Spring Blooms for the Pollinator Gardener

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Hoping to add just a few more spring bloomers to the pollinator garden, University of Illinois Extension Horticulture Educator, Kelly Allsup, suggests the following.

Pulmonaria saccharata

Bethlehem Sage boasts pink flower buds that turn blue, as they get older on top of attractive mottled foliage. Bethlehem sage is sought for its nectar by bumblebees and long tongue bees. The pink buds are a greater nectar reward for bees and the blue of the older flowers is an indication that pollination has already occurred. This plant grows well in part shade to full shade and organic rich soils. It grows about 1-2 feet tall and spreads slowly. If not watered consistently throughout the summer may have burning on the leaf edges.

Hyacinth orientalis

Hyacinth is an abundantly fragrant and very showy. Hyacinths come in a wide range of colors from blue, purple, pink, magenta, red and white. It is a good early nectar source for bees and butterflies. Hyacinth bulbs grow well in full sun and should be deadheaded after flower are spent to increase energy to the bulb. It grows 6-8 inches tall and should be planted 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart during the fall. They are best displayed en masse. Be careful when handling bulbs as some gardeners have experienced allergic reactions.

Phlox subulata

Moss phlox creates a carpet of purple to pink blooms. Moths, butterflies and bumblebees are attracted to the nectar source. Moss phlox grows best in full sun and commonly planted in rock gardens or seen draped over the edge of a retaining walls. It is best to cut back after flowering to create lush darker green foliage for the summer.

Chinodoxa luciliae

Glory of the snow presents purple strappy petals with a bright white middle and is one of the first spring bulbs to bloom just in time to feed the overwintering bees. Glory of the snow grows in full sun to part shade and spreads by offsets. Only 6 inches tall, it easily naturalizes in a garden space. Glory of the snow should be planted 3 inches deep 3 inches apart during the fall. As the garden warms up, the leaves will fade.

Eranthis hyemalis

Winter aconite is so bright yellow it pulls a passerby into the landscape. Winter aconite is only a half of inch tall but attractive to honeybees, mining bees and hover flies. It is best grown in full sun during flowering but shaded by trees when they leaf out. In the fall, plant tubers 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart. If you cannot identify the top of the tuber, plants sideways.

Geum triflorum

Prairie smoke has reddish pink to purplish buds that turn into feather plumes once seed is set. Prairie smoke offers nectar to bumble bees in the early spring. Prairie smoke is 1-2 feet tall on top of fern like foliage. It is best grown in full sun and well-drained soil. It will naturalize in a landscape spreading by its rhizomes.

Helleborus orientalis

Hellebores bear beautiful cup-shaped nodding flowers in hues of white, green, red and purple, resembling roses and are attractive to bumble bee. Hellebores do best planted en masse in partial shade with organic rich soil. Most species are cold hardy with semi-evergreen leaves but must not be allowed to get too dry. Take caution when planting as some gardeners have experienced allergic reactions and be patient as they slowly establish.

Muscari armeniacum

Grape hyacinth has showy, fragrant, blue flowers coveted by most bees for its nectar source, especially mason bees and hover flies. Each bulb produces around three flowering scapes that contain urn-shaped, tightly packed flowers. Grape hyacinths provide outstanding floral display when planted in drifts in partial shade to full sun. Grape hyacinth bulbs should be planted in fall 3 inches deep and 3 inches apart.

Pulsatilla vulgaris

Pasque flower is abundantly showy with delicate texture that are attractive to bumble bees and hover flies. Pasque grows 1 foot tall, in part shade to full sun, and does well in organic rich soil with consistent moisture. The ornamental plume seeds heads sets on top of lacy fern foliage. It is best not to attempt to divide plants, as they may not survive.