Annuals · Butterflies & Bees in the Garden · Container Gardening · Herbs · Perennials

Plant a Pollinator Pot

This week is National Pollinator Week. It is meant to call attention to the importance of pollinators. We have pollinators to thank for more than a third of the world’s crops, and their numbers are declining – a fact that should make us all want to do more to help butterflies, moths, bees of all sorts, birds and beetles.

There are a number of things gardeners can do, including planting more sources of nectar and pollen, providing water, leaving some natural, un-gardened spaces in the landscape and reducing, (or better yet, eliminating) the use of pesticides.

What can people do to help pollinators during National Pollinator Week if they don’t have time to plan and plant a whole new pollinator-friendly bed or border? Plant a pot for pollinators, that’s what! Every container planted with pollinator-supporting plants is a fueling station or rest stop as they travel along the habitat highway.

I had one pot still sitting empty, so I was ready to plant. If you don’t, any container with drainage holes will do. Pollinators don’t care if it’s fancy.

If I was planting my pot in spring, I would have chosen some plants that bloom in spring, summer and fall so there would be a constant supply of nectar. Because spring is behind us, I chose summer and fall bloomers. Most are perennials that I can transplant in the garden at the end of the season. A few are annuals and herbs. I was sure to purchase plants that had not been treated with neonicotinoids that may be harmful to pollinators.

I filled the pot with a good quality potting mix and added Purple Cow Organics fertilizer according to the directions on the package.

In the back of the pot, a crepe myrtle was positioned to stand guard over the other plants. It is only cold hardy to Zone 6 and will have to spend the winter in the garage to have any hope of surviving a Chicagoland winter. I chose this one for its deep purple foliage, but the pollinators will love its crimson red flowers with bright yellow centers. In the ground, it would grow 10 to 12 feet tall. I am hoping it makes its way to 4 feet in my pot for pollinators.

Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ moved in right in front. Its orange petals glow against the purple backdrop, and its golden-orange cones are a welcome mat for pollinators. It grows up to 30 inches tall.

I love catmints almost as much as pollinators. Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is a traditional favorite, growing 30 inches tall and blooming all summer and into fall if it is deadheaded. Its small, soft blue flowers and grey-green foliage are peacemakers in designs with normally clashing colors.

Next, Phlox ‘Flame Coral’ found a home in my pot for pollinators. This is a shorter garden phlox with bright coral pink flowers.

Bees go crazy over the flowers of basil. I chose purple basil for its coppery-purple foliage. I’ll pinch some leaves at first to keep plants bushy and then allow them to flower for the bees. Purple basil grows up to 24 inches tall.

Sometimes, I break the rules – even my own. While browsing the aisles of the garden center looking for pollinator-friendly plants, this Alternanthera ‘Raspberry Rum’ caught my eye. Normally, leggy annuals wouldn’t make their way into my cart, but the tall stems of bronze-purple leaves splashed with magenta were perfect to pull touches of purple throughout the container.

I couldn’t plant a pot for pollinators without including a couple of my favorite annuals. Butterflies love all the colors in the Magellan series of zinnias, but the bright yellow variety practically jumped into my cart, determined to add a ray of sunshine to my design.

Pentas is another pollinator magnet. Graffiti Pink, with its clusters of clear pink, star-shaped flowers, squeezed its way into the container.

All that was left was to add some pollinator-appealing trailers to soften the edge. The loose, open habit of Greek oregano was just what I needed. Three of them found their way along the edges. Done! What do you think? (Riley can’t wait to come out and take a closer look.)

There are plenty of other plants on my deck that pollinators enjoy, some native plants in the gardens, a pond nearby for them to get a drink, and piles of brush and leaf litter in a back corner of our yard. I am doing my best to help pollinators. What are you doing? There is no better time than National Pollinator Week to get started.

Garden with me!

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