Plant for pollinators: Landscaping can help provide nesting sites

National Pollinator Week was designated in 2007 by the U.S. Senate in Resolution 580 to recognize the critical role that pollinators play in the overall health of our ecosystem and agriculture in the U.S.

As gardeners, most of us already know the important role that pollinators play in our gardens and daily lives, but not everyone is aware of what a big job these small guys are responsible for. In honor of National Pollinator Week, which runs from June 17 to 23, take a minute to share the wonderful things that pollinators do with someone who may not know.

Here are some amazing facts you can share:

  • Bees and other insects are vital to the production of nearly $20 billion worth of products in the U.S. annually;
  • It’s estimated that 1/3 of all food and beverages rely on pollinators for their production;
  • 80% of all flowering plants need the help of pollinators for fertilization.

So how can you help? Plant a pollinator garden, provide nesting sites and limit or avoid pesticide use. These are just a few things you can do to make a difference; and of course share information with others.

Utilizing native plants in the landscape is a great way to attract pollinators, especially native bees and birds, as well as bats, flies, moths and beetles that we may not initially think of as pollinators. But being a plant lover makes it hard to limit myself to only native plants, and I have some great options for those of you who feel the same. Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension has field-trialed numerous ornamentals with minimal soil preparation, reasonable amounts of water and no pesticides to bring you the most reliable and best-looking plants for your landscape. Those that made the cut are known as the Texas Superstars, not all are native to Texas but they are well-adapted to our climate and many of them attract pollinators.

You can find the Texas Superstar brochure at www.texassuperstar.com.

Remember pollinators are not just looking for food, but also need plants or places for shelter and reproduction as well. Incorporate a variety of plant sizes and shapes to provide for their various needs.

Additionally, not all pollinators are looking for the same type of plant. Bats prefer dull white, green or purple flowers, whereas butterflies look for bright white, yellow or blue flowers.

Pollinator Partnership has a great guide on selecting plants for pollinators; you can find it under the “Resources” drop-down on their website, www.pollinators.org

In celebration of National Pollinator Week Saturday, Master Gardeners will provide free educational activities for children, from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Growing Growers Farmers Market, at Fireman’s Park, located on the corner of First Street and Business 83 in McAllen.

Ashley Gregory is the horticulturalist for Hidalgo County with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She can be reached at the Hidalgo County Extension Office at (956) 383-1026 or by email at ahgregory@ag.tamu.edu.