Plan for Bloom Succession
Bloom succession- having plants that start blooming at different times- is a huge component to planning a thriving pollinator garden. Not only does this provide pollinators with a nectar source in the Spring, Summer and Fall but it also looks beautiful!
Make sure to consult your local native plant nursery or extension office to get accurate bloom-times for your flowers. Sometimes a plant that is distributed throughout the U.S. will bloom slightly earlier in the warmer regions compared to the colder Northern regions.
Pollinators need more than just flowers to survive. They also need leaves to feed and reproduce on, such as the Monarch caterpillar. Plant a variety of plants that are both nectar sources as well as host sources for insects.
Butterflies also need shelter because they are quite delicate. Having a mixture of plants in your garden such as trees, shrubs, grasses and sedges will provide great habitat for a variety of insects.
Plant Native Plants to Support Native Wildlife
Benjamin Vogt, author of “A New Garden Ethic” says, “Right plant, right place. The benefit of native plants is in their wildlife support, and re-wilding the landscapes we've erased around our homes.”
It basically comes down to knowing what type of soil you have and also knowing what type of soil the plants prefer. There are many resources out there to start researching native plants in your area. Remember, your local extension is a great resource along with local botanical gardens and native plant nurseries.
Be wary of plants that are advertised as being butterfly attractants and make sure to do your research. Some plants such as the Butterfly bush (Buddleja sp.) can be invasive and spread to the wild. Butterfly bush is not a host to a single insect species in the U.S. That doesn't mean that it doesn't offer nectar. However, it offers nectar only to the insects with long enough tongues to get into the flower.
Think Like a Butterfly
If you were a butterfly, what would you enjoy the most?
Maybe sunlight, shelter out of the wind and flowers to feed on? Keep these things in mind when planning your garden and try to actually think like a butterfly. This will help you to appeal to the butterflies passing by.
When the typical growing season is over, that doesn’t mean the butterflies just disappear. If you leave your plants standing, they can provide insects and birds a home in the winter. These plants will also gather snow which will keep the soil moist and protected.
Benjamin Vogt recommends, cutting down perennial flower stems and grasses to about 12 to 18 inches tall, which will leave future homes for spring and summer bees to nest. Whatever stems you do cut down can be used as mulch to spread over the bed, returning the nutrients your plants need to thrive to the garden.