Thursday, April 1, 2010

Best plants to attract pollinators

As novice gardeners we feel satisfied when our garden stays alive and produces something other then pest high rises. Were definitely not ready to try and create those beautiful lush gardens you see in garden books. That being said I still like to try and have a diverse garden while adding color to our raised boxes, but if all you're going to do is look pretty then you have no place here. Plants that are going to get one of the small dedicated lots in the raised beds better be ready to multitask.

I set out to research plants and flowers that were perennials or annuals, would add some color, do well in full San Diego sun, not get too large, or require lots of water and will contribute to the ecology of the garden. Easy right?

Here's what I found:

Borage- Annual that gets 2-3' tall, attracts bees like crazy, edible flowers.
Cosmos (Sonata Dwarf)- Very pretty flowering annual plant that attracts bees and butterflies, tolerates heat and low water. It blooms late spring to early fall. Look for dwarf varieties that only get around 2'.
Dill- Annual, 3' tall with yellow flowers, can be used in recipes, many medicinal uses, attracts Beneficial's such as bees, companion plant to our cucumber vine.
Echinacea- Perennial that likes full sun, the beautiful purple coneflower can get up to 4' tall and 2' wide so look for dwarf varieties like 'Pixie Meadowbright'. Attracts butterflies and has medicinal uses.
Gallardia- Perennial, likes full sun, look for dwarf varieties like goblin that only get a 1' tall and wide. Attracts bees and butterflies.
Sea Holly- Perennial, likes full sun, very unique flower that blooms summer into fall and will add violet to your landscape, make sure you get a dwarf variety like eryngium planum 'Jade Frost' it only gets 8" high. They attract butterflies and beneficial flower wasps.
Sunflowers- Besides being beautiful, they attract the three B's; Beneficial's, bees and butterflies. When selecting your sunflower think of heirlooms simply because some newer varieties are pollen-less or are hybrids that don't attract bees.
Toad Flax- Perenial, mid-season bloomer that gets 2-3' high but only 1' wide, comes in pink or blue, attracts bees and butterflies.
Yarrow (Paprika)- Flowering perennial native that can endure drought, gets up to 3' tall, yarrow comes in many great colors and also attracts butterflies.

Some of these would do well in containers for those of you working within the confines of a concrete garden. Let me know if you have found any others that worked well for you.


  1. Very informative JT! I am inspired to start my own garden. Maybe with a little help from the novice.

  2. I'm not sure how it will fare in your climate, but bees absolutely adore the lavender in our garden, and it copes with low levels of water.

  3. Great tip, I love lavender, I will keep my eye out for one of the smaller varieties. In the summer it could make the best lavender lemonade!

  4. Hi there, I would try Salvia, Indigo Spires if it works well in your zone. My friend has it in her austin garden and its always covered in bees.....

  5. I love the Indigo Spires but I'm a little scared because it gets up to 6-7ft if you don't prune. Although I'm really into growing I haven't yet mastered shaping or pruning. If anyone hears of a dwarf please alert us cramped gardeners!