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Plant for pollinators: 9 ways to attract and help pollinators in your garden and yard

monarch butterfly

Pollinators of all types – insects, birds, and bats – are in decline due to habitat loss, pesticide use, and diseases. Insects – including Maryland’s 400 species of native bees – provide valuable pollination and a food source for wildlife. Insect pollination is essential for the production of about one-third of our food crops. And some pollinators, such as butterflies and hummingbirds, are simply a delight to see!

You can make a difference for pollinators by incorporating these practices in your garden or yard.

  1. Choose plants that are naturally adapted to your garden’s soil conditions, light, moisture, and drainage. Two great resources for finding plants suitable to Maryland are:
  1. Plant a wide variety of trees, shrubs, and flowering plants with different heights and growth habits. Consider Virginia sweetspire, ninebark, blueberry, chokeberry, white oak, birch, Eastern redbud, and black cherry, to name a few.
  2. Plant your pollinator garden where it can get at least six hours of sunlight a day. Most flowering plants need a lot of sunlight, and many pollinators need the warmth of the sun to become active.
  3. Plant a variety of herbs including rosemary, mint, basil, parsley, sage, chervil, and lavender. Even on a sunny balcony or patio, you can add a few potted herb plants.
  4. Provide a water source. Place a shallow dish of water in your garden with several small stones in it to provide places for butterflies and bees to perch while they drink. Mud puddles provide important minerals for butterflies and bees.
  5. Eliminate or limit the use of pesticides. Pesticides (including herbicides) are dangerous to pollinators and should only be used with extreme caution. Do not spray when plants are in bloom and when pollinators are present.
  6. In the vegetable garden, allow some crops to flower. Kale, mustard, and broccoli flowers provide pollen and nectar for pollinators and other beneficial insects.
  7. Let your lawn go more natural. Dandelions and clovers in lawns provide valuable nectar and pollen sources in early spring. But mow or hand-pull dandelions before they set seed. This will encourage pollinators to seek garden flowers.
  8. Aim to have at least three different species of flowering plants in bloom from early spring to late fall. Some options are:
    • Spring: Eastern columbine, phlox, spiderwort, green and gold, blue false indigo
    • Summer: Cardinal flower, purple coneflower, bee balm, blazing star, Virginia mountain mint
    • Fall: New England aster, New York ironweed, goldenrod, Joe-Pye weed
Hummingbird sphinx moth on wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa). Photo: Dave Clement

Are you ready to plant for pollinators? Show your support and help spread the word about these actions!

Copy and share the following images on your social media. Open the image, right click on the image and chose “save image as.” Then upload the images to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Use the hashtag #PlantforPollinators. If you would like larger files suitable for printing, please email

By Christa Carignan, Coordinator, University of Maryland Extension Home & Garden Information Center. Adapted from Protect the Chesapeake Bay: Attract Pollinators to Your Garden, by UME Home & Garden Information Center, UME Master Gardener Program, and Maryland Department of Agriculture

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