Turn your garden into a magnet for pollinators!

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 1, 2021

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox


It’s been such a delight to see new growth emerging on the plants in our Pollinator Garden. They are now sporting blooms and attracting pollinating insects such as bees and butterflies. This garden also includes several blueberry plants installed by the Pearl River County Master Gardeners a few years ago. The shrubs offer an excellent source of early spring nectar to foraging bees.

One of the easiest garden plants to grow from seed which is attractive to pollinators is scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea). This plant is in the mint family, grows nicely in a container, and is easy to care for. Highly attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, once you establish scarlet sage, you won’t have to buy it again, as you’ll discover it popping up here and there. This makes it a popular “passalong” plant. The more you pinch it back, the denser it grows! Basil is also a wonderful choice for attracting bees.  Grow some parsley and dill in your garden and you just might notice swallowtail butterflies munching on the leaves, as they are wonderful host species for caterpillars.

Native perennial plants attractive to pollinators include milkweed (Asclepias), Coreopsis, Indian Blanket flower, Joe-Pye Weed, Texas star hibiscus, native Iris species, blazing star (Liatris), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia), Stokes Aster, Black-eyed Susan, Wild Bergamont (Monarda), asters, coneflowers, Gaura, Liatris, Coreopsis, and black-eyed Susan.

Although gardeners often plant milkweed solely for the purpose of attracting monarch butterflies, this perennial also has a high value to pollinating insects due to being a high nectar producer. When we planted butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) into our pollinator garden, we were amazed by the high number of bumblebees that visited to work the flower clusters.

In our pollinator garden is an unusual plant called Groundsel Tree (Baccharis halimifolia), the only woody member of the Aster family. It grows to be a large shrub and is highly useful to fall-migrating monarch butterflies for both its abundant nectar and for roosting habitat (protection from wind and other elements).

Do you enjoy nature and gardening? Sign up now for two great free programs on Saturday, May 8 led by Pearl River County Master Gardeners fulfilling the presentation requirements for their LSU Advanced Master Gardener Training. Mary Donahue will present “Creating Microclimates to Enhance your Garden Environment from 9:15 to 10:00 a.m. Learn what microclimates are and how you can modify your landscape to include plants you may never thought were possible.

Following Mary’s presentation, Terry Downs will present on “Phenology and The Crosby Arboretum’s Phenology Trail” from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. Learn what phenology, also called “nature’s calendar”, is all about. After the talk, you will receive a copy of the new phenology map now available in the Visitor Center office, and can take a walk with Terry and Gail Bishop from the USA National Phenology Network. Reservations are required for both of these great free programs.

After the presentations, browse the plants for sale on our Visitor Center deck. After our May 1 Perennials for Pollinators sale, the plants will be moved to this area, where we plan to continually carry a selection of high-performing, low-maintenance native species, including milkweed, until cold weather returns!

On Saturday, May 15, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., bring your yoga mat and a friend and get fit while enjoying the natural beauty surrounding Pinecote Pavilion with yoga instructor Jim Sones! Arrive 10 minutes early. Members $3, non-members $6. Reservations requested.

A Guided Forest Therapy Walk will be held Sunday, May 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with Nadine Phillips, INFTA-Certified Forest Therapy Guide in training. This inviting way of immersing our senses in the atmosphere of the forest is backed by significant medical and scientific research, and the plethora of health benefits are wide-reaching. Reservations required. Read more about this program on the Arboretum website or our Facebook page.  Members $10. Non-members $15.

Mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s 5K “Through the Forest” Run (or walk!) Saturday, May 22, 8:00 a.m. to noon. Follow the ticket link on our Facebook event page to pay online or mail us a check or come by the Arboretum Visitors Center to register. Entry fee is $35 per athlete. Check-in opens at 8:00 a.m. and the 5K will begin at 9:00 am. Call the office or email nickie.smith@msstate.edu<mailto:nickie.smith@msstate.edu> for more info.

For more information on Arboretum events visit www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu<http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu> or call (601) 799-2311. To receive event announcements via our listserv, fill out the form on the Arboretum website under “Event Updates”. We are located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).