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Southeast Gardening: Attracting Pollinators

Choose plants carefully to attract a multitude of pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, to your Southeast garden. Lowe's regional gardening contributor Linda Askey shares some tips.

 Bees love purple coneflowers.
 Squash blooms never produce edible fruit without a visit from a bee.

Plants bloom for my benefit, right? Whether the goal is color, fragrance or fruit, I buy and care for these plants. But I am not the pollinator they seek.

Plants really produce their exquisite flowers for the benefit of butterflies, moths, bees, hummingbirds and even flies. Their motivation is to reproduce. All they want to do is make seed. It is the biological imperative of life: to reproduce the species.

 Tithonias grow from seed to heat-tolerant butterfly magnets in a few weeks.

Although my desire for plants to be pollinated varies from "absolutely" in the case of tomatoes, squash, peppers, blueberries and apples, to "uh, not so much" for annual flowers that must be deadheaded, the big-picture need is universal. Without pollinators we don't have anything to eat. Even those who enjoy steak must admit that the cattle that they eat fed on crops that require pollination.

 Black-eyed Susans come in many sizes and shapes, and pollinators like them all.

So how to attract pollinators - and keep them?

Plant nectar-rich plants, the pollinator magnets. Flowering native plants, such as bee balm, goldenrod, purple coneflower, black-eyed Susan, Culver's root and various sunflowers, bring pollinators in droves. Herbs, including anise hyssop, rosemary, basil and chives, always help. In the garden lantanas, pentas, salvias, tithonias and abelias almost always invite pollinators.

  Native plants, such as Culvers root, naturally draw pollinators that will visit other plants.

Use pesticides carefully, applying early and late, when pollinators are few. Avoid spraying flowers. Spray only when necessary rather than on a schedule.

In the ecological web we rely on the little guys, the winged messengers carrying genetic codes from bloom to bloom. They visit flowers for the nectar and leave them dusted in pollen.

See more Southeast Gardening Articles.