Bees, butterflies, and many other pollinators emerge when the weather warms up, but pollen and nectar can be hard to come by. A huge number of plants rely entirely on bees and other insects for pollination, and yet population numbers are declining. But you can help them with your garden! Here are some beautiful, early pollinator plants that you can plant in your New England garden.
Bearberry, Arctostaphylos uva ursi. A groundcover that likes the edges of streams and rivers and woodlands
Swamp Maple, Acer rubrum, also known as Red Maple. Likes moist well drained soil. We carry Burgundy Belle and Redpointe, improved natives.
River Birch, Betula nigra. We carry a couple cultivars: Heritage and Dura-heat, likes moist well drained soils. We love the clump form and the exfoliating bark and dappled shade it provides.
Serviceberry– Amelanchier We carry several forms: shrub, tree, clump. White clustered flowers for Mother’s Day and small blue-black berries that are edible for humans and adored by birds and wildlife.
Eastern Redbud, Cercis Canadensis. Comes in clump form or single stem. Nice understory or edge of woodland small tree, smooth gray bark.
Redtwig Dogwood, Cornus. White flowers, followed by berries. This shrub shines in the winter and is should be part of every winter garden and porch pot. The stems can be yellow to red to coral .
Spicebush, Lindera benzoin. This plant blooms yellow in the spring, is an important plant for the Spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. Likes moist shade.
Grow-low Sumac, Rhus aromatica. This tough low groundcover shrub is a hard worker with fragrant foliage, catkin type flowers, and awesome fall color. Should be used more to stabilize slopes for erosion control .
Pussywillow, Salix discolor. This plant is a New England native, but insects also appreciate the pollen of the French and Black pussywillows. When our weeping pussywillow goes to flower it vibrates with pollinators, native and honey bees.
Tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera. This majestic tree grows fast and flowers in late spring with yellow and orange tulip like flowers. The shape of the leaves are distinctive. Great shade tree for large areas.
Tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica. This tree has horizontal branching and outrageous scarlet fall color and when it blooms, the flowers are small and insignificant to humans but not to native pollinators. They are crazy for this tree.
Witchhazel, Hamamelis. One of the earliest blooming and fragrant shrubs visited by honey bees. Comes in yellow, red and orange flowers. Some have good fall color.
Blueberries and all Vacciniums, including cranberries. The flowers are loved by pollinators, the fruit by humans and wildlife, plus the foliage has fall color. Likes moist acid soil. Blackberries and raspberries are also early blooming pollinator plants, and loved by humans and wildlife.
Great early perennials loved by pollinators are Lupines, Columbine and Violas, especially Labrador violets. Crocus and Snowdrops are very early blooming bulbs. Early flowering herbs include Catnip and Borage, early flowering Plums, Peaches, and Cherries are all in the prunus family, and much loved by the native pollinators.
Want to learn more? We recommend this great book from the Xerces Society: 100 Plants to Feed the Bees and Attract Native Pollinators.