5 ways to support native pollinators in your backyard garden

Pollinator paradise

5 ways to support native pollinators in your backyard garden

Pollinator paradise

5 ways to support native pollinators in your backyard garden

By Emily Jerome, Digital Engagement Assistant

Support native pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds by transforming your backyard or balcony into a pollinator paradise.

Imagine an outdoor oasis with sparkling blue water, comfy spots for both lounging in the sun and cooling down in the shade and a buffet of fresh colourful food. Does this sound like paradise? Well, pollinators would probably agree!

With over 850 native bee species, butterflies, hummingbirds and more, Canada is home to a wide diversity of pollinators. But, they could certainly use a helping hand as many pollinator species have faced a dramatic decline due to habitat loss, climate change, pesticides and disease spreading from domesticated bees. Over three-quarters of wild flowering plants and one in every three bites of food depend on pollinators. To help support the health of native pollinators, you can transform your backyard or balcony into a pollinator’s paradise.

ruby-throated hummingbird and lily flower
Ruby-throated hummingbird. Photo by mbolina from Getty Images/Canva.

1. ‘Bee’ a strategic pollinator planter

You may have a favourite plant colour, but growing a variety of plants that bloom in a variety of colours will attract a host of pollinators. Try growing plants in groups of three to five — just like humans, pollinators like menu options. Bees are particularly attracted to blue, purple, violet, white and yellow flowers, whereas hummingbirds will often flock to red flowers. To keep pollinators satisfied throughout the warm months, also plant species that bloom at different times of the year. To find out what native plant species to add to your garden or balcony, explore the David Suzuki Foundation’s planting guide for western and eastern Canada.

2. Plant milkweed to attract monarch butterflies

When you think of fluttering orange and black wings speckled with white, you may think of monarch butterflies. From southern B.C. to Newfoundland, monarch butterflies rely exclusively on milkweed plants for laying their eggs and feeding monarch caterpillars.  You can help this at risk species by simply planting native milkweed.

Throughout Canada, 13 milkweed species bloom with pretty clusters of white to orange to pale pink and magenta flowers. Four common types of milkweed to plant are (1) common milkweed, (2) butterfly weed, (3) swamp milkweed and (4) whorled milkweed. You can find the species most suitable for your climate here.

monarch butterfly on milkweed plant
Monarch butterfly on a milkweed plant. Photo by Jeff Stefan from Getty Images/Canva.

3. Build a simple bee bath

Bees need to quench their thirst on warm summer days just like us! You can easily whip up a bee bath in four simple steps with materials from around your house and community. First, find a nice shady spot in your backyard. Second, find a shallow ceramic or glass dish. Third, place some pebbles and rocks in the dish and finally, fill with fresh water. The tops of the rocks should be above the water level so that passing bees can perch on your bee bath to happily slurp away.

4. Get your garden hopping with herbs

Pollinators need flowers to nourish them and we enjoy herbs in tasty pasta, stews and roasted potatoes! You can satisfy both pollinators and your taste buds by planting a variety of herbs. Although many people remove the flowering portion of herbs to allow them to keep growing, consider leaving the blossom for passing pollinators. Different herbs grow better in different climates throughout Canada, so make sure to look up your hardiness zone to understand what will grow back on your balcony or in your backyard. Below are different types of herbs that attract bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds: 

Bumblebee on purple chive flower head
Bumblebee on chive flower head. Photo by kinpouge05 from Getty Images/Canva.

5. Grow beautiful blossoms for hungry hummingbirds

There’s something magical about a hummingbird visiting the garden with their striking iridescent, astonishing speed and the unique drone of their wings. If you want to attract one of the five hummingbird species that live in Canada, here’s a simple trick. Hummingbirds have long tongues that prefer bell- or trumpet-shaped flowers such as lilies, columbines and harebells. Check out this list of native flowers that could attract hummingbirds in your yard according to the province or territory you live in.

How else can you support native pollinators?

1. Learn about the native bees with Dr. Shelia Colla on our podcast “What the f*** is biodiversity?” here.

2. Discover more on gardening with native plants and support wildlife with In the Zone’s Four Seasons of Wildlife Gardening: A Step-by-Step Guide 

3. Learn about and engage in pollinator-focused programs and campaigns such as Canadian Wildlife Federation’s Gardening for Wildlife and David Suzuki Foundation’s #gotmilkweed campaign and Butterflyway Project.