Posted: December 2, 2022

What to plant to attract pollinators, according to research.

Credit: Emily Erickson

Credit: Emily Erickson

People often select varieties of ornamental plants for their gardens because of their appearance and growth habits, but many of these varieties have been developed to appeal to consumers, rather than pollinators. Nevertheless, homeowners and landscapers who choose certain perennial cultivars can support a diversity of pollinators in their own backyards, according to researchers.

A team led by Emily Erickson, postdoctoral scholar in entomology, and Christina Grozinger, Publius Vergilius Maro Professor of Entomology and director of Penn State's Center for Pollinator Research, studied 25 commercially popular cultivars from five plant genera: Agastache (giant hyssop, hummingbird mint); Echinacea (coneflower); Nepeta (catmint); Rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan); and Salvia (sage), evaluating each variety's attractiveness to pollinators. They found that a garden of the six plant cultivars most attractive to pollinators will draw nearly 80 species of bees, while a garden of the six least attractive cultivars will lure only 20 bee species.

--Chuck Gill