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North Hills Monthly

Attract Pollinators by Choosing the Right Plants

May 31, 2018 08:20PM ● By Marcie Barlow

Spring and summer in western Pennsylvania often finds many of us lamenting over the amount of pollen that is covering our vehicles, homes and backyard furniture. But few of us realize the important role that pollen plays in keeping our environment healthy so that plants, flowers and trees—as well as insects and birds—continue to thrive.

In some cases, pollination occurs when the wind blows the pollen from one plant to another. But in plants that have heavy, sticky pollen, insects and birds assist in the transfer. In our region, 78 percent of flowering plants rely on insects and birds for pollination.

According to Laura Hansen, owner of Wild Birds Unlimited in Wexford, and Raylene Gumto of Gumto Greenhouses Inc., located in Renfrew, the habitat you create determines what types of birds and insects will visit your backyard.

“Nectar-producing flowers like geraniums, foxgloves, delphiniums and impatiens attract hummingbirds and butterflies,” said Hansen, adding that these flower varieties require little maintenance and provide a lot of color during the summer months.

While goldfinches prefer a diet of zinnias, coneflower seeds and nyjer or thistle seeds, robins enjoy a diet of holly berries, strawberries and blackberries.

According to Hansen, urban sprawl and pesticides are the primary reasons for the decrease in bee and butterfly populations. “Simple things like not using pesticides in your garden or community can turn this decrease around,” she said. 

Gumto said that butterflies pollinate milkweed flowers when they are in the larval stage, and then move to the nectar pollinators as they grow, so a variety of flowers and plants are needed to see them through their life cycle.

“Including flowers with bright pinks, reds and purples will assist you in attracting butterflies,” she said, adding that butterflies also enjoy resting on large flat rocks during the day, so adding these in your landscaping will encourage them to stop in your backyard.

“Butterflies only feed in full sun, so it is important to plant flowers that flourish in full sun to attract them,” added Hansen.

A mix of both annual and perennial plants and flowers not only creates a beautiful landscape, but also increases the variety of species that are attracted to a backyard. Perennial plants will last for several years with minimal maintenance, giving homeowners a chance to spend less time working and more time enjoying the wildlife that the plants are attracting.

One of the best ways to learn what to plant in your backyard to attract pollinators is to ask the experts. Wild Birds Unlimited, owned by Laura Hansen and Knox Brown, is located at 12019 Perry Highway or you can visit

Gumto Greenhouses, Inc. is located at 1060 Renfrew Road in Meridian, PA and can be reached by calling 724-586-7755.