program Coordinator, Horticulture
University of Illinois Extension
3164 North Vermilion
Danville, IL 61832
Phone: 217-442-8615
FAX: 217-442-8628
jhanraha@illinois.edu

Pollinator Pockets

Pollinator Pockets

2. Ways You can Help

Here are a few of the basics for a pollinator-friendly garden.

Food for pollinators is generally provided by flower nectar and pollen; however, some pollinators such as butterflies need specific plants such as milkweeds for monarchs to serve as food for caterpillars. To attract particular pollinators conduct additional research to determine their needs during each of their life stages.

Good pollinator plants include asters, beebalm, native roses, Joe Pye weed, purple coneflower, great blue lobelia, white indigo, lead plant, blazing stars, beard tongue, bellflowers, hollyhocks, monkshood, snapdragons, sunflowers, foxglove, mints, tomatoes, butterfly weed, goldenrod, larkspur, milkweeds, herbs and many more bee-utiful flowers.

When possible choose native plants and not cultivars of native plants. Ornamental changes within cultivated plants may not provide the necessary attributes of a good pollinator flower. Exotic plants such as butterfly bush can provide food for bees and butterflies but cannot sustain the complete life cycle of pollinator insects. In addition native plants provide food for a greater diversity of pollinators.

Plant masses of similar flowers and design areas to have flowers blooming all season. Aim for a variety of flowers blooming at once. Add easy-to-grow annual seeds such as zinnia and sunflower to existing perennial flower gardens to support flower diversity.

Convert a section of your lawn to a “Pollinator Pocket”, a suggested planting plan developed by UI Extension educator, Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists. Designs developed for an approximately 5 foot by 5 foot space and include options for a variety of sun, shade and moisture conditions. 

Allow spaces between masses of flowers to provide shelter from wind and cold. Leave dead stems over the winter to provide shelter and nesting areas.

Limit, or better yet, eliminate pesticide use. When using pesticides, check with your local UI Extension office for proper timing and least toxic options.

When you purchase plants, ask the seller if the plants were treated with neonicotinoids, a class of chemicals known to negatively impact bees.  Avoid plants exposed to neonicotinoids.

If you are worried about luring something into your garden that can sting, keep in mind bees are not bullies looking for a fight. A happy bee is like a gardener in a garden center, focused on each flower.