What to Know About Pollinator Gardens

Front yard with different plants for pollinator garden

The Spruce / Jayme Burrows

Pollinator garden is a buzzword in gardening (pun intended!). It is a relatively recent term, but an important one for gardeners and anyone interested in environmentalism.

What is a Pollinator Garden?

A pollinator garden is designed to contain plants to provide food and shelter to animals (bees, birds, butterflies, moths, wasps, bats, and small mammals) that pollinate plants that support the local ecosystem and food web. Pollinator gardens are often made up of native plants, but non-native plants pollinator gardens can still support local wildlife.

Why Pollinator Gardens Matter

Pollinators—i.e., animals that move pollen from one flower to another—are in decline. Pollinator decline is attributed primarily to the loss of habitat and to the use of pesticides. Urbanization is occurring at an alarming rate; our green space is disappearing. Green space is often converted to land for crops, monoculture lawns, or planted with non-native plants that do not support or host local insects that carry out pollination.

With the rapid decline of bees, the widespread availability and use of pesticides, and the economics of past horticulture practices that prioritized a plant's desirability over its function, we are in a pollinator crisis. This is where pollinator gardens, and you, can help by planting a pollinator garden.

Do Pollinator Gardens Take a Lot of Work to Start?

A beautiful thing about pollinator gardens is that you can do as much or as little work on them as you want after doing a little prep work. The garden can be as small as a window box or as large as a meadow that takes up your entire yard. Just place it in a nice sunny spot and provide the right conditions, and you will make our pollinator friends happy.


Pollinator gardening is some of the most economical gardening you can do. You can start your garden with seeds that you have saved or purchased from a reputable seller like Ferry-Morse. Starting with seed takes a bit more prep work as you have to remove the plants and vegetation currently in the space.

Or, you can use transplants. When using transplants, there are two types of plants to use. Full plants that have some size to them or plugs. Plugs are cheaper, young plants that come in small two-inch tubes that you can buy in large quantities. If you are planting a larger area, using plugs or seeds is the way to go.

It would help if you also looked around online for offers from organizations that support pollinator gardens. Many offer resources in the way of discounts or free seeds or plants to support the creation of pollinator gardens.

What Plants to Include in a Pollinator Garden

Start with native wildflowers that support local pollinators. Milk weeds, coneflowers, Monarda, solidago, beardtongue, yarrow, coreopsis, and witch hazel for the winter months are all great plants for pollinators. Adding some native grasses is a good idea as well to give support and structure to your flowers. Do some research, and you will find the choices are extremely varied, depending on your USDA hardiness zone. The main goal is to have blooms that provide a food source for as long as possible to the maximum number of pollinators. Try to choose plants that bloom year-round to keep your pollinator visitors happy and your garden looking beautiful.

Yarrow plant with small pink and white flowers

The Spruce / Jayme Burrows

Sustaining a Pollinator Garden

Pollinator gardens that contain mostly native wildflowers that grow in a variety of conditions are usually easy to maintain. Trees and shrubs are often included as well. Choose plants that are adaptable when it comes to soil and drought.

Once the garden is planted and established, besides occasional weeding, it requires almost no supplemental care and very little extra work. Think what flowers and vegetation you would see in a meadow in a field and consider—who fertilizes, weeds, and waters the milkweed, coneflowers, and bee balm there?

Does One Pollinator Garden Matter?

Yes! Creating an interconnected web of pollinator gardens is a goal vital to restoring balance to our ecosystem. This will allow local growers to produce food and commercial growers to continue to produce billions of dollars worth of crops for international consumption. A strong ecosystem allows plants and trees to improve air quality and helps stem off the effects of climate change.

Pink flower and buds with bee sitting in yellow pollen

The Spruce / Jayme Burrows

Keys to a Good Pollinator Garden

There are a few elements that you need to include to make your garden a success. They are simple, easily done, and affordable but will make your garden into an elite Pollinator Bed and Breakfast:

  1. Use plants that give a source of food, shelter, and a place to raise young pollinators throughout the year.
  2. Provide a water source.
  3. Create large "drifts" of various native plants.
  4. Place the garden in a sunny location, preferably with some area sheltered from the wind.
  5. Never use pesticides. You cannot use pesticides in a pollinator garden and still classify it as a pollinator garden.