Pollinator gardens are on trend whether you are novice or a professional. University of Illinois Extension has developed a program called Pollinator Pockets giving homeowners resources to start their own pocket gardens. They have created designs that are easy to replicate. All you have to do is find the plants and build your pollinator oasis. They utilize a mix of native perennials, non-native cultivars like Sedum 'Autumn Joy' and annuals that most pollinators love. Annual flowers are excellent additions to any native garden or traditional landscape to ensure there is enough pollen and nectar for the butterflies and the bees through the growing season. Here are a few must-add pollinator-friendly annuals:
- Cosmos produce vivid crimson, whimsical pink and muted white daisy-like flowers on top of airy foliage. They vary in height, should be grown in full sun and can handle poor to average soils. Start seed in garden now for a bounty of blooms by June. Deadheading will promote more blooms and plants can become floppy if the soil is too rich.
- Lantana boasts orange-, red-, pink-, white- and yellow-clustered flowers on spicy-smelling foliage. They create a dense edging that is constantly in bloom. Lantana can be grown in poor to average soils. Plants should be spaced at least 1 to 2 feet apart. They are highly attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
- Floss flower yields lavender-blue, white or pink with petals reminiscent of soft teddy bear fur and smells like baby powder. They grow from 6 to 18 inches depending on the variety. They require moist but well-drained soil and can be grown in full sun or partial shade. Floss flower comes in packs and should be spaced 6 inches apart to create an edge of lavender blue that butterflies will love.
- Mexican Sunflower asserts bold orange-red daisy-like flowers with large lobed leaves. They grow in full sun and can handle poor to average soil and thrive in the heat. They grow to 3 to 4 feet and should be placed behind shorter plants. Deadheading is beneficial and flowers are coveted by all kinds of bees.
- Verbena is bushy and spreads clustered flowers of a multitude of colors along the edge of the garden. Verbena should be grown in full sun and requires evenly moist soils. Verbena can be purchased in seed flats or 4-inch annuals and should be pinched at time of planting for a bushier plant.
For more information on creating your own pollinator pocket, go tohttps://web.extension.illinois.edu/lmw/eb255/entry_11208. For great pictures of native flowers and the pollinators that visit them, go towww.illinoiswildflowers.info.