Cornell Farm has a huge focus on pollinator plants and even features a special section called the Pollinator Buffet dedicated completely to pollinator friendly annuals, perennials and natives. Cornell Farm Horticulturist Josie has selected a few of her favorites.
When we think of pollinators, honeybees, bumblebees, and maybe butterflies come to mind, but there’s a huge range of beneficial insects such as hummingbirds, beetles, and wasps.
Yes, it’s easy to overlook wasps as pollinators since most people think of the species that antagonize humans, or the related hornets like yellowjackets. However, there are many species of wasps that are very tiny, can’t sting, and are vital pollinators to the ecosystem.
5. Asclepias: Milkweed or Butterflyweed, the native variety Asclepias speciosa is the host plant for the endangered Monarch butterfly. While other cultivars such as A. ‘tuberosa’ don’t host the Monarch, they still provide an excellent source of food for all sorts of pollinators.
4. Pentas: These star-shaped annuals have a huge cluster of flowers that you’ll find bumble bees spending a lot of time bumbling around from one flower to another in the cluster collecting pollen and nectar.
3. Centaurea: Mountain Bluet or Bachelor's Buttons, these gorgeous flowers are particularly good for pollinating wasps.
2. Dahlia: These open-faced flowers have the stamens sticking out, making the pollen very accessible to honeybees or bumblebees.
1. Salvia: A wonder plant for all pollinators, salvias feed one of the widest arrays of pollinators including, bees, wasps, butterflies, and hummingbirds who transfer pollen on their beaks as they go from flower to flower.
Bonus: Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’: This annual is covered in countless tiny flowers and blooms from spring all the way through the first frost. When watering these at the Farm, it’s not uncommon to disrupt a whole cloud of bumblebees as they enjoy the large amount of nectar it has to offer.