Best plants for pollinators static electricity definition science

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If you’ve been adding plants to your garden to help our beleaguered pollinators, read on. Penn State Extension Master Gardeners have been observing a variety of plants to see which ones are most attractive to pollinators. And we have some great suggestions for you.

When making plant choices don’t forget to provide for a succession of bloom so that the pollinators have nectar throughout the season. No one plant blooms the entire season, so that means choosing some plants that bloom in spring, some that bloom in summer, and others that flower in the fall.

The plants described below all have several things in common. They have large compound inflorescences of tiny flowers. Those tiny flowers are attractive to a wide range of small bees, flies, beetles, wasps and other pollinators. All except the goldenrod grow best in average to moist soil and full sun. You can’t go wrong choosing any of these for your garden.

Of all the plants we have observed in our trials at the Penn State Southeast Research and Extension Center, mountain mint attracts the most insect diversity. This easy to care for plant grows two to three feet tall and, like many mints, spreads from the center. It has a lovely silvery upper leaf surface and minty fragrance. It blooms in mid to late summer.

In our trial gardens, this plant stood out for its gorgeous flowers that appear in mid-summer and persist several weeks. The blooms were almost always covered with many different species of butterflies. Shorter than most Joe Pyes, it tops out at about four feet.

Host for Monarch butterfly caterpillars, this easy to grow plant has clusters of gorgeous purple-pink flowers that attract many pollinators. It can be two to six feet tall depending on soil and conditions. In a rain garden, with plenty of water available, it tends more toward the taller range. We’ve noticed that the flowers are usually covered with a variety of bees and butterflies.

Nothing beats goldenrods for a fall nectar source for pollinators. Their golden blossoms light up a garden. Stiff goldenrod was a real standout in our trials, vying with mountain mint for attracting the greatest diversity of pollinators. This tall, four to five foot tall plant grows in dry to average soils and stands up to wind and storms. It makes a wonderful back of the border plant to bring in all types of pollinators. It is important for you to know that goldenrods are not responsible for fall allergies. Their pollen is heavy and must be transported by insects. Plants that are allergens have light, wind-blown pollen. The real culprit of autumn allergies is wind-pollinated ragweed.

Gardeners who plant these pollinator- friendly plants get a bonus. Several of them are also attractive to predators and parasites of the infamous brown marmorated stink bug. So while you help the pollinators, you can also increase the population of insects that control this non-native stink bug.

Also tour the Pollinator Trial plots at Penn State Extension’s Summer Gardener Experience, Saturday, July 28, 2018 from 9am to 2pm at the Penn State Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center. More information is available at Summer Garden Experience, 2018.