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Back to News Trials – June 10, 2022

Trials

Diverse Plants Bring Diverse Pollinators

By Alana Pugh

Though National Pollinators Month is June, the vast array of native plant species grown here provide food and habitat for pollinating species throughout the year. “If you plant it, they will come” was the takeaway from a recent native bee study at Mt. Cuba Center that found bees previously unknown to exist in the Northeast or Delaware were amongst the native plants in Mt. Cuba’s gardens.

Native plants that specialist pollinators love can be found throughout the gardens and they are studied in the Trial Garden for their horticultural and ecological value.

“The goal of Mt. Cuba’s trials is to help people make informed decisions about exceptional native plants that are best suited for gardeners and pollinators in the mid-Atlantic region,” says Sam Hoadley, manager of horticultural research.

Mt. Cuba’s staff and volunteers also track the number of pollinators visiting plants in the Trial Garden, type of pollinator, and their frequency. The Pollinator Watch Team consists of a dedicated group of citizen scientists who count visiting pollinators throughout the study’s bloom time. Their work gives insight into which plants attract the most insects and is incorporated into trial reports for those who want to support native pollinators in their home gardens.

Read on for three top plants to add for National Pollinator Month:

A red bee balm plant

Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’
Researchers at the Trial Garden found that hummingbirds highly preferred Monarda didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ over other varieties in the Monarda Trial. Hummingbirds value the lofty height, long floral tubes, and vibrant red color. Although this selection is moderately susceptible to powdery mildew, that is a small price to pay for the hummingbirds that will be drawn to your gardens.

 

Pink phlox flowers with a yellow butterfly

Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’
Researchers in the Trial Garden found that ‘Jeana’ was by far the favorite for butterflies. Keith Nevison, a graduate student from the University of Delaware, found that butterflies may prefer that the plant has more flowers in a smaller area, allowing for easy feedings. ‘Jeana’ produces stunning, pink flowers that bloom close together in large numbers from July to early September.

a goldenrod plant with yellow, firework-like blooms and two bees.

Solidago
Goldenrods  are excellent plants for pollinators that are currently being studied in the Trial Garden. The solidago in the trial garden demonstrate the tremendous diversity of the genus in habit, form, and even bloom time.  The earliest species begin to flower in mid-May while others bloom well into December providing essential resources for pollinators in the late season (an essential time when pollinators still need food and habitat sources). Goldenrods tend to be a favorite of bumblebees, but also attract a tremendous diversity of other pollinators as well. This trial has begun its second year of evaluation with results highlighting the top performers from both horticultural and garden perspectives expected in Spring of 2025.

Whether planting for wildlife, beauty, or both, check out an upcoming class at Mt. Cuba. Learn more about how to attract pollinators and become a conservator in these upcoming summer classes: Instant Butterfly Garden on Wednesday, June 15, Ecosystem and Plant Communities on Thursday, Aug. 11, and Fall Garden Care for Wildlife on Saturday, Sept. 10.