Landscaping for Pollinators in Northeast Florida
After more freeze days in Winter than in recent years, many Northeast Florida homeowners are heading to garden centers to replace plants and want to do more landscaping for pollinators. “It’s really easy here in Northeast Florida to attract the birds, the bees, the butterflies, all the beneficial pollinators and insects that we want to have in our garden,” said Matt Barlow, Earth Works Garden Center Manager. “Simply put, you need to have a combination of flowers that not only attract them for the pollen but also for the nectar. So each insect is going to be looking for different things. So it needs to be a combination of nectar plants and pollen plants. So the bees are really interested in pollen. And then the butterflies and some of the other insects will be looking for nectar.”
Landscape designers assist clients in creating landing strips. These multi-level layered plantings draw pollinators to the garden, where plants serve as food sources and nesting habitat and protection from the elements and predators. Lawn care service providers can likewise assist by enhancing soil constituents and conserve water that can reduce plant stress and the need for pesticides that typically harm pollinators.
“Aim for at least ten flowering plant species selected to complement one another, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. “Specifically, design your garden to have three or more different plants blooming at any given time during the growing season, which is year-round in southern Florida, and March through November in northern areas of the state. Because bees often prefer dense floral displays, arranging flowering plants in clumps with multiple individuals per species will increase the attractiveness of the garden to bees.”
While native plant species are best for both nectar and pollen sources, they are increasingly difficult to acquire. When landscaping for pollinators your area native plant societies such as the Florida Native Plant Society (www.fnps.org) is vital for information about the availability of Florida native plants.
“Some great nectar plants for your fluttering friends will be things like pentas, salvias; they are the top two with lantana as well. Lantana alone will bring in more varieties of butterflies, I think, than any other single plant in your garden, said Barlow. “So I’d have at least a handful of lantanas to mix and sprinkle in. We have some really nice bunching, compact varieties that you can use. Traditionally people think of lantana as that giant elephant in the garden that just sprawls everywhere. Well, there are a lot of new improved and compact varieties that you can bring into your garden. Pentas are great because they are naturally compact. Most varieties 18 inches at the most. There are some larger growing varieties, but the pentas are easy because you can grow them in both full sun and partial sun. So if you don’t have a full sun position, which is four hours at the minimum, you can also use pentas if you are getting less than that.
A lot of the salvias that we have in are going to come in blues and purples, and that is important because blues, purples, and reds are the spectrum that the insects see. Also, the hummingbirds see blues and reds. Just by having blue and red in the garden, it will act as a beacon that will bring them in. And once they find the garden, they will be back day after day after day. If you were to walk around the garden center here in late Spring and all throughout the Summer, you’ll see the butterflies; the hummingbirds are just all over these tables.
The purple and the red are crucial, and they look nice together. There is some nice contrast between the colors and then sprinkle in other types of colors too because they will feed off of the other colors, but it’s the blues, the purples, and red that are going to bring them in.”
Other nectar plants available for landscaping for pollinators include Bleeding Heart, Coneflowers, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Dianthus, Hibiscus, Gaillardia, Marigold, Petunias, Verbena, and Viburnum. While milkweed is widely known as a host plant for Monarch butterflies and required to complete their lifecycle, there are others. Commercially available host plants include Bougainvillea (Cloudless Sulphur butterfly), Dill (Black Swallowtail butterfly), Dusty Miller (Painted Lady butterfly), Oleander (Queen & Monarch butterfly), Passion Vine (Gulf Fritillary), Snapdragon (Buckeye butterfly), and Violets (multiple Fritillary butterfly species). Visit our article on Butterfly, Gardening Basics for more information.
“If you have any questions on specific varieties and how to mix them together, stop in here at Earth Works, and any one of us here would be more than happy to help you put together your pollinator garden,” said Barlow. Earth Works landscape designers are also available to help landscaping for pollinators in an eco-friendly fashion, and the lawn care division provides regular maintenance.
And remember that for comprehensive solutions to your specific lawn, garden and landscaping need contact Earth Works of Jacksonville online and at 904-996-0712.
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