GARDENING IN IOWA

Suddenly have a sunny yard? Here are plants loved by pollinators

Plants such as the native bee balm benefit pollinators. (Virginia Living Museum/TNS)
Plants such as the native bee balm benefit pollinators. (Virginia Living Museum/TNS)
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After deciding what trees and shrubs you want to replace, consider pollinator plants for those “suddenly sunny” spots.

Here are some general guidelines for pollinator-friendly beds.

• Don’t disturb the soil or till the area. You can remove old grass or cover the area with a tarp or dark plastic over the winter to plant in the spring. Or plant in the fall if the turf is removed.

• Move any full shade plants from now until a hard freeze. They can be stored in protected pots after they are dormant if you’re unsure where to transplant them.

• Follow planting directions closely.

• Choose plants that bloom in all seasons — spring, summer and fall.

• Always put in three plants.

• Place host plants among or behind nectar plants for a more ornamental look.

• Don’t weed often. Let the plants grow together to shade out weeds.

• Do not use insecticides or herbicides.

• Use leaves as mulch, either shredded or full.

• Leave bare ground in the back or hidden areas.

• Have a small pile of dead wood for habitat.

Here are some plant recommendations for full sun (six or more hours).

Spring Blooming

• Host plants for caterpillars: violets (attract great spangled/regal/variegated fritillary butterflies); clover (attract clouded/orange sulphur butterflies)

• Nectar plants: Virginia bluebells; wild geranium; mayapple; marsh marigold; columbine; Sweet William; and wild strawberries

• Weeds — these are excellent pollinator plants: Creeping Charlie and dandelions

The most supportive plants for pollinators in the spring are the flowering canopy and fruit trees.

Summer Blooming

• Host plants: milkweed (attracts monarch, queen and soldier butterflies); dill/fennel/parsley (attracts swallowtail butterflies); sunflower/mallow/hollyhock (attracts painted lady butterflies)

• Nectar plants: coneflower; bee balm; black-eyed Susan; hyssop; trumpet vine; phlox; penstemon; mints; rattlesnake master; cup plant

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• Weeds: excellent for pollinators if controlled — thistles and nettles

Fall Blooming

• Host plants: asters (attracts pearl crescent butterflies); verbenas (attracts common buckeye); sunflowers (attracts silvery checkerspot)

• Nectar plants: Joe Pye weed: blazing star; ironweed; goldenrod; sedum; sweet autumn clematis vine; mums

• Weeds: burdock and thistles

Then there are all-season blooming nectar annuals including zinnia; lantana; penta; salvia; verbena; marigold.

The above are only a few suggestions of my favorites, with a wealth of resources for additional plants at your fingertips by simply searching for plants for pollinators. The most helpful are lists and directions available from Iowa State University Extension (Store.extension.iastate.edu), the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (iowadnr.gov), and Linn County Conservation (linncounty.org/131/Conservation).

Call the Master Gardeners with your questions at (319) 447-0647 or send your questions and photos to linncountymastergardener@gmail.com.

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