The Ultimate Pollinator Seed Guide
In the past, we asked our home landscapes and gardens to “be pretty.” Today, we’re asking them to “be pollinator-friendly.” Because many pollinator species of birds, bees, and bats are declining, every yard that supports some pollinator-friendly action can lead to a big difference.
Many urban planners and conservationists see urban and suburban landscapes as an opportunity. With a little planning, pollinator seeds can help create a new kind of refuge for pollinators and their cross-pollination activities. These human-planned landscapes can also support pollinators in turn.
In fact, pollinator-friendly seeds can help sequester carbon, manage stormwater, and feed other insects. And both native and non-native pollinator seeds play a significant role in supporting different stages of pollinators’ growth.
What are Pollinator Seeds?
Pollinator seeds are those that blossom into flowering trees, shrubs, sedges, wildflowers, and more. Besides their color, fragrance, and beauty, pollinator seeds attract and support pollinators. The sheer diversity of pollinator seeds should tell you a few things about this symbiotic relationship:
- Firstly, pollinators that are local to the region evolved with the native plants that support it (for example, a Monarch butterfly, and its caterpillar counterpart, always feeds on and looks for milkweed)
- Secondly, pollinators rely on different plants at different points in their growth and reproductive journey
- Some pollinator seeds result in plants used specifically to feed, and others are used to lay eggs or feed the young
Pollinator Seeds Differ Based On…
Pollinator seeds are a crucial part of the overarching pollinator garden. They help create a large part of the pollinator habitat that then supports pollinator populations and activities within the region. The best part about pollinator seed germination is that these plants rely on cross-pollination to bloom as well as they do.
If you’re wondering which seeds you should be planting there are three different ways to decide:
For the greatest impact, choose native pollinator seeds that can support a range of pollinators. For example, the coneflower attracts a variety of species, including the tricolored bumblebee and the Red Admiral butterfly.
Too often, we, as pollinator-friendly planters, focus on supporting only honeybees. But honeybees have apiarists whose jobs entirely revolve around a bee’s behavior and life. Instead, a whole host of other bee sub-species exist, not to mention butterflies, hummingbirds, moths, and even bats.
Region and Climate
Pollinator seeds native to Oregon, for example, are vastly different from pollinator seeds that are native to Florida. In transition zone states like Kansas, for example, pollinator seeds could be vastly different in the north than in the south.
A state’s climate impacts the viability and survival of pollinator seeds. Germination and flowering times are different based on where you are because the soil has to reach a temperature of at least 60-degrees Fahrenheit to begin outdoors planting. Climate also plays a determining role in the kinds of soil available, its fertility, structure, or composition.
Region and climate also affect habitats available for pollinators. Prairie meadows or woodlands, for example, are prevalent in mid-western and northern states. In contrast, wetlands or marshes are more common in south-eastern states.
Let’s assume that you’ve decided you want to attract and support mining bees and mason bees, species that like to live close to the ground. To support them, you might choose to start with Golden Alexanders, which bloom in a prairie meadow habitat, early in the season, between April and June.
Small bees will pollinate the Golden Alexanders while large bees will look for nectar. You’ll also end up attracting the Black Swallowtail butterfly and the Northern Azure butterfly.
To support mining bees in the mid- and late-season, which is from June to August, and then through to October, the Cut-leaved Coneflower or the Early Goldenrod would be excellent choices.
It’s also interesting to note that the Coneflower provides a structural landing pad for bees, while the Goldenrod is a fantastic food source. Not all flowers are built for pollination — some are intended as sources of nectar. While one type of bee will use a flower for pollination, another will source that same flower for food.
This is why it’s so important to plant native pollinator seeds, as pollinators and pollinator seeds have evolved together. Native pollinator seeds are also more likely to withstand the weather patterns within the region.
Why Do Pollinators Need Pollinator Seeds?
Pollinator seeds evolved to support pollinator behavior. For example, some flowers have little stripes on the petals to attract native pollinators and guide their landing right on its stamen.
However, for all the focus on native pollinator seeds, you can also opt for non-native seeds. Your choice of planting pollinator seeds should depend on the pollinators you’d like to support. You can also opt for cultivars, which are varieties of pollinator seeds selected for garden performance and pollinator attractiveness.
A good example is salvias. They’re some of the most prolific, durable, and long-lasting perennials that appear on just about every continent except Australia and Antarctica. They’re incredibly attractive to several bee subspecies, and even butterflies and hummingbirds love the colors, fragrance, and food.
There are native cultivars of salvia found all over the United States, with some, like the Salvia azurea, which blossom in the early fall and display great cold hardiness. Others, like the Salvia pachyphylla, are perfect for arid western state gardens like Utah or Nevada. If you’d like even more variety, you can opt for salvia cultivars native to Europe, such as the Salvia May Night.
This is just one example of a large flowering genus. Pollinators are just as happy with flowering veggies and herbs like squash, dill, tomatoes, strawberries, fennel, broad beans, and more.
Here are a few tips to help support your pollinator’s preferences and behavior:
- Plan a garden with a lot of diversity. Salvia cultivars are great, but you can also plant trees and shrubs like elderberry, maple, and oak, or grasses like Bebb’s sedge, Bottlebrush grass, or Pennsylvania sedge
- Plant pollinator seeds in floral clumps. Rather than just one bunch of many different plants, it helps pollinators if you plant in groups of five or more
There are many different factors at play when selecting the right pollinator seeds for the pollinators you plan to support. Seed mixes or seed blends can help to take the guesswork and extensive planning out of planting pollinator seeds.
Nature’s Seed’s collection of pollinator seed blends, for example, optimize mixes based on the region, as well as the behavior of pollinators in the region. Our seed blends provide ample varieties for supporting pollination, foraging, and nesting, in a variety of soil types, sun exposure, and drainage. Our blends are also carefully selected to include multiple blooming species throughout the season.
Contact Nature’s Seed today to learn more about the diverse variety of seed mixes designed to help support pollinators in your region.