5 Easy Pollinators to Grow from Seed

Planting seeds is a rite of passage for every gardener, but it's also a bit intimating. Words like soaking, stratification and scarify, make transplants look good.

Here are five easy plants to start from seed, that bonus, the pollinators love. All you do is scratch up the dirt and scatter. No scarifying, fertilizing or worrying over needed. Note: All plants listed require full sun, and can be planted directly outside when the weather allows. These seeds are for the beginners and seasoned gardeners. Be sure to follow instructions on seed packets.

Borage is a super plant. Check out its stellar qualities.

The blue flowers of borage, or starflower or bee flower (it has so many common names). Easy to plant, no fancy seed knowledge to grow. Just follow instructions on the packet.

  • Honey bees love it, so do bumble bees, and other pollinators. What is a pollinator? (Find out here.)
  • Serves as a host plant for lacewings to lay eggs. (A good thing. Read about them here.)
  • A favorite plant for beneficial insects that hang out on it's fussy leaves. Think spiders, damsel bugs, ground beetles, parasitoid wasps. (Never heard of such? Check it out here.)
  • Listed as a companion plant for tomatoes, squash, and strawberries. (Don't know about companion planting? A must read, here.)
  • Tap roots break up heavy clay soil. That's called green manure. (This is a good thing. Read about it here.)
  • Blooms pretty blue flowers May-September and reseeds prolifically.
  • Leaves and flowers are edible. They have a cucumber like taste. It has medicinal qualities (Check those out here.) 

Sunflowers: Skip Trader Joe's, Grow Your own

Helianthus annuus and cultivars, sunflowersagainst a white picket fence. Honey bees love them and sunflowers need the bees to create more seed. 

  • Any old garden soil will do for these flowers. Don't coddle them.
  • Their cheery, charming heads turn with the sun.
  • Honey bees and other bees love them. (Check out and get involved with the Great Sunflower Project.)
  • Butterflies love them too, so add them to your butterfly garden.
  • The flower head's central disc contains smaller tubular disc flowers, each with its own supply of nectar and pollen, making this a one-stop plant.
  • It's large head makes landing for pollinators easy.
  • Great showy cut flowers.
  • Comes in smaller heights than just the six foot tall ones, and many colors. Still, plant in a wind-free spot.

 

  

Basil: Grow an Extra Crop for the Pollinators

Basil in flower. Grow an extra crop and let it go to flower for the pollinators. Or, the plant can be grown for the flowers alone if cooking isn't your thing. 

  • Basil is not only tasty, it's health benefits are huge. It's purported to aid with everything from inflammation to the effects of aging, and much more. (Read about those benefits here.)
  • Bees and butterflies flock to basil when it is allowed to flower. We generally pick the leaves, not allowing the plant to flower.
  • Plant one row for you and one for the pollinators.
  • It needs full sun, and is a thirsty plant, so plant where watering isn't an issue.
  • Let go to seed for next year's crop.

Nasturtiums: companion plants and pollinators

Nasturtiums brighten up any corner of the garden.

  • Edible flowers and leaves with a peppery taste. (Read about that here.)
  • Aphids love them, so plant them near broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale, and cucumbers as companion plantings. Anything that aphids go after. (Here's the complete companion guide to planting.)
  • Attracts beneficial insects.
  • A hummingbird favorite, so that makes it a must have.
  • Great fall color, since they're late bloomers.
  • Grows well in any old soil.
  • Doesn't require support.

Cornflowers: Bring in the Ladybugs

Ladybugs are pollinators as well, and eating machines. They eat up to 50-60 aphids a day, and scales, leafhoppers, mites, to name a few pests. 

  • Attracts ladybugs, and don't forget ladybugs are pollinators too. (Don't believe me? Check this out.)
  • Ladybugs are aphid eating machines. (And they eat a lot of other nasty pests, too). So, plant everywhere in the garden.
  • Bees and butterflies love them.
  • They prefer poor soil.
  • They reseed.
  • They make great dried flowers.

You don't have to plant all of these. Start with one, or two. Then slowly begin to add to your pollinator garden yearly, making note of what the plant likes and who likes it.

Written by Cinthia Milner, garden coach, and blog writer.

BB Barns Garden Center serves all of Western North Carolina, upstate South Carolina, and Tennessee.